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Social Theory

A Historica! Introduction

Second Edition

Alex Callinicos


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'lll(. rilllrt ol A. 'l: (' llinicon k) bc idcnlilicd s Author ol lhis Work has hr:cD
irsserlc(l ill:ruorrllncc with lhc UK Copyri8ht. Designs and Patents Acl l9llll.

First publishcd in 2007 by Poliry Press

In Memoriam
Reprinted in 2007

Polity Press Aelda Callinicos

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Preface to the First Edition and Acknowledgements x

Preface to the Second Edition and Acknowledgements xi
Note to Readers xiii
Introduction 1

The Enlightenment 10
1.1 Prehistory l0
1.2 The concept of modernity 13
1.3 A moral science l5
1.4 The development of social theory 20
1.5 Inner strains 25

2 Hegel 39
2.1 Reconciling modernity 39
2.2 The labour of the negative 47
2.3 The debate over modernity 54

Liberals and Reactionaries 57

3.1 Post-Revolutionary debates 5l
3.2 Agonistic liberalism: Tocqueville and Mill 61
3.3 Providence and race: Maistre and Gobineau 72

Marx 78
4.1 The adventures of the dialectic 78
4.2 History and capitalism 84
4.3 Class struggle and revolution 92
( ,r lttloill:, (,ottlottl: tx

5 l,ilt' :rrrrl I'owcr' I('o II ' l'lt,':.,x t;tl it\ n('l\\rotks ()t its ttolltilt| .t.t( )

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5.2 'lwo cvolutiorrists: Spcncer ancl Kautsky I0ri I t I'l'lrt'tlclr;rlt' rt'srrnrctl 345
-5.3 Nature as the will to powcr: Nietzschc I l-5

l r r IIt t' t' litr rr I i rt,q 353

Durkheim 123 "r
Itttlt'r, 363
6.1 Social evolution and scientific objectivity t23
6.2 Society as a moral reality 133
6.3 Meaning and belief 139

Weber 146
1.1 Prussian agriculture and the German state t46
1.2 Science and the warring gods 153
7.3 History and rationalization 159
1.4 Liberal imperialism and democratic politics fl0

The Illusions of Progress 179

8.1 The strange death of liberal Europe 179
8.2 Objectivity and estrangement: Simmel 182
8.3 The self dissected: Freud 187
8.4 Memories of underdevelopment: Russian
intellectuals and capitalism 193

Revolution and Counter-Revolution 202

9.1 Hegelian Marxism: Lukäcs and Gramsci 202
9.2 Heidegger and the conservative revolution 214

10 The Golden Age 227

l0.l Theories of capitalism: Keynes and Hayek 227
10.2 Functionalist sociology: Talcott Parsons 237
10.3 Despairing critique: the Frankfurt School 245

l1 Crack-Up? 258
ll.1 The 1960s and after 258
ll.2 Structure and subject: L6vi-Strauss and Althusser 267
11.3 Nietzsche's revenge: Foucault and post-structuralism 276
11.4 Carrying on the tradition: Habermas and Bourdieu 284

12 Debating Modernity and Postmodernity 299

13 Changing the Subject: Globalization, Capitalism,

and Imperialism 323
l3.l Much ado about globalization 3/-3
Preface to the First Edition Preface to the Second Edition
and Acknowledgements and Acknowledgements

I was lucky enough to become intellectually self-conscious and politically Social theory, under pressure from the boom in postmodernism and in cultural
active at the end of the 1960s. This was a time when, among other things, stuclies during the 1980s and 1990s, has been undergoing a significant revival
interest in various heretical brands of social theory associated either with some sirrce the first edition of this book appeared in 1999- There have accordingly
version of Marxism or with an exotic species of Continental philosophy (or bcen a significant number of changes to this second edition. Chapter 11 has
both) was exploding. The excitement I f'elt then has never left me. I hope that hccn updated a little to take into account the further evolution of Habermas's
this book conveys a little at least of that excitement even in what is evidently and Bourdieu's thought. Chapter 12 no longer functions as even a substitute
a much less intellectually and politically invigorating climate. lirr a conclusion but serves to pull together the debates about modernity and
Behind this book, then, is getting on for thirty years of reading, discussing, postmodernity that still have some contemporary resonance.
teaching, and writing social theory. During that time I have of course accu- The most important change, however, is the addition of a substantial new
mulated far too many debts possibly to acknowledge most here. I must, Chapter 13, 'Changing the Subject: Globalization, Capitalism, and Imperial-
however, thank the successive generations of students who have listened to me ism'. This traces the dramatic shift in the focus of debate since the mid-1990s.
with more patience than I deserved, forced me to state what I was trying to first with the proliferating discourse of globalization, which seemed for a
say more clearly, and helped to develop our discussions in stimulating and while as if it would swallow up all discussion in social theory, then with the
il luminating directions. renewed preoccupation with capitalisrn that followed the emergence of the
There are others who cannot go without more specilic mention. David Held new movements of resistance to neo-liberalism associated with names such
has been trying to coax me into writing this book ever since we taught together as Chiapas, Seattle, and Genoa, and finally, in response to the 'long war'
for a short while at the beginning of the 1980s. Since I finally cracked, he has proclaimed by the United States after l1 September 2001, the revived interest
been, as evel, an endlessly encouraging and helpful editor. Everyone else in theories of imperialism. In addressing these reorientations, I feel that one
with whorn I have dealt at Polity and Blackwell - Julia Harsant, Gill Motley, of the distinctive features of this book, namely the stress it places on the role
Jennifer Speake, and Janet Moth - have been equally supportive. played by political economy in the constitution of social theory, has more than
Sam Ashman was heroically kind and patient while I wrote this book. She paid off. But I also try to show how the subterranean rumblings from contem-
has also, in the final stages of production, overcome her earlier (to my mind porary struggles over neo-liberal globalization have also shaken the pinnacles
inexplicable) reluctance about actually reading the draft to help with the awful of high theory, most notably in the recent work of Slavoj ZiZeU.. Finally. the
task of checking the proof-s. For this. and for much else, I am eternally section on Further Reading has been substantially extended and updated.
grateful. As with the first edition of Social Theory,I have drawn on a very wide
I have, however, left my greatest debt till last. My mother died very suddenly spectrum of my writing and teaching in revising the book. A much more
while I was in the early planning stages of this book. Her memory was never detailed exploration of the theoretical realignments of the past decade or so
tar away while I worked on and wrote it. I know very well how much I owe to will be found in another book of mine published by Polity, The Resources of
her. It is therefore only natural that I should dedicate Social Theory to her. Critique. Properly acknowledging all the debts I have accumulated that have
J'tcl;rr:c lo lll() l;o(;ottrl Irltltott

lrllowctl rttc lo rcvisc llrc pt'cscnl lrook wottltl lltkc ttp l:tt'loo tttttt'lr sprtt'r'. lrttl
thcrc arc sonrc Ihat carrnt)t go ur)rllcntioncd. I rrraclc thc rcvisiorrs soon ll'lcr'
starting a new.iob at King's College, London, and I arn grateful to rny col-
leagues in European Studies fbr helping me to ease myself into the job. At
Polity I must express special gratitude to Emma Longstaff, who persuaded rne
to take on a new edition of Social Theory, and subsequently has, kindly but
firmly, made sure that I put in the work on it. Two anonymous readers made
Note to Readers
very helpful and encouraging comments on the revised book in draft. And I
must also thank others at Polity, notably Caroline Richmond and David
Watson, for the role they have played in the book's production.

Irr ortlcr t«r keep the scholarly apparatus supporting my text to the minimum
orrly w«rrks directly cited appear in the footnotes to each chapter. 'Further
l(e ruling' at the end of the book has a section for each chapter in which books
ruttl urticles on which I have drawn or which readers may find useful are listed.
'l'hc lirotnotes also include brief biographical sketches of the thinkers I discuss.
I lravc tried, as far as possible, to cite their texts in good, readily available
ctlilions, and to avoid using sources in languages other than English. Unless
olhcrwise indicated, italics in quotations are in the original. It has rightly
hccome unacceptable to use pronouns in a way that equates humanity with
nlen: most of the thinkers I discuss, however, followed the old usage, and
sometimes, in expounding their views, it would have distorted these not to
have done likewise.


Sot'irrl thcory, as it has developed over the past two centuries, has concerned
itscll' r))ore than anything else with the three main dimensions of social power -
r't'orronric relations, which have reached their furthest development in the mar-
kt't systern known as capitalism; the ideologies through which forms of special
l)()wcr are justilied and the place in the world of those subject to them defined;
rrrrd the various patterns of political domination. The leading social theorists -
Marx, Durkheim, and Weber above all - have been concerned to understand
thc interrelations of these three kinds of social power, especially in the consti-
tutior.r of the modern world. Such an understanding would seem indispensable
to iuryone seeking to make sense of, or to improve that world. Social Theorr.
traces the development of, and the variations and the conflicts in this under-
Yet to write an introduction to social theory may seem like a rather old-
tashioned enterprise. After all, social theory is often seen in contemporary in-
tellectual debates as an outdated form of understanding. In the rather apocalyptic
style that has become common during the past couple of decades, the end of
numerous institutions, practices, and traditions - even of history itself - has
been announced. Though, as far as I know, no one has yet announced the end of
social theory, someone is bound to get round to it sooner or later.
This book is in no sense an introduction to, or a history of, sociology as an
academic discipline. Neverlheless, since certain themes in social theory have
provided sociology with one of its main sources of legitimacy, the relative
marginalization of sociology over the last twenty years was bound to have some
impact on the standing of social theory. Sociology has been on the retreat in
part fbr political reasons. The New Right, ascendant in the Western liberal de-
mocracies during the 1980s, effectively regarded sociology as a stalking horse
for socialism. In Britain under the Thatcher government the relevant funding
body for academic research was renamed in order to free it of any association
with the idea of social science.

lntrodtr<;lir>n lntroduction

This kind of ideologicllly irrrlrrt'r'rl rrrstittrtional pressure has been reinforced More generally, social theory is best seen as one of the chief heirs of the
by shifts in intellcctual I'rrslriorr. Sot'iology has been thrown into the shade by Enlightenment: it has taken over, and acted out, both the aspirations and the
the new boom stlh.iect ol't'rrllrrrrrl sttrrlics. A visit to any academic bookshop contradictions of the Enlightenment. The influence of postmodernism has made
usually reveals alt cliol:tlt'rl sot'iology section dwarfed, or even swallowed up fershionable the disrnissal of the Enlightenment as an era of illusions when
completely, by cttlltl'rtl slrrtlics. Ol'course, a great deal of repackaging of old numerous tbrms of oppression were forged. This is a profoundly disabling
ntaterial is involl'ctl irr llris rcordering of disciplinary frontiers quite a lot of
- view. It is undoubtedly true that the promise of universal knowledge and free-

what used to hc: crrllctl sociokrgy is now pursued within the fiamework of cul- dom off'ered by the eighteenth-century philosoplzes was falsified by the limit-
tl tural studics. Ncvcrlltclcss, changes in academic taste have material conse- ations and dilemmas inherent in their project. Nevertheless, as I try to show in
quences, sittcc lllcy cltrt itl'f'ect the flow of students, research funding, and book this book, the very collapse of the Enlightenment project set an intellectual
contracts. agenda which continues to provide the fiamework within which we struggle
In any cilsc. tltcrc are deeper forces at work here. For better or worse, we to make sense of the social world. The leading social theorists discussed here
live in alt cril
whe re postrnodernism has come to set the terms of intellectual all grappled with the difficulties created by this collapse, neither completely
and cultural tJcbate. The most influential account of postmodernity was pro- abandoning the aspirations of the Enlightenment nor uncritically ignoring its
vided by Jcan-Frangois Lyotard. He deflnes'postmodern as incredulity to- weaknesses.
wards nletanarratives', contrasting it with the modern, that is, with 'any science It does not follow that the history of modern social theory is simply that of
that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse . . . making an explicit cornpeting grand narratives. For one thing, at least one leading character in our
appeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneutics story - Weber - was extremely sceptical about the ability of scientific thought
of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the cre- t() come up with a totalizing account of human history (though, at least argu-
ation of wealth'.r A grand narrative tbr Lyotard is an attempt to make sense of ahly, his writings nevertheless imply such an account). For another, some gen-
the totality of human history. He makes it clear that he regards this kind of cral theories of society are less compelling than others: fbr example, Comte,
philosophy of history as essentially a child of the eighteenth-cenrury Enlight- Spcncer, and Parsons, all highly influential in their day, do not provide the
enment, and that its most important practitioners were Hegel, for whom insights offered by social theorists of the first rank.
history was the progress of the consciousness of freedom, and Marx, who saw A more irnportant qualification is that the attempts to continue the Enlighten-
in it the development of the productive forces and the class struggle. rttent project outlined in this book were constantly accompanied by, and often
Postmodernity represents the collapse of these grand narratives, the abanclon- in dialogue with, root-and-branch rejections of that entire project. For this
ment of any attempt to cast the entire historical process into a single interpre- rcason, there is little sense in considering the thought of what are generally
tive scheme. regarded as the 'classic' social theorists - say, Tocqueville, Marx, Durkheim,
Acceptance of some version of Lyotard's view is bound to have a negative and Weber - without some attempt to situate them with respect to the critics of
impact on the status and influence of social theory. Social theory, as I argue in rnodernity - for example, Maistre, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. One consequence
more detail in chapter I below, ( I ) seeks to understand society as a whole (as «rt'widening the context in this way is that it becomes clear that the postmodernist
opposed to particular political forms); (2) distinguishes between and makes 'incredulity about metanarratives' is simply the latest episode in a much longer
generalizations about different kinds of society; and (3) is concerned in particu- debate.
lar to analyse modernity, the forms of social life which have come to prevail The fbregoing should underline that my treatment of social theory is wider
first in the and increasingly in the rest of the world over the past couple of than traditionalaccounts of the 'Founders of SociologicalThought'. Few inter-
centuries. Simply to set out this delinition is to indicate that any social theorist esting thinkers lit easily within conventional disciplinary boundaries. Of the
is likely to construct or to presuppose a grand nanative. Marx indeed is gener- lirur 'classic' thinkers listed in the preceding paragraph, only Durkheim ever
ally regarded as a major social theorist. Those usually also included in this occupicd a chair in sociology. Marx and Tocqueville never held any academic
company - for example, To-cqueville, Durkheim, and weber are, whatever
- 1'losts. As lirr Weber, Keith Tribe writes:
their differences both with Marx and among each other in respect of political
perspective, intellectual style, and substantive analysis, thinkers of comparable l)tolt'ssionlrlly Wcher was an economist: his early training and qualification was
ambition and scope. itt l,ltrv. irr wlriclr hc hatl wriltcn a nurnberol'historical c'ssays; he was afounding
tnt'tttlrt'l ol tltc (icrtttlrn Socioltlgiclrl .Socicty. hc w:rs activc in a nurnber«rt'politi-
I J.-F. Lyotard (1919),The Postmodern Conclitirzr (Manchester, lt)li4). pp. xxiii-iv. t rtl issttcs rtntl rtssot'ilrliorrs. so llrrl ltis rlt'lrllr wrrs slritl lo lurvc robhctl Gcrnrany of
lntroduction lntroduction

one of its leading political hgules . . . Although Weber today is commonly re- sical debates. In particular, in chapter l0 below, I consider Keynes's attempt to
garded as a 'founding father of sociological thought', this was neither his inten-
show that the injustices and instabilities identified by Marx could be at least
tion nor the understanding of his contemporaries.2
rcgulated and moderated within the framework of capitalism, as well as the
One virtue of widening the intellectual horizons within which social theory criticisms of free-market economists, notably Hayek.
is considered is that it may make it more difficult to sustain certain prejudices. It should be clear enough by now that social theory is an irredeemably politi-
Thus three intellectual historians seeking to draw attention to some neglected cal fbrm of thought. Weber was far from being the only major figure to have
nineteenth-century British political thinkers echo the Thatcher government's heen actively involvecl in the politics of his day. As a revolutionary socialist,
disdain for social science, which they associate with 'such sociological nabobs Marx sought to realize in his own life the unity of theory and practice which he
as Comte, Durkheim, and Weber'. Indeed: 'the very category of "social sci- tlct'ended philosophically. Tocqueville was an ambitious but fiustrated partici-
ence" has been construed in ways which make it unreceptive and even hostile plnt in French parliamentary politics during the 1840s. Many other examples
to the more traditional notions of the centrality and relative autonomy of poli- cggld be given. More fundamentally, however much Weber may have sought
tics entertained by our figures'.3 This is a strange way of viewing Weber, for te resist this conclusion, social theories at least implicitly evaluate as well as
example, an intensely political thinker who was concerned, other things, irnalyse, and offer political solutions to what they describe.
to vindicate 'the centrality and relative autonomy of politics'. This does not mean that, when we speak of the social world, there is no
My treatment of social theory lays special emphasis on philosophy and oh.icctive way of establishing the truth of a sentence, the validity of an argu-
political economy. The problem of modernity which preoccupied lucnt, or the superiority of an explanation to its rivals. On the contrary, I think it
so many thinkers discussed here poses what is essentially a philosophical ques- is iprportant to resist the idea (encouraged by postmodernism) that social theo-
tion: can human reason make sense of the social world and shape it for the lics 1re mutually incommensurable and equally valid perspectives. Neverthe-
better? Answered generally in the affirmative by the Enlightenment, this ques- lcss, as I suggest below, the thinkers discussed in this book are best assessed
tion is explored far more profoundly by Hegel. As Jürgen Habermas has l.nrnr the standpoint of the problems which implicitly constitute their theories.
argued, recognition that Hegel's solution could not be sustained set the terms llrrt the problems thus identified of-ten concern political and ethical issues.
on which debate about modernity has continued to the present day. Hence Socill theories consequently tend to weave together analytical and normative
the treatment of the Hegelian synthesis in chapter 2 and hence also my inclu- t lirrrcrtsions.
sion of Nietzsche and Heidegger, whose forceful negative responses to the It lirllows that some considerätion of the relationship between social theories
same question are of great significance to, and have had some intermittent rrrrtl political ideologies is unavoidable. Such consideration is familiar enough
influence on, social theory. irr Mlrx's case. But, somewhat more than other treatments of social theory,
It was Marx who highlighted the significance of political economy to social I tnrce the connections between various thinkers and liberalism. Smith's
theory when he decided to focus on 'the material conditions of life, the totality Wcttlth rf' Ncttiotts did not, of course, simply provide Marx with one of his
of which Hegel . . . embraces within the term "civil society" ', and went on to rrurirt unalytical starting-points: it also gave nineteenth-century liberalism its
argue that 'the anatomy of this civil society, however, has to be sought in politi- t.t.onorlric programme. But Tocqueville and Weber in particular represent at-
cal economy'.* The form of civil society which classical economists such as tr.'rrrpls to sustain a much rlore self-aware, embattled, and difficult liberalism
Smith and Ricardo analysed was what we have come to call, since Marx, capi- lllr1 rrt |cast some of its earlier variants. Further, Keynes and Hayek embody
prrr, ol' tftc chief antinomies of twentieth-century liberalism - to regulate the
talism. His master-work, Cnpital, seeks to capture the dynamics of this mode of
production, which he argued was based on the exploitation of wage-labour. rrlr;kct sl scl it liee? I would have liked to have continued the story up to the
'l'lrc pr.rblication of John Rawls's A Theory of Justice tn l97l marked
Marx subtitled Capital 'A Critique of Political Economy'. The relationship lrrt'se rrt.
between their own work and what by then was the academic discipline of eco- tlre bcgirrrrings «rl'a remarkable renaissance in liberal political philosophy in the
nomics was also an important issue for both Durkheim and Weber, as was the lirrglislr-spcakiltg world. But fäced with a vast and complex literature, and the
role played by capitalism in the constitution of modernity. It seems to me, how- lirrrits scl hy tinte. space, and my own competence, I decided not after all to
ever, that the significance of political economy cannot be reduced to these clas- lrro:rc'lr lr strlr.icct which is ilr any case covered by a number of good introduc-
r 'l'lrr' s1rrlr. lilrrits r:xplirin llilny ol'the other exclusions in any case inevitable
K. Tribe, translator's introduction to W. Hennis, Mox Weber (London, 1988), p. 2.
r S. Collini et al., That Nctble Sr:ience of Politics (Cambridge. 1983), p. 10. nr iuty irrllorlrrt'lory work srrclt rrs lhis ottc. I havc, lilr cxample, not been able
a K. Marx, A Cotttribution tct the Criticlue of Political Econotrty(London, l97l), p.20. Irt.rt' lo t'orrsitlt'r srrl'licicrrlly lltt' t'clltliottsltip hclwccl) s«lcial tlreory and
lntroduction lntroduction

anthropology, despite the importance of Durkheim's later writings for the de- Skinner's approach is undoubtedly a valuable corrective to attempts to iden-
velopment of the latter discipline and the manner in which this process has tify certain timeless issues in social and political thought to which everyone
dramatized the problem of the relationship between social theory, a product of from Plato to Habermas has contributed. But detailed textual reconstruction of
the modern West, and the non-European 'other' of Western thought in Asia, the kind practised by the Skinner school is, however scholarly, quite out of the
Africa, and the Americas. Other exclusions are sometimes rather more arbitrar- question in an introductory work of this nature. I have, rather, tended to follow
ily based. Despite their importance for twentieth-century political sociology, I Lord Acton's advice to historians: 'study problems in preference to periods'.6
have never been able to escape the feeling that there is less to the so-called ln other words, I seek to identify certain specific problems - often in the form
'elite theorists' (Pareto, Mosca, and Michels) than meets the eye, and I accord- of a set of questions tacitly or explicitly addressed - which underlie a particular
ingly largely ignore them in what follows. Such direct expressions of the au- thinker's work and tend to structure his writings. (Alas, almost all the theorists
thor's subjectivity are unavoidable when selecting from so wide a range of clealt with in this book are indeed male.) In doing so I have been influenced,
thinkers as have contributed to modern social theory. albeit in a fairly loose and eclectic way, by some otherwise very different
I have, on the other hand, paid more attention to the idea of social evolution philosophers - Gaston Bachelard, R. G. Collingwood, Karl Popper, Louis
and its relationship to biological concepts than has been usual in works of this Althusser, and Imre Lakatos - who all stressed the importance of identifying a
nature for the past fifty years or so. Evolutionary biology, of course, provided theory by means of its 'problematic' or 'problem-situation'.
many nineteenth-century social theorists - above all, Spencer - with their This fbcus on problems has certain merits. In the first place, it lets history in.
scientiflc model. Evolutionary social theory fell into discredit in part because of The problems which give shape to one thinker's work are usually not the same as
the influence of thinkers such as Weber, who stressed the intentional character thgse which play the same role in another's. The reasons why certain questions
of human action and therefore the fundamental difference between the social are fbrmulated rather than others are likely to have much to do with the specific
and the natural sciences, but also because of the role played by biological rac- intellectual and social context in which the thinker concerned operated. High-
ism in the Nazi Holocaust. There has in recent years been a certain revival of lighting the problems specific to an individual theory may also help to identify
interest in the concept of social evolution, influenced perhaps by the salience c:onnections between different thinkers: one theorist may be best understood as
which modern biology (particularly as popularized by writers such as Steven responding to or reformulating questions left unanswered or unresolved by an
Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins) has corle once again to achieve in intellectual carlier theorist.
culture, at least in the English-speaking world. Moreover, biological reductionism It is worth noting here an important difference between this approach to in-
did not die with Hitler, as contemporary debates about the relationship between tcllectual history and Skinner's. The latter places greatemphasis on reconstruct-
social inequality and genetic differences show. Finally, considering the irrg the intentions of a particular writer against the background of shared
signilicance of evolutionary biology fbr social theory provides an opportunity celvcntions and styles of reasoning: hence the reliance Skinner places on so-
to touch on the problem referred to in the preceding paragraph, that of how clllcd 'speech-act theory' in the philosophy of language, which treats the mean-
Western thought relates to its non-European'other'. irrs gl' an utterance as an expression of the speaker's intentions. By contrast, in
This book's scope having thus been deflned, what about its method? I at- srrying that the identity of a theory is given by the questions it tacitly or explic-
tempt here a historical and critical treatment of social theory. 'Historical' does irly adclresses, I leave open the possibility that a theorist may not be in full
not simply imply that thinkers are treated in (roughly) chronological succes- conrrtrancl of his own writing. To adapt a famous saying of Marx's, human
sion. Further, some attempt is made to reconstruct the context in which their hcipgs nterke theories not in circumstances of their own choosing - and this is
theories were formulated. The problem of setting texts in their context has be- r.cllcctccl in the very construction of these theories. By going beyond the au-
come a prime theme in the history of political thought as a result ol'the work of tlrer''s iltlcntiolts, we run the risk of imposing purely arbitrary interpretations on
Quentin Skinner and those influenced by him. Skinner focuses on 'the more lcxts. Illt this is a risk inherent in the very act of interpreting, since in doing so
general social and intellectual matrix' from which texts emerge, and in partic- wt'rrlwrrys go beyond the available evidence. In making an author's intentions
ular on 'the intellectual context in which the major texts were conceived - the llrt. Scrrch-rrurrk ol'his interpretations, Skinner is seeking to avoid anachronistic
context of earlier writings and inherited assumptions about political society, rt'lrtlings ol'parlicular tcxts which reduce them to 'anticipations' of later works.
and of more ephemeral contemporary contributions to social and political;1lpisrl is intlcccl to be avoicled, but not at the price of denying the exist-
thought'.s r.rrt'r. ol' :rl'liIi:rtiotts lttttl aI'lirlitics hctwcen different theorists.

5 Q. Skinner,The Foundatiot'ts of Modern PoliticctlThought(2vols, Cambridge, l97lt). I. pp. x. xi. , l rrrrl /\( l()1. Lt,t tltt'.t tttt lltttlt,ttt llitttttt' (l.6ttrl6tt. l()llo1. ;l 17
lntroduction lntroduction I
Identifying the constellation of problems from which a theory stafis also gives which I agree. Nevertheless, it does not sufficiently address the objection raised
proper scope to criticism. I have already made clear my belief that every social hy critics of the sociological 'canon', which is that the 'classics' of social theory
theory implies a distinctive politics. The same is surely true of a historical over- itre not relevant, or only partially relevant, to the problems which concern a
view of social theory. But such an account which continually counterposes to contemporary audience. Thus Parker argues that 'feminism, cultural and ethnic
the theorists considered the truth of the matters under discussion as the author studies' constitute 'fiesh sources of inspiration' which can be used 'to truly
sees it is unlikely to be terribly interesting, unless perhaps these criticisms cul- redefine the core of sociology' and thereby to resituate the 'classics' within 'a
minate in a reconstruction of social theory, as does Parsons's classic The Struc- sharper critique of modernity'.e
ture of Social Ac'tion. (Postmodernists, despite their hostility to the concept of In fäct, Marx, Durkheim, and Weber were engaged in just the kind of debate
objective truth. are just as liable to contrast the writers surveyed with what they ahout the nature of modernity into which their 'multicultural' critics now wish
believe to be the correct view of the subject.) On the other hand, a purportedly to draw thern. Indeed, as I seek to demonstrate in this book, social theory has
neutral, 'positive' account of successive thinkers will almost certainly be hcen constituted by precisely this debate, in which attempts to understand mod-
crashingly dull, as well as misleading, since the author's substantive views are crnity are inseparable from the struggle among those who seek to defend, to
likely to figure, albeit tacitly, for example, in the selection of the theorists rc.iect, or to transform it. The interest of the 'holy trinity', and indeed of many
discussed. oI'the other thinkers discussed here - for example, Hegel, Maistre, Tocqueville,
As far as possible, in what follows my criticisms concentrate on the theo- N ictzsche, Simmel, Lukäcs, Heidegger, Adorno, Horkheimer, Foucault,

rist's relative success or täilure in addressing the questions he posed to himself-, llabcrmas, and Bourdieu - lies to a significant extent in the intellectual quality
or on the internal coherence of his answers. More 'external' criticism is often ol'their attempts to stake out, explore, and refine particular positions in the
unavoidable - for one thing, time passes, and sometimes settles various ques- tlt:h:rte about modernity.
tions (although which questions have been settled, and precisely how, are often Keynes famously wrote: 'Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite
themselves matters of great controversy). All the same, I try as much as possi- cxcrtrpt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct
ble to judge thinkers in their own terms, rather than mine. My own views ob- cconclmist.' r0 Analogously one might say that those who believe themselves to
trude, no doubt, more than I am aware, and emerge more explictly in chapter hc staking out some novel contemporary (or even 'postcontemporary') position
12, but I have proceeded on the assumption that all the theorists discussed are :rrc ull too often repeating familiar moves, concluding perhaps in frequently
worth taking seriously. occultied dead-ends, in the debate about modernity. Attempts to counterpose
This assumption is, as I indicated above, currently disputed. Thus David Parker, tlrc classics and the contemporary create a false dilemma. Social theory is in-
fbr example, attacks the sociological canon with its 'familiar holy trinity of the tlisgrcrrsable to engaging with the present.
founding fathers, Marx, Weber and Durkheim'. He protests:

Paradoxically, a discipline which debunks everything else by socializing what-

ever it studies deifies and reifles a tiny number of individuals at the expense of an
understanding of their historical and institutional conditions of emergence. The
orthodox narrative is enshrined in teaching practices by a move from founders to
classics, a mapping of persons to texts, short-circuiting historicization and in-
venting a canonical tradition of quasi-sacred writings most of which were written
between 1840 and 1920.7

Nicos Mouzelis has responded to this complaint by arguing that, judged by the
standards of 'cognitive rationality' ,Marx, Weber, and Durkheim have produced
both 'conceptual frameworks' and 'substantive theories' which are 'superior to
other writings in terms of cognitive potency, analytical acuity, power of syn-
thesis, imaginative reach and originality'.8 This is a good answer, and one with

7 D. Parker, 'Why Bother With Durkheim'1', Sociological Review,45 (1997). p. 124. l';rrkcr , 'Wlry l}trllrt'r Witlr I)rrlklrt'irrr'l'. p11. l l.l. l.ll.
8 N. Mouzelis, 'ln Def'ence of the SociologicalCanon', ihid.. pp. 245.246. I l\l lr.t'r'rrt",. Ilrt'(;( tt('tttl Ilt,,,tt'rtl l'rrtltlttvtrr, nl lntt'tt'\t ruttl lllorrr't' (l.ortrlott. l()70), D. .j133.
The Enlightenment 11

Of course, one may use a concept without explicitly formulating it. Thus the
grcat medieval Muslim philosopher and historian Ibn Khaldün argues that 'man
is a child of the customs and the things he has become used to. He is not a
prrduct of his natural dispositions and temperament.' Further, 'differences of
corrdition among people are the result of the different ways in which they make

The Enlightenment thcrir living'.'On the basis of these claims Ibn Khaldün develops a systematic
contrast between two basic forms of human civilization - the sedentary, some-
linrcs luxurious, life of town-dwellers and the mobile, austere existence of desert
norrrads. In these respects, his Muqaddinmh (Introduction to History) can be
scL:n as a precursor of the kind of materialist historical sociology developed
lrrtcr by the Scottish Enlightenment (see § 1 .4 below) and by Marx.
Simply to view Ibn Khaldün thus would, however, be misleading, for two
r('rsons. First, his propositions about the varieties of hurnan social organization
rrrc udvanced within the framework of an essentially religious discourse, in-
1.1 Prehistory tleccl of a variant of Islamic theology that seeks to emphasize the limitations of
Irrrrnarr reason. Secondly, he conceives the relationship between the two main
What is a social theory? I have suggested it has three identifying features: social fbrms he analyses as a cyclical one. The martial virtues of the nomads
rrllow them to conquer the cities. The new rulers are, however, gradually cor-
I It is concerned with society, which is conceived as being distinct from ruptcd by the social environment over which they now preside. In particular,
political institutions; Iuxrrri«ruslivingcausestheformernomadstolosethe'groupfeeling'(hsabtyah)
2 tt distinguishes between and seeks to make generalizations about different wlrich gave them the cohesion and self-confidence required to conquer. The
kinds of society; rcgirnc consequently declines until it succumbs to some new invasion from the
3 It is concerned in particular to analyse modernity - the form of society rlt'scrl. 'ln this way, the life-span of a dynasty corresponds to the life (span) of
which emerged in the modern West over the past few centuries and has :rrr irrtlividual: it grows up and passes into an age of stagnation and thence into
come to dominate the world as a whole. r t'll'rurcssion.'3
'l'lris cyclical view of history was not sirnply an empirical generalization from
Social theory thus understood is a historically novel phenomenon, and not tlrc cxpcrience of Islamic polities. Like all medieval Islamic and Christian in-
merely because of condition (3). The great philosophers and historians of It'llt'cluals, Ibn Khaldün was profoundly influenced by ancient Greek thought.
'l'lrc irlcl that human social and political life. like nature itself, moves in cycles
classical antiquity - Plato and Aristotle, Thucydides and Polybius - wrote
compelling analyses of political life. They were, however, concerned with the wrrs tlccply entrenched in the thinking of classical antiquity. The historian
inter-relationship between the constant f-eatures of human nature, as they saw l'olyhirrs, lor example, argued that forms of government tended to follow a
them, and certain forms of government - monarchy, aristocracy, and democ- rrrlrrnrl succession - vigorous invention, followed by maturity, degeneration,
racy - each of which was liable to degenerate into, respectively, tyranny, oli- tk'clirrc. clcath, and renewal. This way of thinking continues to shape Ibn
garchy, and mob rule. The Greeks, in other words, did not conceptualize society Klrrrltltrn's conception of history. Within its framework, it is impossible to for-
as something distinct from the different kinds of political institution they dis- rrrrrlrrtc thc idca of a radically novel forn-r of society which breaks with prece-
cussed. This move had to await the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. Johan tlt'rrl. lrrrl inlrugurates a new pattern of development.
'l'lre sirrnc conception of history still informs much of the political thought of
Heilbron suggests that 'Rousseau was probably one of the first to use sociötö as
a key concept and explicitly to reason in terms of "social" relations.'r t';rr ly nrotlcrn Iiurope in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Historitt magistra
' llrrr Klr:rlrlrrrr. /Trl Mtrtltttldirtttrlr(Svols,NewYork. l9-58). I,pp.258,249.'Abd-ttr-Rahmänb.
I J. Heilbron,The Rise of SocialTheory (Cambridge, 1995), p.88. Jean-JacquesRousseau (1112- l\lrrlr:rrrrrrrt'tl lr Klrlltlrrrt lrl-llarlratni ( l3l2 l-106): leading statesman ancl intellectual of the Islamic
78): writer; born in Geneva, but active in France; according to Lord Acton, 'Rousseau produced \\'t",t , rvrrrlt' I ltt' llltrtltttlitttttrtrlr',rs plrt ol'lr tttuclt lut'ucr Hi:;lor.t'o.f'tlr' ßerber.r during the interludes
more eff'ect with his pen than Aristotle, or Cicero, or St Augustine, or St Thomas Aquinas, or any rr ,r '.1()r nrt,polrlit;rl (':u('('r'spt'ttl lrulclv in lltt't'tttir';tlt's ol Not'tlt All'icl ltntl S;lain.
other man who ever lived';probably a paranoid schizophrenic. llrrrl . l. ;t I l\
12 The Enlightenment The Enlightenment 13

vitae history the teacher of life the Roman politician Cicero had written. This Montaigne was writing towards the end of the sixteenth century when, as a
- -
formula implied a direct continuity between present and past. It is possible to rcsttlt of colonial conquests and the formation of the modern world economy,
learn from history because the past has already revealed the full inventory of so- crrrpirical knowledge of societies often radically different from those in Europe
cial and political forms. No fundamental innovation is possible. As the sixteenth- wrls expanding vastly. He could register this information, using various non-
century political theorist Jean Bodin put it. 'while empires age, history remains liuropean examples in his great essay 'On Habit'. in order to that
'tltcre is nothing that custom can and cannot do'.8 In principle, this proposition
eternally the same'.4 The efforts of humanist intellectuals during the Renaissance
accurately to recapture the literature of classical antiquity reflected their belief irnl;lied that human nature was, to some extent at least, malleable, and liable to
that these writings were of direct practical relevance to their own time. hc shaped in divergent forms by different social institutions. But the nature of
This belief can be traced even in those thinkers who go beyond the ancient lltcse institutions could not be properly examined as long as it was assumed that
models. Machiavelli scandalized Europe with the frankness of his political ad- tlrc writers of classical antiquity had already identified the limited range of
vice to rulers inThe Prince (1513). In a famous letter, he describes how, in social forms.
conditions of impoverished rural exile, he composed the book:

At nightfall I return home and seek my writing room, and. divesting myself at its 1.2 The concept of modernity
threshold of my rustic garments. stained with mud and mire, I assume courtly
attire, and thus suitably clothed, enter within the ancient courts of ancient men, 'l'hc significance of the Enlightenment lies in large part in the fäct that it broke
by whom, being cordially welcomed, I am fed with the food that alone is mine, witlr this assumption. It did so by formulating the idea of a new age which no
and for which I was born. and am not ashamed to hold discourse with them and krngcr seeks to derive its legitimacy from principles derived from the past, but
inquire the motives of their actions; and these men in their humanity reply to me, t;tllte r offers its own self-justilication. In Jürgen Habermas's words: 'Modernity
and for the space of four hours I feel no weariness, remember no trouble, no t'rttt itnd will no longer borrow the criteria by which it takes its orientation
longer fear poverty, no longer dread death. my whole being is absorbed in thern.s
ltrrttt the models supplied by another epoch: it has to create its own normatit,ity
ttttt of itself.'e
The same sense of being in direct communication with the ancients is evinced 'l'ltis conception of modernity as a new epoch representing a radical rupture
by Montaigne.6 Commentators often stress Montaigne's modernity, his sense with the past gradually takes shape in the course of the eighteenth century. It
of himself as a particular individual subject: 'My aim is to reveal my own self ', irrrplicd a changed relationship to historical time. Whereas previously Euro-
he writes. Starting from his own mutable and uncertain nature, Montaigne went
pt'rtlt intellectuals had oriented towards the classical past, now they turned
on to explore the variety of human conduct, and in particular to stress the rela-
lowru'tls the future. A critical stage in this reorientation came at the end of the
tivity of social practices to time and place. Nevertheless, his main reference- scvcrltcenth century in what came to be known as the quereLle des anciens et
point, within the framework of Catholic orthodoxy, remains the accumulated (lt',\ tuodernes. Yarious French and English writers argued that the 'new
wisdom of classical antiquity. Thus he writes of 'the Ancients': 'Our powers st'it. r)cc' of physics developed by Galileo, Descartes, Boyle, and Newton was
are no more able to compete with them in vice than in virtue, both of which
tlt'cisivcly superior to anything the ancients had written. In particular, Bernard
derive from a vigour of mind which was incomparably greater in them than in tlt'lirtttcnelle, secretary of the Acaddmie des Sciences, argued that scientific
us.' Montaigne constantly cites ancient precedents to guide contemporary prac- k ttowlcclge had not sirnply progressed, but would continue to do so indefinitely
tice, down to such details as to whether or not to wear heavy armour in battle.7 irrto thc I'utrrre.
'l'lrc irlcu that knowledge progressed was readily extended to the claim that
a Quoted in R. Koselleck, F'trtures Pa,sr (Cambridge, Mass., 198-5), p.239. llte cttlit'c coursc clf human history represented a more or less continuous
5 LettertoFrancescoVettori, l0Dec. l-5 l3,quotedinP.Villari,TlteLiJettntl Tinrcs'tf Nic'tttlit
lorwrrrrl rnovcrne nt. Turgot wrclte of man in I750:
Machiavelli (2 vols, London, n.d.),II. p. 159. Niccolö Machiavelli (1469-1521): filorentine politi-
cian ancl diplomat: heacl of the second chancery of the republic of Florence. 1498-1512: in l5l3
irnprisoned and tortured by the Medicis and then tbrced into exile, where he cornposed his chief I'ossessot ol'Iltc tt'casurc-house olsigns . . . he can assllre himself o1'the posses-
works. s iott ol ltl l lr is lrct;trit'e:tl irlcus, conr nrrrn icate them to other men, and transmit them
(' Michel Eyquem, Seigneur de Montaigne ( I533-92): southern French gentleman u'ho. afier
having fbught on the Catholic side in the Wars of Religion, withdrew fiom public lif'e to composc'
llrrrl . l. ) i. 1r;r l.lJ l() (tlrrollrlron llonr 1t. lJ()l
lris ässzi.rrr, snccessive editions of which were published in 1580. 1588. and l-59-5.
7 M. de Montaigne, The Complete Essays (Harmondsworth, l99l ),1.26,p.167,I.49. p. 33,1: ll. I I l,tlrr't ttt,t:. I lt, l'ltrl,':,,l,lrt, ,rl I )t\t t'ut \t' ,tf ll,trl,'r rrit t ((';rrrrlrrirllt.. l()li7). gt. 7.

9' PP.'153-6.
14 The Enlightenment The Enlightenment 15

to his successors as a heritage which is always being augmented. A continual dominated world economy provided the framework within which certain ad-
combination of this progress witli the passions, and with the events they have vanced enclaves began to experience the process of capitalist industri alization.
caused, constitutes the history of the human race, in which no man is more than
All these factors contributed to a feeling of what Koselleck calls 'the accelera-
one part of an immense whole which has, like him, its infancy and its advance-
lion of history', of participating in a forward movement rapidly cutting Euro-
pcan societies off fiom their past.r3
Properly speaking, 'the Enlightenment' is the name given to the group of
Like Ibn Khaldün, Turgot compares history to an individual life, but there is
cighteenth-century intellectuals, mainly French and Scottish, who at once ar-
no longer any room for decline and retrogression: the future offers only further
ticulated and (often with strong reservations) championed this sense of a radi-
'advancement'. From the start, then, the concept of modernity was indissociably
cal rupture into modernity. Conditions in the two countries in the vanguard of
allied to the idea of historical progress. It was precisely from the prospect of
tlrc Enlightenment were significantly different. The French philosophes were
infinite future improvement that the new age sought its legitimacy. As Hans
l'irccd with the greatest of the Continental absolute monarchies. They occupied
Blumenberg puts it, 'the idea of progress . . . is the continuous self-justification
tltc increasingly large space provided by the court society for intellectual criti-
of the present, by means of the future that it gives itself, before the past, with
t'istn - provided that it concentrated on the analysis of morals, which, in the
which it compares itself '.rl
tr':rtlition of moralisles inaugurated by Montaigne, consisted in the study of the
What historical conditions provided the context within which the concept of
irrlct'action between human passions and social institutions. As the century went
a new age moving steadily forward into the future could be formulated? We
ott. rttoral critique became an oblique way of highlighting the political defects
tend to think of the modern world as the product of what Eric Hobsbawm calls
ol'thc ancien rögime.
'the "dual revolution" - the French Revolution and the contemporaneous (Brit- 'l'he Scottish Enlightenment,
by contrast, developed in a country which since
ish) Industrial Revolution'.r2 The ideas outlined above took shape well before
170I had been part of the first constitutional monarchy in history. Benefiting
1789, when the French Revolution began (an event which they are indeed ofien
lhrltt one of the most advanced systems of schools and universities in Europe.
held to have caused), let alone the much more gradual socio-economic trans-
ils tttcmbers had before their eyes a striking instance of what Trotsky would
formation through which industrial capitalism began to establish itself in parts
llrlcI call uneven and combined development. In south-western Scotland, around
of north-western Europe.
tlrc city of Glasgow (at whose university Adam Smith occupied a chair), an
Nevertheless, a number of developments in the eighteenth century helped to
irttltrstrial economy was developing, closely integrated into Britain's colonial
encourage European intellectuals to see the world anew. Greater political sta-
bility and domestic peace after the horrors of the sixteenth-century Wars of Pl:rntations across the Atlantic.ra But the Highland clans seemed to the
Religion and the Thirty Years War (1618-48) helped to induce a sense of im- l,lriltt';rtPhes of Edinburgh and Glasgow to belong to the same historical time as
llrt' Nllivc American 'savages'rather than to that of European 'civil society':
provement', as did the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. The
lor,vl111',.1 Scotland joined enthusiastically in the repression of the rebellions of
struggle for supremacy of the European powers increasingly took place on a
171.5 irnd 1145, when the Highlanders emerged as a threat to Great Britain's
global stage: the Seven Years War (1756-63), says Reinhart Koselleck, was
t'onsl itulional progress under the Hanoverians.
'the first world war of our planet', waged in India, the Caribbean, and North
America, as well as in central Europe. The consolidation of a European-
tt) Turgot on Progress, Sociology ttnd Econontics, ed. R. L. Meek (Cambridge, 1913l,p.63. Anne 1.3 A moral science
Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de'Aulne \L727-81'): French philosopher and ecorromist; a leading
ntember of the Physiocrat school, as Inspecteur des Finances in 1774-6 he atternpted unsuccess-
Wlrltlcvcr these and other national variations, the Enlightenment thinkers had
fully to reforrrr the regime of Louis XVI.
rr H. Blumenberg, The Legitimacy oftlrc Modern Age (Cambridge, Mass., 1983), p. 32. ttl'o tlccisivc f'catures in common. First, their model of rationality was provided
r2 E. J. Hobsbawrn, The Age of'Revolutinrz (London, 1973), p. I I . There is a silly fäshion among lrv llrc prirrciples they understood to have been at work in the seventeenth-
economic historians for calling the British Industrial Revolution a myth. Michael Mann's sensible t't'ttlttt'y lirtrrtclittittn of modern physics. Thus Voltaire's Philosophical Letters
comments ought to dispose of the matter: 'By I850, most labour and investment had switched to ( l7 l'l) :tl'c. itltt«lltg other things, an atternpt to prcsent to a French readership the
towns, commerce, and manufacturing. There had never been such a prolonged period of agrarian
growth as over the previous three centuries; nevcr such a comr.nercial expansion as ovcr two centu-
ries; and never the emergence of an urban, manufacturing-centred economy. In world-historical l' l(trst'llt't'k, litrtrrtt'.s /'rrr'l, pp. l-r0. 150
terms, if this combination doesn't count as a social revolution, nothing can". The Sources of So<-iul " ,'\tl:tttt Srrrillr tl7l.) ()o) l't olt'ssor ol l\'lorrl l'lrilosoplry rrl llrt'(lrrivcrsily ol (ilirslow, l7-52-
Power,II (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 93-4. (r I 111,' lot;11,1,', rrl tilorlt.til (.( onrrtilt( lltrrtrr'ltl
16 The Enlightenment The Enlightenment I
new science and philosophy of Isaac Newton and John Locke that he had dis- tlrtrs without intending it, without knowing it, advance
the interest of the society,
covered in England.r5 Secondly, the philosophe,r sought to extend this scientifrc :rtltlaflbrd means fbr the multiplication of the species. When providence
method to the systematic study of what they initially continued to think of as I hc carth among a few lordly masters,
it neither forgot nor abandoned those who
morals, understood broadly to embrace human passions and social institutions. scctlted to have been left out of the partition. These last
too enjoy their share of all
Hence Hume's Treatise of Humun Nature (173940) is subtitled 'An Attempt it
to introduce the experimental Method into Moral Subjects'. Studied today chiefly
for its contribution to epistemology and metaphysics, it was intended by its Srrr ith here reflects one of the leading preoccupations of the
Scottish Entight-
author as a contribution to 'the science of man'.16
t'lltllcllt' Did the development of modern 'commercial societies'
such as eighr
This science was explicitly modelled on Newtonian physics. Helvdtius ar- t't'ttllt-century Britain and France, with their highly unequal
distribution of
gued that 'we must make morals like an experimental physics'. More specifically, Plo;lcl'ty, represent progress over the more egalitarian but also poorer societies
he wrote: 'The passions are in morals what movement is in physics: the latter
llrt'y strpplanted? His reply in the affirmative involves developing
what later
(''irrrrc to be known as the principle
creates, destroys, conserves, animates everything; and without it everything is that social structures are the unintended
('()rrsc(ltrences of individual actions.
dead. It is the former which gives life to the moral world.'r7 When the workings The rich, through their self-seeking actions,
'willtottt intending it, without knowing
of the passions were analysed more closely, it was ternpting to conceive these it, advance tne interest of society,.
along lines analogous to Newton's law of universal gravitation. Comparing the K:rtrl would later express the same idea more generally
when he argued that
llrt'tttcchanism through which historical p.ogr.r, takes place
tendency for the price level and the stock of money to come into equilibrium is menls ,ttnso-
t ittLt'ot'iability':
with one another with that of water to settle at one level, Hume writes: 'we need
not have recourse to a physical attraction, in order to explain the necessity of
withoLrt these asocial qualities (far from admirable in
this operation. There is a moral attraction, arising from the interests and pas- themselves) which cause
lltt'rosistance inevitably encountered by each inclividual
sions of men, which is full as potent and infallible.'rB as he furthers his self-
st't'king pretensions, man would live an Arcadian, pastoral
Here we see taking shape the conception of an objective social pattern which existence of perfect
t'ortcord, self-sufficiency and mutual love. But all human
talents would remain
somehow emerges fiom the behaviour of individual actors. Its most famous lritltlcn fbrever in a dormant state, and men, as good-naturecl
as the sheep they
formulation is by Smith, arguing (possibly against Rousseau) that the rich play It'tttlctl, would scarcely render their existence more valuable
than that oi th.i.
a socially useful role: ;tttilttitls. The end for which they were created, their rational
nature, would be
;ttr ttttlilled void. Nature should thus be thanked for
fostering social incompati-
They consume little more than the poor. and in spite of their natural selflshness lrility. cnviously competitive vanity, and insatiable desires
fbr possession or even
and rapacity, though they mean only their own conveniency, though the sole end l)()wel" Without these desires. all man's excellent natural.upo.iti., would never
they propose fiom the labour of all the thousands whom they employ be the lrr' r'otrscd to develop.20
gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires, they divide with the poor the
produce of all their irnprovements. They are led by an invisible hand to make Morc cxplicitly than Smith, Kant reveals the theological roots
of the princi-
nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of lif'e, which would have been Plt' ol trnintended consequences. Christian thinkers such as St Augustine
made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among its inhabitants, and tlt'r"t'lopctl a philosophy of history in which the selflsh
actions of individual
Ittt tttltlts tlnwittingly serve the purposes of
God's secret plan for the world. Nev-
r5 t't lltt'lcss. in two crutcial respects Smith went clecisively
FranEois Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire (1694-1178): author of a vast body of writing - beyond this providen-
prose and poetry. history and fiction. drama and polenic, philosophy and satire; the central tigure rrrrl Vicw trl'history. First, inThe Wealth of Ncttions (1776),hL
turns the principle
of the Enl ightenr-nent. ,l ttttitrlctttlecl consequences into an analytical tool. Commerciai
rt' See the introduction to D. Hume. A Treatise of Hunrun Nuture (Harmondsworth. I969), esp. society
lrrv,lvt's ittt increasingly complex division of labour which
pp. 12-3. David Hunre (llll-16): his philosophical writings undervalued in his own day. and makes possible
cleniecl an acadetnic position because of his religious scepticisnr. he nevertheless mirde a European ''' '\' sttritlr tl75()). 'l.hc Thcrtrt'o.f the Moral Setrtintettts (lndianapolis. l9g2), lV. l. 10, pp.
reputation through lris Äs.yzr.r'.y ( 114l-2) and Histort' rf Englotul ( 17-54-62 ): secretary of the British lli I\
etubassyinParis. 1762-5, whereher.nadecontactw'iththeleadingFrench philo.sopltes (anclhada '" I lr,;Irt. 1,,1i1i,.,,1 Wriritt,g.t (Canrbridse, 199l), p.45. Imrnarruel
stornry relationslrip with Rnusseau).
Kant 0724_1g04): philoso_
|ltr't ' lr.t rr irr Kiirtilsbe rl (lilrst Prtrssil). at wh<-rse university he spent niost of his life
]' C. A. Hell'dtir,rs. Dc I'e.rprit, abr. edn (Paris, 1968), pp.67-8.40. Claude Adrien Helvütius lrt" llrrr't't'rt':tl ttilitlttt's lht' ('rititltrt'rtf'l'ttt't' Rt,rt.srttt (178 teaching;
(17 l5-7 I ): tax fanner änd philosopher.
l), Critique of prt«.tit.ul Reu,sttrt
tll§§l ;tttrl t titi,lttt,rtf .lrttl,qr,nrr,trt llTt)ll) t.(.1)t,(.s(.nl tltr. s(lrr.tirrg_1t«rint
1' D. Hurne.6.r.srr.r'.r Mttrul, Politit'ul, ttrttl Litcturt'. ecl. E. F. I\4illartlndianapolis. I9tl7). p.3l.i. ',rr( ( llr(. l,rt.rrt lr l(r'r'olrrliorr

18 The Enlightenment The Enlightenment 19

the rising output needed to support a growing population. The diverse activities this propensity itself', he continues, '[i]t is common to all rnen, and to be found
of this economy are bound together by the purchase and sale of commodities on in no other race of animals.'2r
the market. Producers and consumers participate in the market purely out of a There were, of course, precedents for thus trying to base concrete accounts
concern for their own individual advantage, yet the outcome is an equilibrium of social institutions and behaviour on generalizations about hunran nature.
between supply and demand. The fluctuations of commodities' prices on the Hobbes had opened his great work Let,iathan, written during the English Revo-
market tend to gravitate around their 'natural prices' at which landowners, wage- lution (1640-60) to justify absolute monarchy, with a first parl entitled ,Of
labourers, and capitalist entrepreneurs all receive an income reflecting their Man'.23 He paints a bleak portrait of creatures driven endlessly to compete by
contribution to the productive process. fear. greed, and envy: 'lif-e itself is but motion, and can never be without desire,
Smith's analysis of commercial society represented a theoretical breakthrough nor without fear, no more than without sense'. Consequently, the state of na-
in a second respect. The economic patterns he identified represented a social ture, where government does not exist, is necessarily a state of war: 'during that
objectivity which could not be equated either with political institutions and the time when men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are
actions of statesmen or with individual human beings and their self-conscious in that condition which is called war. as is of every man. a,gainst every man'.
actions. Earlier economists - for example, Sir James Steuart - had argued that Hobbes then goes on to argue that the only way to avoid this war of all against
government intervention was necessary to bring supply and demand into bal- all, in which 'the lif'e of man' was famously 'solitary, poor, nast), brutish, and
ance at a level at which capitalists could expect to make a decent profit. Smith short', was for men, through a convenant, 'to cont-er all their power ancl strength
denied this: in The Wealth of Natiorzs, he does not rule out all state interference upon one man, or upon one assembly of men" the sovereign.,*
in the market, but nevertheless insists that it is a self-regulating mechanism. Few phiktsoltltes accepted such grim premisses as Hobbes, or clrew sucl-r
This mechanism is, further, beyond the control and, to a large extent, the under- absolutist conclusions. Nevertheless, the model he offered was a powerful one.
standing of the individual actors whom it relates. Like the Enlightenment thinkers Hobbes based his method on the new physics:
In thus conceiving a market economy as a self-regulating system tending - he sought to develop his argurnent deductively starting from clear clelinitions,
provided governnlents left it alone - towards a level where the main social fbllowing the exarnple of geometry ('the only science that it hath pleased Gocl
classes are appropriately rewarded, Smith reflected one of the most widely shared hitherto to bestow on mankind') and of his contemporaries Galileo ancl Descartes,
assumptions of the Enlightenment. Thephilosophes commonly identilied a natu- who were using mathematical reasoning to open the book of nature.2s Many
ral course of events to which things would tend unless intert-ered with. In doing Enlightenment thinkers fbllowed Hobbes in believing that human nature can in
so, they were undoubtedly influenced by the principle of inertia in physics for- principle be established by con.sidering how people woul{ behave in the ab-
mulated by Galileo and Newton, according to which a body tends to move in a sence of political and social institutions. Montesquieu, fbr example, arguecl that
given direction unless acted on by another body. But they gave 'natural' a nor- to know the laws of nature, which 'derive uniquely from the constitution of our
mative connotation, so that the natural course of events was also the right course. being . . . one must consider a man befbre the establishment of societies. The
Thus Frangois Quesnay, one of the French school of Physiocrat economists, laws he would receive in such a starte would be the laws o1, natLlre.,26
offered the following deflnition of a natural physical law'. 'the reguLar course o.f This fornr of reetsoning ofien went together with the view so ruthlessly stated
all physical events in the ntttural order which is self-evitlently the most advon- by Hobbes that huntan beings in this state of nature would each consider their
tageous to the human race'.rr Appropriately enough it was Quesnay who coined own individual interests: coercion or eclucation would be required to persuade
the slogan of free-nrarket economics: 'Laissez faire, laissez passer.'
Applied to society, this approach gave a privileged status to the concept of :r A. Snrith (1776). An lnquiry ittro tlrc Nutrtre utttl
Crtrt.t'<,s cf'tlte We«lth rl l1ttritttr.s (2 vols,
human nature. Identifying the natural course of social events depended on lirst Indianapolis, l98l),1. ii. p.23.
21 Thomas Hobbes ( l58ti-l 679): a,parson's
establishing what were the dispositions and capabilities inherent in, and there- son. lifelong depenclent on the patronage of the great
Cavendish fanrily; despite the political turbulence of the age (Hobbes spent the 1640s in
fore common to. all human beings. Seeking to explain the division of labour, exile in
France) and the notoriety of his doctrines (the Jesuits clubbed him .the Dernon
of Malrnesbury,), he
which he regards as the source of economic progress, Smith writes: 'It is the sun ived into his nineties.
2'1 T.Hobbes(1651),
necessary, though very slow and gradual consequence of a certain propensity in Leviathan(oxfbrcl, r996),vI.-5g,p.41:XIII.gancl9,p.g4;XVIlt. 13,p.
human nature, which has in view no such extensive utility, the propensity to I 1.1.
r' lhid.. lY. 12. p. 23.
truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.' However we may explain 16 ('hirrlcs cle Secondat. Baron de
La Bröde et de Montesquieu (li4$. The Spirit of the L,w.s
(('lrtrhrithc. 19t39). l. 2. p. 6. Montesquieu (1689-17-5-5): French nobler»an;
rr presiclent of Ihc.

R.1.. N'lcck. cd.. l'lrc lit'ttttorttit'.r of. I'lt.t'.t'iot tucr' (l.r»rttlon. l9(r2 ). p. .5-3. l):tt lt'tttt'ttl r»l llorrrtlctrrrx-

20 The Enlightenment The Enlightenment 21

them to consult the general interest. Would then the liberation of individual Thus monarchies are animated by honour, republics by virtue, and despotisms
desires in commercial society be consistent with the maintenance of a stable by f-ear.

and prosperous polity? Srnith has no doubt that it would, in part because of the These passions, each associated with a specific fbrm of government, in fact
mechanism of 'the invisible hand'. Individuals pursuing their own interests would form part of a wider totality of interrelated conditions, institutions, practices.
interact on the market in a manner devised by no one but nonetheless contriv- and beliefs which underlie and sustain that form. It is this totality which
ing to secure the welfare of the whole. Moreover, in The Theory of the Moral Montesquieu calls 'THE sprRrr oF THE LAws'. Thus he argues:
Sentinrcnts Smith argues that our tendency towards self--love is controlled by
our capacity syrnpathetically to identify with the emotional states of others: They [lawsl should be related to the phv,sit:al aspet't of the collntry: to the cli-
mate, be it fieezing, torrid, or temperate; to the properties of the terrain, its
'And hence it is, that to f'eel much for others and little for ourselves, that to
location and extent; to the way of lif-e of the peoples, be they ploughmen, hunt-
restrain our selfish, and to indulge our benevolent affections, constitutes the
ers, or herdsrnen: they should relate to the degree of liberty that the constitution
perf-ection of human nature.'r7 czrn sustain, to the religion of the inhabitants, their inclinations. their wealth,
If sympathy and interest together form the bonds of social life, its goal is the their nurnber, their commerce, their mores. their manners; linally. the laws zire
general happiness. Bentham gave the most influential formulation of this idea related to one another, to their origin, to the purpose of the legislator. and to the
in his principle of utility (or greatest happiness principle): 'An action then may order of things on wlrich they are established. They nrust be considered frorn all
be said to be confbrmable to the principle of utility . . . when the tendency it has these points of view.rr
is to augment the happiness of the community is greater than any it has to di-
minish it.'r8 But the founding doctrine of Bentham's utilitarianisrn expressecl Montesquieu thus widens political theory to encompass the study of mornle
the general consensus among the philosophes. The priority given to happiness - of what he calls 'rrores lnoeursf and manners'- ilt relation to governmental
implied a commitment, not to atomistic individualism, but to the pursuit of fbrrns. But, since 'the character of the spirit and passions of the heart are ex-
social reform. It could also be used to justify revolutionary measures. 'Happi- trernely difterent in the various clirnates, /rnrs should be relative to the dittbr-
ness is a new idea in Europe', declared the Jacobin leader Saint-Just when he ences in these passions and to the differences in these characters'. He deploys
presented to the Convention in March 1194 the loi ventöse redistributing the this emphasis on clirnate most dramatically in his analysis of despotism, where
property of 'the enemies of the Revolution' to the poor.2" '[rnlan is a creature that obeys a creature that wants'. Asia's torrid climate means
that 'despotisnr is, so to speak, naturalizecl there'.rr Heat enervates men, ntak-
ing them submissive and fbncl of luxury. It also so incites desires that men and
1.4 The development of social theory women cannot be lefi alone touether, making harems and seraglios necessary.
(As Louis Althusser observes, 'Itlhe spring of despotism could be said to be
Decisive though Smith's conception of a self-regulating econonty was ln ar- desire as tnuch as f'ettr.'rr) These circumstances favour the concentration of
ticulating a concept of society distinct from political institutions, the forrnal power in the hands of a single, arbitrary ruler. Colder northern climes, by con-
development: of social theory began somewhi.rt earlier, in the writings of trast, favottr tlre courage and vi-uottr necessiiry to sustain republican and monar-
Montesquiett. The Spirit oJ'the Loyt's in one sense continues classical thinkers' chical fbrrns of governrnent.
concern with different political fonns. Montesquieu identifies three basic kinds Montesquieu had already sought to contrast Oriental and European moeurs
of government: republican, monarchic. and despotic. But his analysis does not in the Per.siun Letters (where it served chiefly as a device fbr throwing critical
focus primarily or exclusively on political institutions. He distinguishes be- light on the France of his doy). [{is approach had classical precedents: the an-
tween 'the nature of the government and its principles: its nature is that which cient Greeks used clirnatic theories to explain why their city-states were so
makes it what it is, and its principles, that which makes it act. The one is its different in structure and ideology fiom the Persian empire. The accumulation
particular structure, and the other is the human passions that set it in motion.'r" of contemporary European tritvellers' tales abclut the great monarchies of the
Near East, India, ilnd China provided Montesquieu with raw material for his
21 Smith, Theort',I. i. 5. 5, p. 25. portrait of despotism. Nevertheless, like rnany other European authors who have
rfi J. Bentharn (17891. An Intrttdtlt'tiott to the Principles o.f Morals antl Lcgislatron (London, l9tl2).
pp. l2-13. Jeremy Bentharn (1748-1832): Legal refbrrner and fbr-rnder of Utilitarianisnr; his
nrunrmified body is on public display at Llniversity College London. 'r lbid., 1. 3. p. 9.
)() Quoted in A. Soboul . Lo Riv,olutktn.frung' (Paris, l9tt8), p. 349. " Ibid., 14. l. p. 231;3. 10,p.29;5. 14, p. 63.
r" M«lntcscluicu. .\irilil. -3. l. p. 21. " L. Althusser. Politic.s rttul Hi,sktrt'([-ondon, 1972). p. ttl.
I 22 The Enlightenment The Enlightenment 23
drawn such global contrasts between East and West, his concern was less to permanent causes of social and political institutions. Thou gh The Spirit
of the
produce knowledge of Oriental societies than to deepen the self--understanding Lavvs inspired eighteenth-century historians to relatepolitical events to changes
of the Occident. in mores and manners, its own theoretical fiamework is that of a static com-
This can be traced in the tensions detectable in Montesquieu's explanatory parative sociology. John Millar, when setting forth the theory of history devel-
model. He asserts, on the one hand: 'The empire of climate is the first of all oped by the Scottish Enlightenntent, bluntly declared in direct opposition to
empires.' On the other hand, he offers more pluralistic versions of his theory: Montesquieu that 'national character depends very little upon the lmmediate
'Many things govern men: climate, religion, laws, the maxims of the govern- operation of climate.'r8
ment, examples of past things, mores and manners; a general spirit is fbrmed This theory was in f'act more or less simultaneously fbrmulated by Turgot
as a result.' A strict clin-ratic detern-rinism would imply that Europe was saf-e and Srnith around the year 1750, though its proper articulation was one of the
fiom despotism. Yet Montesquieu warns that 'if, by a long abuse of power or main collective achievenrents of the Scottish Enlightenment. It has come to
by a great conquest, despotism became established fbr a certain time, neither known as 'the Four Stages Theory'. History is to be understood not as the ac-
mores, nor climate would hold firm, and in this fine part of the world, human tions and conflicts of rulers that are best captured throu,eh a political narrative,
nature would sufTer, at least fbr a while, the insults heaped on it in the other but as a progressive development through fbur distinct stages of society repre-
three'.34 senting qualitatively ditterent kinds of economic organization hunting, pas-
Clirnate is thus not fäte. Montesquieu's lurid portrait of despotisrn is at least
turage, agriculture, and colnnterce. This classification intplies that priority should
in part a tacit critique of Bourbon absolutism, which had transforrned the aris- be given in the study of society to economic relations. This view was expressed
tocracy into dependants of the monarchy, and denizens of a court society ruled most succinctly by William R«rbertson in his Hi,stortt of'America (1777): ,tn
by favourites and mistresses. as well as a warning of Lhe future that awaited every enquiry concerning the operations of men when united together in soci-
France unless 'moderate government' were reinstated. Montesquieu insists that ety, the first object of attention should be their mocle of subsistence. Accorcl-
'[i]ntermediate, subordinate and dependent powers constitute the nature of ingly as that varies, their laws and p«rricy nrust be difl'erent.,3e
monarchical governrnent', and the 'most natural' of these powers is the nobil- Millar sirnilarly enrphasizes the 'rnocle of subsistence'. He discerns 'in hu-
ity, so that the 'f undamental maxim' of monarchy is 'no ntonurt'lt, no rubility': man history, a natut'al progress fiom ignorance to knowleclge, and f-rorn rude
no nobilitv-, no monorch, rather, one has a despclt'. 'Moclerate government' is civilizecl lnilnners, the several stages of which are usually accompaniecl with
best secured through the separation of legislative, executive, and.judicial pow- peculiar laws and customs'. Thus the irnprovement in the status of women
ers which Montesquieu believed had happened in corttemporary England. Millar claims is a l'eature of the 'refined and polishecl nations' of Europe is
'Among the Turks, where the three powers are united in the person of the sul- 'chiefly derived frtlln the progress of mankincl of the common arts of
lif-e'. The
tan, an atrociclus despotism reins.'r't Althr.rsser suggcsts that this famous doc- same progress is responsible fbr the graclual disappearance of slavery in Eu-
trine, which influenced the fiarning o1'the Constitution of the United States, rope: 'little protit can be «lrawn I'rom l.he labour «rf a slave, who has neither been
reflects less any political radicalism on Montesquieu's part than his def'ence of encouraged to acqLrire that dexterity, n«rr those habits of applicstion, which
'an outdate.d order'. his attempt to reinstate the proper powers of the t'eudal essentially requisitc in the finer and more clilficult branches of manufäcture,.
aristocracy under the French monarchy.36 Though' to Millar's regret, slavery continues to flor-rrish in the Anterican plan-
Altlrusser also argues that Montesquieu was 'the.first to propose u positiva tations and even ttl survive anlong the colliers anil salters of Scotland. it cannot
principLe of a universal exltlanution.fbr history', arising liorn the tensions be- long survive the 'inlallible tenclency' which the 'introcluction of personal lib-
tween a fbrm of government's institutional structure ancl its underlying princi- erty' has 'ttl render the inhabitants o1'a country rnore industrious; ancl, by pro-
ple - the distinctive spirit of its laws.rT Yet to the extent that Montesquieu accords ducing greater plenty of provisions, must necessarily increase the populousness,
clirnate a decisive role in shaping this spirit, he denies himself the possibility of as well as the strength and security of a nation'.r0
identifying and explaining historical transformations. Since climatic diff'erences
are (relatively) constant, they can at best ofl'er the basis of an account of the '' J. Millar (lr711),T'he Origirt ol the Di.stinction of'Runt.s, in W. C. Lehmann, Jphn Milur o.l'
Glu'ssot| 1735*1801(Cambridgc, 1960),p. l80.JohnMillar(173-5-180t):apupil
of Srnithald
l)rtrf'essorofCivil LawattheUniversityof Glasgow 176l
-1801;afbllowerof CharlesJamesFox.
'r4 MontesquieLt. Spirit, 19. 14, p. 316: 19. 4,p.3101 8. 8, p. I 18. hc advocated parliamentary reform an<l opposed the slave trade and the
war with Revolutionarv
'rs lbid..2.4, p. lt3; 11.6, p. 157. l;rance.
16 Althusser-, Politics,p. 106. "' Qttoted in R. L. Meek, Er:onomics antl lcleologt, ancl Other Er.srzr'^r (London, 1967), p.37.
17 lhirl.. p. .50. r" Millar, Ori,qin. pp. 176,225,228,2gg.311.

24 The Enlightenment The Enlightenment 25

The historical pattern outlined by the Scottish philosophes is thus progres-
sive not simply in the sense that it represents a movement from less to more
complex and productive rnodes of subsistence, but in increasing political free-
1.5 lnner strains
dom. What is the motor of this process? Millar puts it down to the presence 'in It is customary to darnn the Enlightenment fbr a naive, rationalist optimism
man [ofl a disposition for improving his condition, by the exertion of which he soon exploded by the experience of events. Examples of such optimism
are not
is carried from one degree of advancement to another; and the sirnilarity of his hard to find. Thus Condorcet opens his Skerclr by prornising 'to iho* by appeal
wants, as well as of those f-aculties by which those wants are supplied, has to reason and fact that nature has set no term to the perf'ection of human fäcul-
everywhere produced a remarkable uniformity in the several stages of his pro- ties; that the perfectibility of man is truly indefinite: ancl that the progress of this
gression.'ar Stimulated by need, human capabilities develop: the breakthrough perfectibility, fiom now onwards independent of any power that might wish to
of agriculture in particular permits the proliferation of occupations, leading, halt it, has no other lirnit than the duration of the globe'. He assures us: .The
over time, to the development of manufacture and commerce. moral goodness clf man, the necessary consequence of his constitution, is capa-
In his version of the theory, Turgot laid a greater emphasis on the role of ble of indefinite perf'ection, like all his other faculties . . . r.rature has linkecl
human ambition and greed in blindly pushing history tbrward: 'The passions, together in it unbreakable chain truth, happiness ancl virtue.'as This faith in
tumultuous and dangerous as they are, become a mainspring of action and of firture is all the more remarkable when one takes into account that Condorcet
progress.'ar As we have seen, Smith used the same theory to account for the composed this essay while inrprisoned by the Jacobins cluring the French Revo-
integration of individual interests in the linal stage of the process, comrnercial lution.
society. By contrast, Condorcet's Sketch.for a Historical Picture of'tlrc Progress Simply to identify the Enlightenment with such apparently blin6 oprirnism
of the Huruan Mind (1794) is perhaps rnore representative of the French En- is, h«rwever, facile in the extreme. Voltaire's great novel Carulide wa, p.o,npted
lightenment in making, as the title of his essay suggests, intellectual advance- by the great Lisbon earthquake of I November 175-5. This catastropüe, which
ment the source of more general social development: ideas are thus the motor destroyed two-thirds of the city an«l killed berween 5.000 ancl 15,000 people,
of historical change.*l shocked European society. Voltaire usecl the earthquake, irnd man-nraclc clisas-
Rodney Meek, who has made a most irnportant contribution to winning pr oper ters such as the sul'f'ering caused in central Europe by the Seven years War,
recognition of the significance of the Four Stages Theory, arglles that 'in the systenratically to lampoon all optimistic vicws, and in particular the philoso-
latter half of the eighteenth century the Scottish Historical School developed pher Leibniz's ntetaphysical cloctrine that 'all is tbr the best in this best of
this Classical sociology to a stage where it was becoming rernarkably similar, possible worlds'.
at least in its broad outlines, to Marxist sociology'.ar Such claims carry within Mtrreover. as we shall see, nrany philo,xtplt(,.§ expressecl powerful reserv4-
them some danger of anachronism. The leading thinkers of the Scottish En- tions about the sustainability and e ven the clesirability ol the historical progress
lightenment otlen took their questions and even their categories fiom ancient which Condorcet treated as an Lrnalterable law. Thcse ckrurbts were simply one
and early modern political thou-eht. Nevertheless, in the answers they give to of a series tlf tensions internal to the systenr of icleas clevelopecl by Enlighten-
i these questions, we see taking shape a theory which distinguisl-res sharply be- ment thinkers' Briefly surveying these sources ol'clil'liculty will heip t11
iitween society as such and the fornrs of government; which formulates a general the agenda these thinkcrs clcfinecl firr later social thc«rrists.
laccount of the successive stages of social development; and
which is particu-
llarly concerned to elucidate the nature of the 'commercial societies' of contem- (l) Humart naturc unrl histutrv. The concept of human nature fieqLrently figures
rporary Europe, radically difl-erent as these were fiom past social forms. In other
in the explanaticlns framed by Enlightenment the«rrists. Think, firr example. of
words, it is in the writings of the Sc-ottish philosophes that we see modern social Smith's 'propensity to truck, barter, and excharge', and of Millar's ,disposi-
lirst emerge. tion Iof man] to improve his condition'. But on what grounds could one claim
"lheoU to have identilied charitcteristics genuinely common to all human beings'l Rea-
soning about how humans woulcl behave in the state of nature was often used
1r lbid., p. 116. to
rr provide such grounds. But how plausible was the idea that men and women
Meek, ed., Turgot on Progress, p.70.
'r'1 Marie Jean Antoine de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (1743-94): sought to develop a 'social could somehow exist, as Montesquieu put it, 'befbre the establishment of
nrathematics' anticipating r.nodern game theory; a Girondin deputy durirtg the French Revolution,
lre was rrrcslcrl hy thc.lac«lbins antl p<lis«rncd Irirnselt'in grrison. {: Mrrrr;rristlt'('otttltlrcü (1796). A
! Mcr.k. 1,.'t rttrt,ttrit .t ttttrl ltltolo,qr'. ;tP. .3-l .5. Skcrch.frtrtt Hi,vtoritttl Pit.ttre t»f'thr pro.grr,,s.s of tlt, llrrtrrtttt
Mitrtl ll ottrl,rrt. lr)55). pp..1. 19.1.

[' i

The Enlightenment 27
26 The Enlightenment

In the later decades of the eighteenth century, as the diffrculties of the Bour-
societies'? The more engaged philosophes became with the historical particu-
bon regime grew more acute, the criticism of the French Enlightenment be-
larities of social life, the more doubtful the concept of the state of nature be-
came more explicitly hostile to the Catholic Church, and more oriented towards
political reform. While the Scottish philosophes drd not have to confront what
Thus Adam Ferguson, one of the most influential figures of the Scottish En-
turned out to be a pre-revolutionary crisis, demands for parliamentary reform to
lightenment, directly attacked the concept as it was used by Rousseau and
make the Hanoverian state more representative became a running theme in British
politics. [n the early nineteenth century, among the strongest advocates of
If we would know him [man], we must attencl to himself, to the course of his lif'e, reform were Bentham and his fbllowers, the Philosophical Radicals, many
and to the tenor of his conduct. With him the society appears to be as old as the of whom were strongly influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment.
individual, and the use of the tongue as universal as that of the hand or the foot. If What direction should political refilrm take'/ One of the great achievements
there was a time in which he hacl his acquaintance with his own species to make, and of early modern political thought, in the writings of Hobbes, Bodin, and others,
his faculties to acquire, it is a time of which we have no record, and in relation to had been to tbrmulate the modern concept of sovereignty, according to which
which our opinions can serve no purpose, and are supported by no evidencc.a6 the state is conceived as a distinct entity fiom which all legitimate political
power derives. At least initially, this line of thought provided a justification for
Rousseau himself, though he is widely presented as the author of a sentimen-
the centralization of power in the great Continental absolutist states. It coex-
talized portrait of a virtuous 'natural man', expressed much the same difficulty
isted, however, with another powerful strand in early modern thought, what
at the start of the Ser:ontl Discourse: 'how can man come to know himself as
hist«lrians have come to call the classical republican tradition. Drawing inspira-
nature made him once he has undergone all the changes which the successitln
tion fi'orn the political theory of the ancient Roman republic which had been
of time and things must have produced in his original constitution, and so dis-
rediscovered by Renaissance humanists, this tradition asserted that political lib-
tinguish that which belongs to his own essence fiom that which circumstances
erty consisted in participating as it citizen in a sel[governing republican com-
have added to, or altered in, his primitive state'/' The answer he gives to this
question, relying on 'hypothetical and cclnditional reasttnings' rathcr than on
munity. A flourishing polity thus depended on the virtr,re of the citizens. As
Bolingbroke put it, 'Ial wise and brave people will neither be cozened nor bul-
anything purporting to be historical enquiry, depicts the original man as a n1ute,
lied out ol'the ir liberties.'r') The nrost irnportant exponent of classical republi-
asocial, unreflecting animal, living in solitude and reproducing as a result of
canisrn was Marchiavelli, whose originality lay in arguing that civic virtue (virtü)
chance encounters with members of the opposite sex.a7 This zero degree of
did n<lt necessarily consist in observing the ordinary canons of individual con-
human existence serves Rousseau as a bench-mark by means of which to evalu-
duct, but in being willing to do whatever was recluired to nraintain the state,
ate the historical development of the species, but, in highlighting the changes
however brutal rlr dishonest this rnight bc.
men have subsequently undergone, he opens the dtlor to the suggestion that
Montesquieu spoke tor rnany philosopltcs in expressing doubts about the
human nature is in fact historically variable, bearing the imprint cll-the social
viability ol'republican government in the relativcly large and complex states o1'
relations prevailing at any given time.
early nrodern Europe. Yet the republican tradition firund a powerful exponent
(2) Sovereignty emtl Libe.rty. These analytical difficulties did not prevent many in Roussczru. In The &x'iul Corlruct (1162), hc takcs over the concept of sover-
phitosophes counterposing an idealized image of society, which they conceived eignty elaborated by Hobbes and Bodin, but relocates it in the people. Legiti-
of as corresponding to human nature, to existing social and political institutions. mate governrnent is created when individuals corne together and agree to fbrm
Thus the Abb6 Raynal wrote in lTlO:'society is a product of the needs of peo- themselves into'an artificial and collective body', the sovereign. The people
ple, and government a product of their shortcomings . . . society is in essence thus constituted akrne has the right to rnake laws, which may not be delegated
good; government can be evil, aS we well know, and all too often iS so.'48 to elected representatives: 'the sovereign, which is simply a collective being,
cannot be represented by anyone but itself - power may be delegated, but the
.16 A. Ferguson (lj6j). An Essay- on the Histor-v rf Civil Sot'iety (Farnborough, 1969), p. 9. Adam will itself may not'. This arrangement realizes the republican ideal of liberty as
Ferguson (1i23-l816): principal chaplain of the Black Watch regiment, 1146-54l. Professor of self-government: 'rnan acquires with civil society, moral freedom, which alone
pneumatics and Moral Philosophy, Edinburgh University, 1164_.85 the Essay was translated into
French and German and widely read throughout Europe. r'' Lord Bolingbroke, Political Wrirings (Cambridge, 1991), p. 1 I l. Henry St John, Viscount
'11 J.-J. Rousseau (1755), Disc:ourse on the Origins ttntl Fountkttions of Inequcrlitt'tuttong Men
lSolingbroke ( 1678-17-51): British politician, whose practical failures were compensated tbr by the
(Harm«rndsworth. I c)t34). pp. 61. 18.
i n ll uerrce ol' lr is lvri t i nts on eighteenth-century pol itical thought.
'rri Qtrttlctl irr Ilcilbrorr, /?i.rr', 11. 92.

T 28 The Enlightenment The Enlightenment 29

makes man the master of himsell'; for to be governed by appetite alone is slav- understanding that religious toleration represented the only acceptable solution
ery, while obedience to a law one prescribes to oneself is freedom'.s0 to the historically novel coexistence of rival versions of the same 'salvationist'
Rousseau's vesting of sovereignty in the people constituted one of the main religion each demanding unconditional commitment.s3 But it was the experi-
starting-points of modern democratic thought. But the exercise of sovereignty ence of the Jacobin Terror which encouraged post-Revolutionary liberals
involves the assertion of the sovereign's will. How do the people express their directly to attack the republican idea that political freedom is the property
will, according to Rousseau? He distinguishes between the private wills of in- of a collective agent.
dividual citizens, which reflect their particular interests, and the general will, Thus Constant systematically contrasts two kinds of liberty, those of the an-
which articulates the common interest of society. Laws are the declaration of cients and the moderns. The active public lif-e of the citizens of the Greek and
the general will. But this general will is not necessarily expressed through the Roman city-states presupposed a narrow and confined private life, reflecting
majority vote of the citizens gathered together in assembly. Rousseau famously the very limited role of commerce in antiquity. In modern times, however, com-
declares: 'There is often a great difference between the will of all and the gen- merce is 'the normal state of things, the only aim, the universal tendency, the
eral will; the general will studies only the common interest while the will of all true lif'e of nations', filling individuals'private lives with hopes, projects, and
studies only the private interest, and indeed is no more than the sum of indi- activities. Consequently, 'we can no longer enjoy the liberty of the ancients,
vidual desires.' This drives him to propose a variety of devices - fbr example, a which consisted in an active anil constant participation in collective power. Our
lawgiver to devise the initial constitution, the suppression of factions articulat- freedom must consist of peaceful enjoyment and private independence', that is,
ing sectional interests, and state-instituted civil religion - which will inculcate of individual liberty guarranteed by political rights. Rousseau's attempt to reha-
in the citizens republican virtue and encourage them to consult the common bilitate ancient liberty merely 'furnished deadly pretexts fbr more than one kind
interest rather than their private desires. He also advocates minimizing stlcial of tyranny'.sa
inequality: 'Do you want coherence in the state'/ Then bring the two extremes Yet, while thus championing individual fieedom against the republican tra-
as close together as possible; have neither rich men nor beggars, for these twir dition, Constant ackn«rwledged: 'The danger of modern liberty is that, absorbed
estates, naturally inseparable, are equally fatal m the common good; fiom one in the en joyment ol our private independence, we should surrender our right to
class come fiiends of tyranny, fiom the other tyrants.'sl share in political power to«r easily.'ss Rousseau's liberal critics therefore con-
Such a solution would hardly commend itself to those philosophes such as tinued to grapple with the problem that had confionted him of how to reconcile
Smith and Hume, who believed that modern comrnercial societies, despite the what they w«ruld increasingly acknowledge as democratic citizenship with the
growth in social inequality they involved, were producing a generally beneficial assertion of privatc interests encouraged by cornrnercial society.
increase in living standards. Rousseau's struggle to subordinate the assertion «lf
individual interests to the requirements of republican citizenship in any case (3) Rutiorrulity ttntl ,sub.jectivit.y. Rousseau's political theory posed a further
involved more than conceptual tensions internal to his political theory. Thc problem. His clistincti«rn bctwecn slavery to appetite and the fieedom that comes
radical Jacobin regime which held power at the clirnax of the French Revolu- from sclf'-rnastery, frorn'obedience to a law one prescribes to oneself ', sug-
tion in 1192-4 explicitly appealed to Rousseau's ideals of republican virtue ttr gested that the sell'was a conrplex entity. Part of me is ruled by the private will,
justify the Terror to which it subjected its opponents. Benjamin Constant wrtlte and driven by sellish clesires; but in another aspect I partake of the general will,
of the Jacobins: 'They believed that everything should give way before collec- at once sharing in law-rnaking and ruling rnyself. Rousseau's critics were quick
tive will, and that all restrictions on individual rights would be amply collrpen- to detect here a doctrine ol'a 'higher self in whose name (and that of the collec-
sated for by participation in social power.'s2 tive liberty in which it participatcd) thc actual self could legitimately be re-
Liberalism as it began to take shape in the aftermath of the Revolution could pressed. But the problem raised here of how to conceptualize the self raised
draw on older sources. As John Rawls has emphasized, this tradition's origins much larger difficulties fbr the Enlightenment.
can be traced to the sixteenth-century Wars of Religion, and the developing The human individual was not simply, for the philosophe,r, the object of so-
cial analysis and the subject of political lif-e; it provided the underpinning of
their claim to knowledge. At the beginning of the seventeenth-century scientific
50 J.-J.Rousseau,T'heSociulContrac't(Hannondsworth, 1968),1.6,p.61;ll. 1,p.69;1.8,p.65.
sr Ibid., lI. 3, p. 72;lI. I I, p. 96 n.
52 B. Constant, PoliticalWritings (Cambridge, 1988), p.320. Benjamin Constant (1767-1830): 5r J. Rawls, Politicul Liberolism (expanded edn, New York, 1996), pp. xxvii ff.
of Protestant Swiss origins, but active chiefly in France; a critic of Napoleon's regime, he became 'r Constant, Political Writings, pp. 314, 316, 318.
a Icader of the liberal opposition under the Bourbon Restoration. " Ibid., p.326.

30 The Enlightenment The Enlightenment 31

revolution Ren6 Descartes imagined the subject isolated from all its physical ol'human knowledge against Hume's challenge involved a high price. In mak-
and social circumstances. In what Charles Taylor calls this ' "punctual" or "neu- irrg the structure of the world of everyday experience dependent on the activi-
I ics of the transcendental subject, Kant opened the door to the idealist doctrine
tral" conception of the self', 'the self is defined in abstraction fiom any consti-
tutive concerns and hence from any identity . . . Its only constitutive property is lhat the world is the creation of mind. or consists in ideas. He resisted this
self-awareness.'56 The self thus conceived, Descartes argued, would be certain irrrplication, distinguishing between the world of appearances, formed by the
at least of the contents of its own consciousness. From this secure resting-point, lpplication of the categories to sense-impressions, and that of things in them-
the entire edifice of scientific knowledge could gradually be constructed. John sclves, beyond the limits of experience, and therefbre of human knowledge.
Locke offered a more empirical version of the same idea, arguing that sense- llut by making ultimate realities unknowable Kant seemed to many to have
experience as well as ralional reflection was the source of knowledge. But em- ruracceptably restricted the scope of human reason.
piricists and rationalists alike tended to treat the individual subject, with the
self-certainty which derived from its secure access to its own conscious states, l"[) IJ niversality and the other. Kant's philosophy also highlights the Enlight-
('nnlent's preoccupation with the universal. Thus, his doctrine of the categori-
as the foundation of all knowledge.
This secure resting-point did not survive Hume's subversion in the Treatise t'irl itnperative requires as a necessary condition of any moral principle that it is
of Hrunan Nature. Beneath all the apparently secure structures of both the so- strict ly universal in its application. The philosophes concerned themselves with
cial and the physical worlds he discovered the effects of the hunran mind. It was tlrc conditions and prospects of humankind as a whole. But was this concern
our mental activity, and in particular our tendency to project regular patterns lrt'rr u i nely universal?
( )ne of the great documents of the Enlightenment is the American Declara-
onto the world even where their existence could not be rationally demonstrated,
that was responsible for most of what we took to be natural laws. Even the self, liorr of Independence of 4 July 1116. Drafted by Thomas Jeff-erson, it is im-
supposedly the pivot of knowledge, turned out to be 'nothing but a bundle or ;rrcgttated with the ideas especially of the Scottish The universal
collection of different perceptions. which succeed each other with an incon- clrrints they made have never been better stated than in the Declaration's open-
ceivable rapidity and are in a perpetual flux or movement'.57 ttrg liltcs: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all merl are created equal;
Kant's response in the Critique of Pure Rea,son was not to deny that the llrrrl llrcy are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among
world we experience is the product of our mental activity. But he identified as lltt'sc rights are life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness.' Yet Jefferson hin-rself
w,rsi il Virginia gentleman who throughout his life owned black slaves. Indeed,
the source of this activity. not the ernpirical self which under Hume's exami-
nation had disintegrated into a mass of sense-impressions, but a transcenden- ur llrc Notes on the State of Virginict (1181), originally written to present the
tal subject underlying these irnpressions. The very possibility of conscious trt'wly irtdependent American republic to an enlightened French audience, he
experience. Kant argued, required that we presuppose a 'transcendental unity \\'('nl irs tar as to express the 'suspicion' that 'the blacks, whether originally a
of apperception' to which our sense-impressions could be attributed but which rlrslittcl race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the
was not itself present in experience. Presupposing this unity further implied rvlritcs irr the endowments both of body and mind'.se
that certain categories inherent in the human understanding were applied to .lt'l'll'rson was far from being the only Enlightenment figure to express racist
'srrspiciorrs'. Hume, for example, declared: 'I am apt to suspect the negroes. and
organize and give structure to our sense-experience. The world of ordinary
life and Newtonian physics. with its bodies and causal relations. was the re- ttt 1tt'ttct'ul all the other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds)
sult of the application of these categories to sense-experience. Kant further lo lrt' turlrrrally int'erior to the whites.'60 Despite such views,the philosophes were
extended the role of the transcendental subject in his moral and political writ- ltrrrt'r'llly strongly critical of both the institution of slavery and the Atlantic slave
ings. which were heavily influenced by Rousseau. This 'noumenal self', be- It;rtlt'. wlrich during the eighteenth century tore millions from their homes in
yond but presupposed by sense-experience, was the source of the universal r\ltit'rr lo toil in the plantations of the New World. Jefferson himself took up
moral laws which regulated individual conduct and provided the foundations
of political life.
" l ltontrrs .lclli'r'sott (l,143- ltl26): Governor of Virginia, 1119-81 ; American minister to France,
Kant's critical philosophy represented the pinnacle of the Enlightenment's l/liI (): (lS Sccrctar.y ol'Slutc. ll9(t.4:- Vicc-President, 1797-'180l; President, 180l-9: an ex-
intellectual achievement. But his vindication of the rationality and objectivity Ir,rrrrlrrr;rrt t orrrlrirrrliorr ol'gcrrlle rn.ut I)liultcr. intellectulrl Polyrnath, crankish inventor. and astute
polrltt t:rtt
s6 '' I lt'llr'rson. Il'rilirr,r3r. t'rl. IVl . l) l)t'tt'r'son (Nr'u,\'ol k. l()li'J).
C. Taylor. Sourt'es of the Self (Cambridge, 1989). p. 49 1t1t. 19.21O.
57 I ltttttt'. /'rrrrr'.r. ;rp (r.)() {o
Hume, Trecttise.l. iv. v, p. 300.
The Enlightenment 33
32 The Enlightenment
Irrclians' 'backwardness' apparently made them an appropriate object of such
a highly ambivalent attitude towarcls the issue. On the one haud, he advocated the
social engineering.
abolition of slavery; on the other, he quailed at the disruptive economic and po-
Irinally, racial slavery as it developed in the Atlantic economy in the seven-
litical consequences of freeing the slaves. A f-amous letter well expressed this
tccnth and eighteenth centuries challenged any sirnple understanding of histori-
attitude: 'we have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely
t':rl progress. Robin Blackburn has pointed out:
let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self:preservation in the other.'6r
The case of racial slavery raises the question of the extent to which the pro-
Its li.e. American slavery's] development was associated with several of those
claimed universality of Enlightenment thought was qualified by tacit limitations.
l)r'ocesses which have been held to define modernity: the growth of instrumental
Were rationality and liberty the property of all human beings, or were the major- rationality, the rise of national sentiment and the nation-state, racialized percep-
ity of humankind in fact excluded by their race, their gender, or their class? This tions of identity, the spread of market relations and wage-labour, the develop-
quesrion highlights three other issues. First, how could a body of thought devel- rrrcnf of adrninistrative bureaucracies and modern tax systems, the growing
oped by a naffow group of European intellectuals claim genuine universality? sophistication of commerce and communication, the birth of consumer societies.
Could, indeed, any theory achieve the objectivity on which such universality thc publication of newspapers and the beginnings of press advertising, 'action at
might be thought ro depend? Might not thought be necessarily parochial, the ;r tlistance', and individualist sensibility.66

expression of the time, place, and circumstances of those expressing it'/

The second issue concerns the elitism of the philosophes, within Europe as l\l'l'ltc antbiguities of'trtrogress. Many Enlightenment thinkers were them-
well as without. On the face of it, their writings were addressed to everyotre. rt'lvcs willing to cast doubt on the meaning of the progressive development
Typically, however, their audience was a nruch narrower one, comprising those rlt'picled by their theories o1'history. The most radical challenge came from
in the upper ranks of society who were at least potentially capable of becoming l{orrsscau. [n the Second Discourse he portrays the evolution of civil society,
enlightened. 'What does it matter', Voltaire wrote to Helv6tius in 1763, 'that r r rr rt irrg the process, in a manner not dissimilar to Millar's account, in 'the
our tailor and our cobbler should be ruled by Father Kroust and by Father ttltt' ol'sclf-improvement - a faculty which, with the help of circumstance, pro-
Berthier'J The main point is that those with whonl you live should lower their 1'rt'ssivcly develops all our other faculties, and which in man is inherent in the
eyes before the philosopher. It is in the interest of the king, that is, of the State, '.pt't'ics a.s in the individual'. Yet. Rousseau argues,'this distinguishing and
that the philosophers should rule society."" ;rlrrrosl Lrnlimited faculty of man is the source of all his misfortunes'.6i The
Probably the closest that Enlightenment philosophers carne actually to ruling r'rprrrrsion of productive powers rnade possible by man's innate capabilities
society was in Inclia as it was incorporated into the British empile. Bentham's lr('rlcs the circumstances in which the institution of private property and grow-
close collaborator James Mill was a senior official, and ultimately examiner rrrl' tlivisions between rich and poor take shape: established fbrms of govern-
(chief executive) of the East tndia Company, which ruled British India till I 858.63 rrrt'rrl scrvc to sanction and reinforce these social inequalities. Out of this process
Mill was perhaps the {irst leading European intellectual explicitly to advocate llrr'r t' r'nlcrges in contemporary Europe a protbundly inauthentic society, in which
democracy, in his Essa,- on Government (see §3.1 below). Yet he believed In- nr('n iu'L: governed not by their own sense of self-worth but rather by others'
dians incapable of ruling themselves, and sought to impose on them Bentham's lrrtl;',t'rrrcnts of them. Artificiality and luxury reign supreme, and the primitive
legal and political doctrines and Ricardo's political econolny on the basis of nur()c'cncc of the original undeveloped man is lost beyond recall.
what amounted to the dictatorship of a handful of suitably enlightened offlcials IVorc nrt>derate versions of this critique found a resonance among other
backed by British military power.6a 'Mill will be the living executive - I shall l,ltil,,,srtltln,.s. The influence of classical rnodels continued to make itself felt on
be the dead legislative of British India', the ageirtg Bentham The nr;ury lrrrlightenrnent thinkers: many were still influenced by the idea of a his-
lo;iq';11 cyclc ol'l'rirth, youth, tnaturity, and decline. The hold that the collapse of

6r r'lrrssir'rrl anticyuity cxcrcised on the eighteenth-century imagination - expressed

Letter to John Holmes, 22 Apr. 1820, in Jefl'erson, Writings, p. 1434.
6r trrosl gtowcrlirlly in the Enlightennrent's greatest historical narrative, Edward
Quoted in G. Besse, introduction to Helvdtius, De I'es1trit p. 30.
63 James Mill ( I 773- I 836): assistant examiner of the East lndia Cornpany. 18191 examiner. 1830; ( itlrlrotr's l)t't'litrt' rrntl l;rrll of'lht Romrur Empire reflected in part the fear that
a key link between the Philosophical Radicals and the Scottish Enlightenment, whose influence is rttorlt'rrr lrrrrolle wottltl ltlso cclrsc to ittlvitttcc and sink intcl decadence.
evident in his mc'rst influential work. the History of British Indio (1817): other importatrt works Sut'lr lr':rrs wcrr'cxl)r'cssctl. lirrcxrrrtrplc. hy s()nrc <ll'the lcading figures of the
include Elements of Political Economy ( 1821 ).
6r Davicl (1772_1823): successful London stockbroker (of Dutch Jewish origin); scll-
" li lf l;rt l'lrttttt. //r, lllrtl'ttr.ri ltl Nt'.r ll'ttrltl ,\'lrtvt't t'(l.otttkrtt, 1t.1t,l'l1, P .1.
eclucated economist; Member of Parliament, l8l9-23.
'' ltott.'.r';ttt /)tr, rrrrl rr' lr SH
65 Quotecl as the epigrirph rc E. Stokes. Tlrc ütglish Lltiliturions «nd Inditt (Delhi. l9tt9t.
34 The Enlightenment The Enlightenment 35

Scottish Enlightenment. Thus Ferguson writes: 'We observe among nations a mankind'. Even if the philosophes were to found a society 'with benevolence
kind of spontaneous return to absurdity and weakness.' He argues that to the for its moving principle', it 'would, from the inevitable laws of nature, and not
traditional causes of the decadence of states identified by classical thinkers from any original depravity of man or of human institutions, degenerate in a
(luxury, corruption, political faction, etc.), the development of commercial so- very short period into a society constructed upon a plan not essentially different
ciety adds new dangers. His particular concern is with the effects of the divi- from that which prevails in every known state at present; a society divided into
sion of labour, which Smith treated as the motor of economic progress: a class of proprietors and a class of labourers, and with self-love for the main-
spring of the great machine'.7r
The separation of the prof-essions, while it seems to promise improvement of skill The most important of these 'inevitable laws' Malthus claimed to have dis-
and is actually the cause why the productions of art become more perfect as com- covered himself. Population tends to rise in a geometric ratio (i.e. doubling
merce advances; yet in its terminations, and ultimate effects, serves, in some every twenty-five years), while the production of food only grows arithmeti-
measure, to break the bonds of society, to substitute mere forms and rules of art in cally. While human desire is unlimited, investment in agriculture is subject to
place of ingenuity, and withdraw individuals from the common scene of occupa- what latereconomists would call the law of diminishing returns: given unchanged
tion, on which the sentiments of the heart, and of the mind, are most happily technique, each additional unit of investment applied to a unit of land will pro-
duce a smaller quantity of output. The interaction of these f'actors produces a
constan[ 'oscillation' whereby periods of prosperity and high wages encourage
More specifically, the division of labour may erode the kind of civic commit-
poor households to have more children, thus causing population to increase at a
ment which healthy states demand of their citizens. 'Commercial nations' tend
rate which soon overtakes the rate of growth of agricultural production. The
to separate the roles of 'the senator, the statesman, and the soldier', Ferguson
increase in population lowers wages and increases tbod prices, thereby tempo-
argues, and 'to place every branch of administration behind the counter,
rarily reducing f'ertility rates, but encouraging higher levels of investment which
and come to employ, instead of the statesman and warrior, the mere clerk
recreate the conditions of prosperity which started the cycle off in the first place.
and accountant'. Reliance on a purely professional army, common in 'polished
This 'constant eflbrt in the population to increase beyond the means of subsist-
and mercantile states', makes 'a cowardly and undisciplined people' vulner-
ence . . . as constantly tends to subject the lower classes of society to distress
able to invasion or insurrection.6e Behind such concerns, we see the classical
and to prevent any great permanent melioration of their condition'.72
republican ideal of the ancient polis, of an active, armed citizenry as the basis
Where Rousseau had treated inequality as a consequence of particular social
of the state. This ideal helps to explain the hold which the image of Sparta, the
institutions, Malthus thus argued that it arose fiom the laws of nature itself;
most martial of the Greek city-states, whose warrior elite practised a sort of
where Condorcet conceived human perf'ectibility as in{inite, Malthus sought to
crude communism and subjected themselves to a rigorous moral code, had on
demonstrate the necessary physical limits to which progress was subject. In the
eighteenth-century thinkers as diffbrent as Rousseau and Ferguson, as well as
process, he sought to demolish the model of antique republican virtue, dismiss-
on the Jacobin leader Robespierre.
ing 'Itlhe preposterous system of Spartan discipline, and that unnatural absorp-
The further development of the Scottish Enlightenment's most important crea-
tion of every private f-eeling in concern fbr the public' as a 'strong indication of
tion, political economy, involved the destruction of this ideal. A key step in this
the miserable and almost savage stage of Sparta, and of Greece in general at
process is taken by Malthus in his Essay on the Principle of Populcttion.To Fitst
that time'.73 Similarly, where Ferguson had worried that the division of labour
published in 1798 (and subsequently much revised), the Essay is a powerful
would undermine citizens' martial virtues, Constant argued in The Spirit of
polemic against the democratic egalitarianism of the French Revolution, as ex-
Conquest and Usurpution ( l8l4) that modern commerce drew nations into so
pressed in particular by Condorcet and by the English radical utilitarian William
close a network of mutually beneficial relations as to make war a dangerous and
Godwin. Malthus argues that Godwin's 'attributing of almost all the vices and
unprofitable disruption which could only benefit those (above all Napoleon)
misery that prevail in civil society to human institutions' ignores 'those deeper-
who wished to reintroduce the anachronism of despotism to Europe.
seated causes of evil, which result from the laws of nature and the passions of

6n Ferguson, Essay,pp.347,364.
6e lbid., pp. 366-1 ,380-1 .
/r T. R. Malthus, An Essoy on the Print'iple rf Populotion(2 vols, Cambridge, 1989),1, pp.3l7 n.
70 Thomas Robert Malthus (17 66_1834): Anglican clergyman; Prof'essor of Political Economy at 5. 32.5-6.
the East Inclia College at Haileybury, 180-5-34, his correspondence with his fiiendly opponent
/r lhid., l, p. 20.
Ricard«r is onc of thc richcst trcasure-troves of classical political economy.
/' Ibitl.. I, pp. -5tl ().


36 The Enlightenment The Enlightenment 37

(6) The limits of civil society. Malthus's attempt to naturalize social inequal- among the classes. To achieve this aim, he sought to devise a 'measure of value'
ity raised sharply the question of the character of the societies taking
shape in which would not be affected by changes in this distribution. In doing so, he
the West at the end of the eighteenth century. The emergence of this issue can became the first rigorously to formulate what would later be known as the
be traced by the transfbrmation of the concept of civil society. Enlightenment labour theory of value: 'The value of a commodity, or the quantity of any
thinkers, like their early modern predecessors, regarded civil society as coex- other commodity.for which it will exr:hange, depend,s on the relative quantity
tensive with the state. Thus, for those of them who believed that governments of labour which is necessary.for its production.'16
were created by a social contract, what this contract established was civil soci- Smith had tended to see the natural price of a commodity as a sort of com-
ety. It was Hegel who first contrasted civil society with the state. For him, 'the posite of profit, rent, and wages. According to Ricardo, however, the natural
creation of civil society is a product of the modern world': it is the outcome of price was independent of changes in these forms of income, since it depended
a historical process, not something that arises whenever men come together to simply on the labour necessary to produce it. The different class incomes repre-
form a government. 'In civil society, each individual is his own end, and all else sented a division of value created antecedently in production. Since therefore a
means nothing to him.' But since the individual needs others, he has to co- rise in, say, labourers' wages would not lead to a commensurate increase in the
operate with them to achieve his goals: 'through its ref'erence to others, the price of their product, the income of at least one other class - landowners or
particular end takes on the form of universality, and gains satisf-action by simi- capitalists - would have to fall. Ricardo indeed suggested that profits and wages
larly satisfying the welfare of others'.7r were inversely related, so that if wages rose the rate of profit would fall. Class
Hegel's civil society is thus Smith's commercial society, where'[ilt is not conflict was thus built into the basic economic mechanisms of civil society.
from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect Ricarrdo, through his fiiend James Mill. was closely associated politically
our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.'75 In thus isolating the with Bentham and the Philosophical Radicals, who in their programmes for
distinctive socio-economic structure analysed by the political economists (whom political refirrnr targeted especially the privileges of the landed aristocracy in
he read attentively), and contrasting it with the political furrns of the state, Hegel the British state and society. But his economic analysis had considerably more
highlights the novelty of the social logic at work in this structure. This logic has subversive irnplicatiorts at a tirne when the new working class created by the
two features worth noting here. First, as we have already seen, this society is Industrial Revolution was heginning to engage in political and social agitation.
integrated less through self'-conscious political regulation than as a result of the Like rnost nineteenth-century ec«rnornists, Ricardo accepted Malthus's theory
interactions of self'-interested actors on the market. Secondly, these relations ol'population. This did not sirnply inrply what carne to be known as 'the iron
give rise to a distinctive set of class relations. In identifying three main fbrrns of law of wages' - the tendertcy filr population to or.rtstrip tbod production would
income of which the 'natural price' of a commodity is composed - rent, profit, keep wages liom rising abovc a bare nrinimum of physical subsistence. Dimin-
and wages - Smith was isolating a specilic class-structure. In pzrrticular, he was ishing returns in agriculture further implied that the cost of producing a given
the first political economist systernatically to treat capitalist entrepreneurs as a quantity «rf food would tend to rise, and so consequently would the wage
specific economic grouping who could expect, in the nrlrmal workings of a rcquired to bLry even the subsistence minimum, thereby causing profits tr>
market economy, their own distinctive income in the shape of profits. lirll.'The natural tenclency ol'pnrlits is to lall', Ricerrdocilncluded;'Ibr, in the
The next generation of political econonrists concerned themselves with the progress ol- society and wealth, the additional quantity of food required is
relationship between capitalists and the other main classes of commercial soci- obtained by thc sacrifice of morc and nrore labour.'77
ety, landowners and wage-labourers. Proposals to repeal the Corn Laws pro- Ricardo believed that the operation of this 'naturaltendency'could be slowed
tecting British agriculture fiom competition frorn imports provoked intense d«rwn by technological innovations which increased the productivity of labour.
debate at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, and led m more general Cenerally cornrnittetl though he was to Smith's conception of the market as a
discussion of the impact of changes in relative prices and taxes on the price self--equilibrating system (thus he def-ended Say's law, according to which sup-
level and the distribution of income. The key figure in these debates was Ricardo. ply and demand necessarily come into balance, against Malthus's criticisms),
In his great work, On the Principles rt'Political Econom.v ond Taxation (1817), he nevertheless came up with specific arguments which cast doubt on whether
he set out '[tlo determine the laws which regulate' the distribution of income this system actually maximized human welfare. Thus in the third edition of
the Principle,s, published in 1821, he added a chapter 'On Machinery' which
71 G. W. F. Hegel (1821), Elentenrs of the Philosopht of Righr(Carnbridge, l99l), §182 Addi-
tion, p. 220. 16 D.Ricardo,WorksondCorrespondence (l0vols.Cambridge, l9-51-2). l,pp.-5, ll.
75 Smith, Wealth, l. ü,pp. 26-7. ]t lhid., I. p. 120.

38 The Enlightenment

suggested that, under certain conditions, the introduction of machines would

reduce employment, and that therefore 'the substitution of machinery for hu-
man labour, is often very injurious to the interests of the class of labourers'.78
Corning at a time when groups of workers known as Luddites were sabotaging
machines on the grounds that they destroyed jobs, this argurnent was political
dynamite. His follower J. R. McCulloch protested furiously to Ricardo: '[f your
reasoning . . . be well fbunded, the laws a-eainst the Luddites are a disgrace to Hegel
the Statute book.'7')
Perhaps not entirely coincidentally. Ricardo's successors retreated frorn some
of his most distinctive themes: the labour theory of value, in particular, was
soon dropped, becoming instead the property of socialist publicists who used it
to prove that profits were an unjust deduction fiom labour. His chief influence
on subsequent mainstream economists was to set new standards of rigorous
analysis based on theoreticarl abstraction. But his wurk raised questions which
would not go away, both about the future prospects firr civil society and about 2.1 Reconcilingmodernity
its conflictual sclcial basis. These questions would become a large part of the
agenda fbr later social theorists. The Enlightenment, as even as brief and selective a survey as that offered in the
previous chapter should indicate, did not constitute a simple and homogeneous
body of doctrine. The thought developed by the eighteenth-century philosophes
was conrplex, internally riven. riddled by tensions. This condition was not sim-
ply a conscqucncc: of lhc fact that individual thinkers took differing positions
on various issues, though of course they did. Much more intportant was the fact
that there were otien strains internal to these positions. The reservations many
leading figure s of the Scottish Enlightenrnent expressed about the development
of cornmcrcial socicty. cvcn though they had played a decisive rclle in fbrmu-
lating an articulated theory of this as the latest progressive stage clf world
history, are a case in p«rint. Clricalural rcadings of the Enlightenment
as a sinrplc-rnindcd 'grand narrative' «rl'in{inite progress simply represent an
obstacle to its understanding.
T'he philo,sophc,s,l suggestecl, sought to offbr an account of the modern age
which did not appeal to classical anticprity lbr rnodels and justifications, but
rather sought to legitinrize it by rneans ol'the very frlrms of rationality which
represented its clairn to niark a distinct phase in Europeun history. These forms
were, «tl'course, the kind of reasonirr-{ ernbodicd in the seventeenth-century
revolution in physics and the Enlightenntent's own attentpt to extend it to the
understanding of society. But, as we saw in § l.-5 above, this attempt produced a
series of tensions and cloubts internal to Enlightenment thought itself.
The resulting sense of confusion and uncertainty was more thzrn merely philo-
sophical. The eighteenth century concluded in the Great French Revolution ( 1789-
94) and a series of wars which pitted France, first under Revolutionary regimes
and then under Napoleon's ultimately imperial dictatorship, against the other
7ri Ibid., I, p. 388. Great Pcrwers. The liberal historian Augustin Thierry wrote in l82l:'There is
7') Ibid.. VIII, pp. 384-5. ttol ottc luttrlttrlsl trs chilrlrcn «lf the ninelccnth centtrry who tklt:s rrol know rrrorc
40 Hegel
Hegel 41

on the score of rebellion and conquests, of the dismemberment of empires, of the any metaphysical "other" or set of "natural constraints" that would underwrite
fall of monarchies, of popular revolution and the consequent reactions than did these practices'.8 In other words, the development of European thought culmi-
Velly or Mably, or even Voltaire himself [all Enlightenment historians].'r nates, according to Hegel, in a form of consciousness which involves the
While attempts to treat these upheavals as a straightforward consequence of explicit recognition that modernity is characterized by the attempt to justify
the Enlightenment might be simplistic, the revolutionary slogan of 'Liberty, itself from its own intellectual resources without any attempt to appeal to
Equality, and Fraternity' was only intelligible against the background of the anything outside itself.
philosophes' writings. 'C'est la fäute de Rousseau' - it's Rousseau's fault - The tror.rble with this attempt is that, as we have seen, it issued in all sorts of
Napoleon himself said of the Revolution.2 Whether the Jacobin Terror (1792- tensions and uncertainties. The second respect in which Hegel is so important
4) and the Napoleonic regime and its wars had discredited the ideals of the here is that he does not flinch fiorn the conflicts internal to Enlightenment thougl-rt
eighteenth century was one of the main themes of the debates which unfolded (or indeed thought generally) but positively welcomes and embraces them. 'Con-
in Restoration France (see §3.I below). tradiction,' he says, 'both in actuality and in thinking reflection, is considered
The significance of Hegel in this context is twofbld.'r In the first place, as an accident, a kind of abnormality or paroxysm of sickness which will soon
Jürgen Habermas has argued, 'Hegel was the first to raise to the level of a pass away.' But in fäct 'Contradiction is at the root of all movement and life,
philosophical problern the process of detaching rnodernity fiom the suggestion and it is only in so far as it contains a Contradiction that anything moves and
of norms lying outside of itself in the past.'a Hegel's transfbrmation of the con- has impulse and activity."r Such assertions are expressions of Hegel's peculiar
cept of civil society as he found it in the writings of the Scottish Enlightenrnent, philosophical method, the dialectic, which I consider in the lbllowing section.
which I mentioned in § 1.5 above, is illustrative of his general philosophical At present what matters is that. filr Hegel, the self-understanding of modernity
approach. He sees himself as articulating the principles irnplicit in the develop- involves fully articulating its internal conllicts so that their nature can be prop-
ment of European thought befbre him, and fbrlning them into a coherent, intel- erly assessed, and that the insights they oller can help achieve their ultimate
lectually cornpelling, theoretical whole. reconciliation in the state of conscir)usness he calls'absolute knowing'.
Perhaps his greatesf work, Tha Phenomerrtktg,- fi'Spirit ( 1807). is an enor- Hegel's ability to conceptualize the c«rntradictions of modernity was at least
rnously rich and complex rational reconstruction of the entire prior movement to some extent a reflection of his own experience. Like many young European
of European thought fiom the Greeks onwards. [t concludes in a condition which intellectuals of'his day. Hegel, along with his two close fiiends and t-ellow stu-
He_eelcalls 'absolute knowing', or 'spirit that knows itself as Spirit'.t This dents, the poet Hölderlin ancl the phikrs«rpher Schelling, had initially rallied
development represents the culnrinati«rn of 'the culture of rnodern titttes, the enthusiastically to the French Revoluti«rn. They hoped it would sweep away the
thought of modern Philosophy', where 'the universal principle by means of Germany o1'petty principalities against whose intellectual and political back-
which everything in the world is regulated, is the thought that proceeds ti'clm wardness they chal'ed. Hegel's early writings of the 1790s counterpose the arr-
itself.'6 Modernity is inaugurated by the Protestant Refbrnration of the sixteenth cien r(gitnz,, and in particular thc 'positivity' of established Christianity,
century, whose 'essence' is: 'Man is in his very nature destined ttl be fiee.'7 acceptance of'whose teachings is enfirrcetl by the authority of the state, to, on
Thus part (although only part, as we shall see in §2.2 below) of what Hegel the one hand, thc city-states of ancicnt Creece and Rome, where 'in public as
means by 'absolute knowing' has to do with the idea that, as Terry Pinkard puts well as in private alrcl clomestic lil'e, every individual is a fl'ee ntan, one who
it, rnodernity is 'sef grr»nding': absolute knowing is 'the set of practices through lived by his own laws', and, on thc other hand, Christ himself, whom Hegel
which the rnodern cornntunity thinks about itself without attempting to posit depicts as a Kantian figure, thc teacher of universal moral laws 'based on the
essence of reason alone and not on phenornenil in the external world which for
I Quoted in D. Johrrson, Gui;-.ot (Londott, 1963), p. 32-5. reason are mere accidents'.r" This conllict between 'positivity' and the univer-
r Qtroted in K. Löwith. Fnttrt Heg,el to Nit''he (Londort, 1965). p.2jtt. sal dictates of reasor-r wt>uld overturn the old order: 'From the Kantian system
r Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel ( l11}-l83 l): born and raised in Stuttgart; studied at Tübingen
and its highest completion I expect a revolution in Germany', Hegel told
Theolggical Seminrry, I 7tt8-93; private tutor. 1793- I U00: taught at the Llniversity ot Jena, ltiOl-
6: editor of Banberger Zeitung, 1807-8; headmaster of the Nürnberg Cvmrutsiurn, lt{0t3-16; Pro- Schelling in l795.rl
f'essor of Philosophy at the University of tleidelberg. llll6-lti; Professor of Philosophy at the
n T. PinkarJ. Hegcl's Phcn<tnerrctlr.,r,.y (Cambridge. 1994), pp. 188,262.
University of Berlin, ltj l8-3 I ; died in a cholera epidenlic.
* J. Haberm as, The Phib.vryhical Discour:;e of Modernit)' (Cambridge, 1987), p. 16. ' G. W. F. Hegel (1812-16), Tlte Science o.f Lctgic (2 vols. London, 1966),11,p.67.
5 G. W. F. Hegel (1807), T'he. Plrcnomenolog\ of'Spirit (Oxforcl. l97l),§798, p.48-5. "' G. W. F. Hegel. Eorll,lllg.lrgiculWriring.r (Chicago, 1948), pp. 154,79.
II l6 Apr. 179-5, in G. W. F. Hegel, The Letters, ed. C. Butler and C. Seiler (Blo«rnrington.
' G. W. F. Hegel ( I 833-6), Let'tures on the History of Philosoph,y (3 vols. London, 1963 ). III, p.217 . 19134).
7 G. W. F. Hegel (1837). Lec'tures on the Philosophv ofHi.storv (New York, 1956). p.411. p..1.5.
42 Hegel Hegel 43
Subsequent experience - in particular, the Jacobin Terror and the defeat of trouble and confusion. Indeed. '[t]he history of Philosophy is a revelation of
various movements for political reform in Germany - disillusioned Hegel. One what has been the aim of spirit throughout its history; it is the world's history in
consequence was to encourage him to become increasingly critical of the En- its innermost signification.' rs
lightenment, and in particular of what he came to think of as its essentially What philosophy revealed in the realm of politics was most fully outlined in
abstract conception of reason. In one of the most striking sections of the Phe- the Philosophy of Right ( lS2l). Here Hegel sought to disringuish his views
nomenologv, 'Absolute Freedom and Terror', Hegel argues that the Enlighten- sharply from the views of the contemporary Romantic movement, strongly as-
ment culminates in the conception of an absolutely undifferentiated and sociated in Germany with the early rnanif'estations of nationalism, which sought
unconditional universal freedom. Under the Jacobins, this absolute freedom. in to found political allegiance on the emotional enthusiasm of the people for the
the shape of Rousseau's general will, claims its right to rule society. state (he often made biting comrnents about 'dumb Teutonism fDeutsch-
Rather than give itself substance by creating a diffbrentiated set of social and dumml').r6ThestatefbrHegel is'an inherentlt, rutioneil entiqi.But'thisrefined
political institutions, the general will seeks to rule directly. [n doing so, it en- structure' cannot be understood on the basis of the abstract conception of rea-
counters as 'the greatest antithesis to universal fieedorn . . . the fieedom and son characteristic of the Enlightenment in general and of Kantian philosophy in
individuality of actual self-consciousness itself '. By refusing itself 'the reality particular: 'since philosophy is erytloration of the rational, it is for that very
of an organic articulation', absolute fieedorn 'divides itself into extremes equally reason the comprehen,vkm rf'the present untl the at:t11sl, not the setting r-rp of a
abstract, into a simple, inflexible cold universality, and into the discrete, abso- world bet'ond which exists God knows where - or rather, of which we can very
lute hard rigidity and self--willed atornism of actual self-consciousness'. This well say that we kn<lw where it exists, namely in the errors of a one-sided ancl
opposition is resolved through the Terror, where the resistance of private wills empty ratiocination.' |7
to the general will (or rather to the political faction which rules in its name) is It is in this context that Hegel makes the notorious clairn: 'What is rational is
overcome by the guillotine: 'The sole work and deed of universal f)'eedonr is actual, and what is actual is rational.'r8 This rernark has been usecl by his critics
therefbre death, a death too which has no inner significance or filling, tor what to clairrr that the Philo,sopltv of' Right is rnerely a philosophical def-ence of the
is negated is the empty point of the absolutely fiee self. It is thus the coldest and Prussian absttlute monitrchy whose servant, as a university prof'essor, Hegel
meanest of all deaths, with no more significance than cutting off a heacl of after all was (indeed, he clainred as lnuch in a tawning letter presenting the
cabbage or swallowing a mouthful of water.'rr book ttt it Prussian minister). But such views are unsustainable. For Hegel actu-
This critique of Jacobinism did not represent Hegel's rejection of the princi- ality (Wirklichkcil) is the unity o1'the «rutward appearance of things and their
ples of the French Revolution. He came to think of Napoleon as the agent of inner essence: the confused ways in which the world presents itself are there
these principles, famously describing him as 'this wrlrld soul . . . astride u hrlrse' integrated into a rittional structurer. It firllows that not everything that exists is
when he saw the emperor riding through Jena, where he had.just def'eated the actual: 'even Experience . . . has sense enough to distinguish the mere appear-
Prussian army (Hegel clairned to have cornpleted the Phcrutmcnologv 'in the ance, which is trattsicnt iurd nrcurringless. tioln what in itsell'really deserves the
middle of the night before the battle t>f Jena').r:rHis L:orrespondence is tull ol' name of actr"ral'. 'What is actual is rational' is therefirre more or less a tautol-
sardonic comments about the European reaction which firllowed Napoleon's ogy. On the other hand, 'what is rational is actual' challenges the belief, which
tall in l8l4-15. Hegel attrihutes chielly to Kanl, that 'ldeas and ideals are something far too
Yet, while his sympathies rernained with the Revolution, Hegel becarne in- excellent ttl have actuality, or sornething too ilnpotent to procure it for them-
creasingly lirmly conrrnitted to the belief that the decisive tirrce behind the selves.' l"
extraordinary political events through which he lived lay in philosophical Reastln lor Hegel is not a set «rf principles inherently separate fiom the world
reflection. Thus he wrote in 1808: 'l anl daily ever rnore convinced that theo- which may at best itct as a means ol'critically orienting ourselves. It is actively
retical work accomplishes more in the world than practical work. Once the at work in the very organization of the social world. Hegel seeks to demonstrate
realm of representation IVorstellurzgl is revolutionized, actuality lWirklichkeitl this in the course of the Philosophl' of Right He takes his cue from the oppo-
will not hold out.'ra Philosophy, he claimed much later in lit'e, is'the true sition, central to Rousseau's political philosophy and taken over by Kant,
theodicy', which uncovers the thread of reason running through all the world's
I5 Hegel, Historv of'Philoxtphr, III, p. 547.
r(' Letter to Paulus, 9 Oct. 1814, in Hegel, Letters, p. 312.
r2 Hegel, Phenomenologl'. §590. pp. 3-59-60.
lr '7
G.W.F'Hegel(1821), Elementso.fthePhitosctpt:o.f Righr(Cambridge, l99t),pp.2l ,16,20.
Letter to Niethammer. 13 Oct. I 806, in Hegel, Letters, p. I I4. lbid., p. 20.
la Letter to Niethammer, 28 Oct. 1808. ibid, p. 179. l" (;. W. lr. Ilq,t'l tlli I71. llt',qrl's /.o,qir.(Oxlirrtl. I97-5). §(r. pP. li ().
Hegel 45
44 Hegel

between the general will and the private (or particular) will. The general will is, individual in public life characteristic of the classical polis was inconsistent
as Hegel's critique of the Jacobins had shown, inherently abstract. Its realm is with the assertion of individual subjectivity characteristic of modern freedom.
that of Abstract Right, of the formal legal principles frrst systematically devel- He nevertheless believed that a form of Ethical Life capable of providing this
oped in ancient Rome. Here the subject is a person, the bearer of certain rights, freedom with its appropriate social setting was taking shape. This Ethical Life
for example, to own property and to make contracts. His freedom derives from has three moments. The first,,the family, has a natural basis and function, but, at
these rights, and is dependent on the external arrangements of persons and things least in modern society, it is the outcome of the tiee choice of two individuals
to which their exercise by him and others gives rise. It is for this reason that to bind themselves into a new person. Family relationships cannot, however,
Abstract Right is inadequate as the basis of a state, at least in the modern world: serve as the basis of social lif-e in general, since each family dissolves as the
it does not give expression to the freedon-r of the particular individual subject. children attain adulthood and r-naturity and the parents die. 'The family disinte-
Where this subject becomes self-conscious, we enter the sphere of Morality, grates', therefbre, '. . . into a plurality of f amilies whose relation to one another
the realm of the particular will, and of Kant's critical philosophy. Here the right is in general that of self--sufflcient concrete persons and c:onsequently of an
and the good depend on the self'-conscious choice of the individual subject to external kind.'rl
adopt them - paradigmatically in the form of the Kantian categorical impera- This plurality of self'-sufficient persons constitutes the second moment of
tive, that is, of moral laws adopted as universally binding. 'This subjectivity, as Ethical Lit-e, civil society. Hegel derives his conception of civil society fiom
abstract self-determination and pure certainty of itself alone, evaporutes into the writings of the British political economists (see § 1.5 above). It includes 'the
itself all determinate aspects of right, duty, and existence.'r0 Everything now system of needs' - the market economy proper, and the fbrms of public regula-
depends on whether its intentions are good or not, on whether the particular tion which arise directly fiorn these economic relationships - the legal system,
will embraces the universal moral law. There is nothing to prevent it choosing the police (a term which Hegel uses broadly, following common eighteenth-
evil. This can take indirect forms, for example the dissimulation of evil inten- century practice, to ref'er to all state activities concerned to secure public wel-
tions characteristic of hypocrisy, or the kind of casuistry practised by the Jes- fare and donrestic stability), and the corporations (updated versions of the
uits ('the end justifies the means').Or the arbitrariness of individual choice medieval guilds through which specific socio-economic groups govern their
may lead us to take refuge in irony, and the denial that there are any objective internal affhirs).
grounds on which to determine the right and the good. [n any case, the self- On their own, howcver, these relationships cannot generate a stable social
assertion of individual subjectivity is unable to provide the universal with se- order. 'When thc activity ol'civil society is unrestricted, it is occupied inter-
cure foundations. nally with e-rpunding it,s populution ttntl industr\'.' As a result, 'the uccumulu-
These considerations do not lead Hegel to despair of reason, and perhaps t«r tion of' wculth increases . . . But on the other hand, the ,speciaLiz,otion and
embrace relativism, denying that there is any fäct of the rnittter about the social limitution ol'particurlar work also incrcase, as do Iikewise the dependence and
world. Rather, he seeks to achieve a reconciliation of particular and universal, want ol-the class which is tied to such work; this in turn leads to an inability to
of subjective and objective. The possibility of this reconciliation depends criti- feel and cnjoy the wider fieedorns, and particularly the spiritual advantages, of
cally on recognizing that the individual subject does not exist in isolation (Hegel civil society.' Further. 'ltlhe irrner dialcctic: of society drives it - or in the first
is contemptuously dismissive of the idea of a state of nature), but derives its instance this spacific sot'icty - to go beyond its own confines and look tbr con-
existence frorr, and can only flourish in, a concrete. historically specific social sumers, and lrence the nreans it requires tor subsistence, in other nations which
context rooted not in abstract principles. but in custom and tradition. The name lack those means of which it has a surplus or which generally lag behind it in
Hegel gives to this context is Ethical Life (Sittlic'hkeit). His rnodel of Ethical creativity, etc.' This process leads to the development of international trade,
Life is provided by the city-states of the ancient world. Here citizens derived with all its 'fluidity, danger, and destruction', and to the establishment of colo-
their social existence, not from a set of abstract, timeless moral principles, but nies fbr the surplus population of civil society.22
through participating in definite institutions which specified the roles from which Thus, while acknowledging his debt to Smith, Ricardo, and other classical
individuals derived their identities, laid down the duties expected of them, and economists, Hegel does not fbllow them in conceiving modern commercial
promoted the virtues on which the welfare of both the state and its members society as a self'-equilibrating system which. by means of an 'invisible hand',
depended. integrates the diverse projects of individual agents in a manner that maximizes
The mature Hegel came to the conclusion that the kind of immersion of the
" Ibid.. §181. p.2lt).
2{) Hegel, Philosophy of Right, rr lhid.. s\l-l l. pp )66. )6J t3: ss247. p. 26t3.
§138, p. 166.
46 Hegel Hegel 47

the general welfare. On the contrary, unrestrained civil society generates a series we see adumbrated themes which would later be developed by Durkheim and
of systemic dysfunctions - growing divisions between rich and poor, a shortage by Weber - respectively, the restoration of corporations to overcome the dys-
of markets, and a tendency towards external expansion which is both liberating flnctions of industrial society, and bureaucracy as a decisive distinguishing
and destabilizing. It is against this background that Hegel argues that the state - f'eature of the modern state. However unsatisfäctory Hegel's arguments and
the third moment of Ethical Life - is necessary, in part, to-contain and harmo- solutions may be, they represent an attempt to conceptualize a fbrm of state
nize the conflicts of civil society. One can lind plenty of precedents for Hegel's capable of harmoniously reconciling the contradictions of modernity.
reasoning here - the early modern Cameralist school of German economists
had, for example, argued that the proper functioning of markets depended on
state regulation. But Hegel is the first major post-Enlightenment thinker, in the 2.2 The labour of the negative
aftermath of the French Revolution, and as the lndustrial Revolution began
to make itself felt, to challenge classical political economy's conception of a Hegel's account of Ethical Lif-e offbrs an illustration of how he believes reason
self-regulating market. It is not wholly absurd to see his arguments here as an is at work in the world. Two apparently starkly counterposed moments develop
anticipation of Keynes's critique of laissez.faire a hundred years later. in succession. The first, the larnily, is based upon the affbctive relations be-
Hegel's conception of the state, however, goes well beyond these considera- tween husband and wif-e and between parcnts and children; the second, civil
tions. The state is for him the highest fbrm of social reason, 'the ldea made society, is constituted by the purely external and instrumental relationships be-
manifest on earth'.2r As 'the actuality of the ethical Idea' it has 'its imrnediate tween competing agents on the market. Each of these rnoments is presented as
existence in custom and its mediate existence in the ,selt''-7'1111rf iousnc,ss of the inherently lirnited and llawed. The state. however, reconciles them. It is a genu-
individual, in the individual's knowledge and activity, just as self'-conscious- ine political conrrnunity: its members interact not simply filr what they can get
ness, by virtue of its disposition, has its substuntiul.frecdorn in the state as its out of each other, but because they participate in the common 'substance' of the
essence, its end, and the product of its activity'.ra The thought, then, is that the state - to pr-rt it in rnore contemporary terms, mernbership of the state is consti-
state integrates the self-interested individuals of civil society into a political tutive of their identity. At the sarne tirne, the state has a diffbrentiated structure
community by means of social institutions which allow them to realize their which allows thc various interests <lf civil s«rciety political expression: these
freedom. It does so by means of a diffbrentiated and internally articulated po- interests, and the individuals whose ec«rn«rrnic relationships produce these
litical structure of the kind that the Jacobins refused to construct in their head- interests, are not sirnply subnrergecl in the state.
long pursuit of absolute fieedom. In particular, the modern state ctllnbines a The rational structure ol'Ethical Lit'e thus has three stages. In the first two,
constitutional monarch, the executive power which hc heads but which ctlnsists apparently sharply opposccl rn«lntcnts arc countcrposcd; in the third, they are
primarily of a permanent bureaucracy, and a legislature through which civil reconciled. (lncidentally, contrary to legend, Hcgel docs rrol call these three
society gains political representation. stages respectivcly 'thcsis', 'antithesis', and 'syrrthcsis'.) This triple structure,
It is the detail of Hegel's analysis here which has tnade him most vulnerable Hegel believes, is present everywhere: cornprchcnding it is r prerequisite of
to charges of serving as an apologist tbr Prussian absolutistn - he enrploys gaining a proper unclerstanding ol'the wrlrld. This cornprehension depends cru-
fairly specious arguments in support of the hereditary principle, and def-ends cially on grasping the positive and prodr-rctivc nrlc ol-contradicti«rn. Thus in the
the kind of corporate representation of social groups characteristic of the Es- Phenonrcrutlogv and thc Pltilo.soltltv- o.f'Hi.ttor.v Hcgcl analyses a succession of,
tates which was one of early modern Germany's legacies to the nineteenth cen- respectivcly, lilrms o1'conscioLrsness and political systems, eilch of which is
tury. But even here we lind him responding to what he sees as distinctively undermined by tensions inherent in it. C«rntradiction is thus the moving princi-
modern problems. He thinks that corporations can help to overcotnc the isola- ple of hist«rry.
tion of the individual in civil society, and allow the better-ofTto help the poor in In seeking tcl justify this conception of contradiction, Hegel directs consider-
a way that does not humiliate the latter. Similarly, the bureaucracy, as 'the able criticism towards what he calls the Understanding, which 'sticks to fixity
universal estate - or more precisely, the estate which devotes itself to the serv- of characters and their distinctness fiom one another: every such limited ab-
ice of the government',has 'the universal . . . as the end of its activity'.rs Here stract it treats as having a subsistence and being of its own'. Understanding is
21 that mode of thought which is most fully developed in the Enlightenment and
G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures onthe Philosophv o.f World Hi,story: Introduction(Cambridge, 1975),
above all in the philosophy of Kant. Hegel acknowledges its positive function,
p. 95.
21 Hegel, Philosophy of Righr, §257 , p. 215. since he is strongly hostile to any doctrine (for example, German Romanticism
2s lbid., §303, p.343. rrrrtl Schelling's irlcalisrn) which reduces knowledge to a vagLrc intLrition of thc

48 Hegel Hegel

oneness of things: 'apart from Understanding there is no fixity or accuracy in relations, but it represents a truth implicit in the nature of the farnily. So nega-
the region of theory or of practice'.ro The Understanding, which we see at work tion is a process of difrbrerttintion in which the starting-point is enriched and
in the physical sciences, plays an essential role in distinguishing between things complicated. But it is not the end of the story. Thought comprises a third stage,
and identifying the causal regularities by which they are governed. But, at the after Understanding and Dialectic, the 'speculative stage, or stage of Positive
same time, it treats the distinctions it makes as absolute. As a result it is inher- Reason, [which] apprehends the unity of the terms (propositions) in their oppo-
ently abstract. Just as Rousseau's general will necessarily found itself in conflict sition - the affirmative, which is involved in their disintegration and in their
with the particular wills of the citizens, so the scientific laws of the Understand- transition'.2')
ing t'unction as abstractions, unable to comprehend and to integrate all the con- The third stage of the process thus re-establishes the unity of the counterposed
crete variety of the world that falls under them. moments. This unity wirs present from the start. But the starting-point, the first
The limitations of the Understanding are overcome only by the Dialectic, moment of each dialectical movement, is only an immediate that is. an un-
thought as 'negative reason', where 'these finite characterizations or formulae conscious and undifferentiated - unity, just as the farnily is bound together by
supersede themselves, and pass into their opposites'.17 Here Hegel challenges the strong but narrowly focused and unreflecting emotion of love. Negation is
what is generally seen as the most basic law of logic, both ancient and modern. necessary to draw out the content implicit in this unity. But it is only what
the law of non-contradiction. Formally expressed as -(1t.^p), this law forbids Hegel calls first negation: it brings hitherto implicit content to the surface, but
the affirmation of a proposition and its negation. We cannot, in other words, in the form of an opposition between separate and conflicting elements. just as
simultaneously say that it is raining and that it is not raining. A proof dating civil society is ruled by the atomistic competition of self-interested indivicluals.
back to the Middle Ages shows that a contradictory sentence implies every The third stage of the process overcomes this opposition; it is second necation
other sentence. So to affirrn a contradiction is to say everything, and theretbrr - or, as Hegel sometimes puts it, the negation of the negation. Unity is restored.
since the point of speaking is to say something definite - to say nothing. but it is a unity enriched and ntade self-conscious by the experience of contra-
Hegel believes that this reasoning is fundarnentally mistaken. Contradictions diction. just as the state is, like the family, a cornrnunity, but one which offers
do not vaporize content - they actually produce it: proper scope fbr the inclividuality and self'-assertion of its rnembers. Hegel
often seeks to bring out the character of the negation of the negation by appeal-
The one and only thing for set:uring scienti.fic progr(.\.\ . . . is knowledge of the ing to the Gernran word uu.f'heben, which means both to cancel and
logical precept thaf Negation is .ir-rst as rnuch Affirnrzrtiorr as Negation. or tlrat to preserve. The final stage of every dialectical mclvement does not merely
what is self-contraclictory resolves itself not into nullity, into abstract Nothing- trauscend the tw«t previous moments: it incorporates their content with a new,
ness, but essentially only into the negation of its purtit'uLur content, that such self-conscious unity.
negation is not an all-ernbr acing Negation, but is lhe ncg«tirtn rt.f'u dc.finitc sottte-
It is irnportant to understand that Hegel regards this dialectic (unclerstood
u*ltttt whichabolishes itself, and this is a definite ncgation, ancl that thus the result
broadly so as to incorporate both what he re-{ards as the properly Dialectical
contains that from which it results . . . Since what results. the negation. is ttlafinite
and the culminating Speculittive stages of thought) as more than a fbrmal method
negation, it has a is a new concept, but a higher richer collcept than that
which precedecl it; for it has been enriched by the negation or opposite clf the which can be used to understancl various aspects clf the world: 'the rnethod is
prececling concept, and thus contains it, but contains also more than it, and is the not an extralleous fbrm', he says, 'but the soul and notion of the content'.10
unity of it and its concept.2' Here we return ttt the issue, touched on in the previous section, of Hegel's
idealism, of his belief that thought rules the world. This in turn raises the ques-
Negation thus draws out what was implicit but utt:lrticulated in the starting- tion of the development of Gern-ran philosophy after Kant.
point. It is, for example, inherent in the concept of the tamily that, though its Kant argued that the world of everyclay experience and nrodern science
internal unity derives fl'om the love its members teel towards one ilnother. its depended on the activities of a transcendental subject (§ 1.5 above). He also
relatiolship towards those outside it will be an instrumental one governed by insisted that we were forced to presuppose the existence of this subject (or
whatever use they are to family members. Civil society therefbre is the nega- 'transcendental unity of apperception'), but that, beyond that. we could say
tion of the family, since it is based on self-interested rather than af'tbctionate nothing about it. Subsequeut German idealists found, on the contrary, nruch to
say about the transcendental subject. Schelling in particular took the crucial
26 Heg,el'.s Logic', §80. p I l3l §ttO Zusat:. p. 81.
)1 lbid.. §79, p. I l3; §81, p. I 15. "' Ilcgrl's Logic', §82, p. ll9.
rlt Hegel, Science of Logic.I, pp.64-5. "' lhid., §243, p. 296.
Hegel 51
50 Hegel

and equating it with God' l'lcked into this dense and obscure passage is the essence of Hegel's philoso-
move of treating it as essentially supra-individual, phy. He conceives the subject (to borrow a fbrmulation of Marx's) as a relation,
of traditional Christian theology' a distinct
This was not, however, the God rrot ä thing. The subject is not a discrete focus of conscioLlsness, as Western
who creates and rules the world, but who remains
(though mysterious) person philosophy since Descartes had conceived it. Rather, '[i]t is the process of its
the Absolute, identical with its creation' with
ü"yoria it. Schelling', God was own becoming.' But this process has a structure which is that of the dialectic
nature (inclucling ils highest development, flnite human minds) - less a per- outlined above. The subject is 'the doubling which sets up opposition, and then
the world' There thus emerges
sonal creator than the impticit principle that moves ;rgain the negation of this indifferent diversity and of its antithesis'. It breaks
the world as the expression of this impersonal
absolute idealism, which treats rlown the first 'original or intmediate unity' . counterposing the self to an other
God. rvhich it conceives as quite distinct from this. But then this opposition is can-
for example' that 'the
Hegel followed Schelling along this road, afflrming, r'clled in the 'self-restoring sameness' that is the negation of the negation.
being opposed and
Absolr.rte itself is rhe i<Ientiiy of identity and non-identity; Not only does subjectivity have a dialectical structure - the dialectic is inher-
incorporates everything'
being one are both together in it'.rr The Absolute thus t'rrlly a dialectic of subjectivity. The movement of internal differentiation and
'self-grounding'. it is so partly because there is noth-
If it is, as Pinkard puÄ it. r cstoration of an enriched unity which Hegel analyses in his logical writings is
with the idea of
ing outside it. guiHegel beoame increa'singly uncomfortable tlrc process thror"rgh which consciousness becomes aware of itself as Spirit, that
the Absolute as sorne t ina or undifferentiated
whole knowable only through a
he takes aim at rs. hecomes 'conscious of itself as its own world. and of the world as itself'.
vague intuition of the oneness of things. In the Phenomenology ( 'orrsciousness starts ofT in a mute and undifferentiated unity with nature. First
single insight' that in the
Schelling's version of absolute idealism: 'To put this rrcgation breaks up this unity. It is a process of alienation: nature is now set up
Absolute everything is the same. against the full body
of articulated cognition
;rs irn other separate from and opposed to the conscious self. The Speculative
the night in which. as they say. all cows are
. . . to palnr off the Rusolute as
rrrorrlent comes when consciousness now recognizes nature as irs other, and
black - this is cognition recluced to vacuity''I tlrcrcby recognizes their inner unity. The immensely complicated transitions of
its total rejection' The
Hegel's critiqrie of the Enlightenment did not imply tln Phenomenolog\t ultirnately display this structure. The final mornent of 'ab-
denronstrated' not
identity of the Absolute and the world had to be rationally '.olrrte knowing' is the point at which Spirit looks back at the entire preceding
emotion' This rational dem-
simply affirmed or celebrated in vapid effusions of
of the nature of subjec- l,r'()eess and comprehends it as nothing other than its own self-development, the
onstration. further, depends on o piop"r understanding nr()vcnlent which allowed it to attain its present pinnacle fiorn which the struc-
the True' not only as
tivity, for 'everything turns on grasping and expressing Irrrc t>f reality is transparent to reason. Theretbre. '[o]f the Absolute it must be
Sub.stcutc'e. but equat,y u. Subie:ct'. This
claim reflects Hegel's understanding
',:rirl that it is essentially a result, that only in the end is it what it truly is.'34
of moclernity as ,f," pt",r.. of world history where subjectivity comes into its
profoundly, a particular I'lrilosophical knowledge is thus necessarily retrospective: as Hegel lärnously
own (see §2.1 above). But it also involves, more prrt it. 'the owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the onset of dusk'.rs
accouttf of the structure of the subject: Strch is the power and richness of Hegel's thought that many of the best
( onlnrentators or1 his work are strongly tempted to find ways of toning down
or, what is the same' is in
tlre living substance is being which is in trurth sttbiect,
positing itself' or is the rnedia- lrrs rrbsolute idealism. Thus Robert Pippin suggests that Hegel's project involves
truth actual only in so far as it is the movement of
This is. as Subject, pute, 'timple ;r kind of expansion of the Kantian idea of a transcendental subject. Kant's
tion of its selt'-othering with itself. Substance
very the bil'urcation of the simple; it is the lonnal way of considering "what any subject" must think in representing an
tleg(rtivity, and it is for this reason
negation of this inditferent ulrjt'ct'.rt' How, then, does Hegelgo beyond Kant? Terry Pinkard thinks that in
cioubling which sets up opposition. ancl then again the
«liversity and of its antithesis. Only this sef-re's tttring
sameness' or this reflection tlrc l'ltctromenoloct, 'we . . . move away from a picture of ourselves represent-
original or itnmediare unity as such - is the nr.q llrc wrlrld to an unclerstanding of ourselves as pnrticipartts in various his-
in otherness within itself - not an
circle that presr'rpposes its end as
True. It is the process of its own beconting' the Ior it'llly clcterrninatc social practices'.17
also its beginning; and
its goal, having its end also as its goal. having its end
Norv il is urrtlouhtcdly true that Hegel seeks to undermine the conception,
onty Uy being worked ollt to its end' is it actual'r3 , h rrrriruutl since l)cscurlcs. ol'tltc suh.iect as an isolated centre of consciousness.

' llrrrl . r\ I1ti. |r .)tr l; 1111. ,,. ; L

, and Sc'helling"s^S.r'^s1t'rrt of Phil<t'sopht
G. W. F. Hegel (lg0 l), The DiJference bchteert Fir-hte's Ilt'rr'1. I'lrtlot,,ltlry ,,1 lii, .1 \.
(AlbanY, NY. 1977). P. 156' I( l'r;rgrrrr. ll,',lt'rrritrtr ,tt,r I'lttlt,tul,lttr',tl l'rt,ltlt'ttr (( )rlorrl. ltlt)l l. P.
'r Hegel, Phenomcnolr,,g'u. §16' p' 9' ['rrr[.;rt,l ll, t', l t l'lt, rr,,trt,.tt, r/1r1'1. I I

" Ibid.. §§17-ltt. P. l0'

52 Hegel Hegel 53

In one of the most celebrated sections of the Phenomertology, the so-called cnrichment. The original unity of its starting-point is broken down and differ-
Dialectic of Master and Slave, he analyses the desire for recognition, that is, the cntiated, but this serves only as, ultimately, a confirmation of that starting-point.
desire of each self-consciousness to be acknowledged as an autorlomous sub- At the conclusion of the process, in the negation of the negation, that unity is
ject by another subject: 'Self-consciousness exists in and for itself when, and rcstored, but as a higher, more developed unity, one that has been rendered self-
by the fact that, it so exists fbr another; that is, it exists only in being acknowl- conscious by discovering that it contaitrs determinate contents of which it was
edged.'38 Subjectivity is thus inseparable from inter-subjectivity: the self only unaware at the beginning.
exists as socially situated, as a member of a historically specific community of The form of reasoning that Hegel employs is thus teleological in that it
self-conscious human agents. t'onceives the dialectic as moving towards a predetemrined end (1elos is the
Hegel's conception of Absolute Spirit is, however, more than a socialized ( ireek word for goal). The peculiarity of this end is that it is not a purpose
version of Kant's transcendental subject. Such an interpretation is hard to which a conscious subject (even God conceived as a person distinct fiom his
square with statements such as Hegel's affirmati«rn that the content of Logic t'r'cittion) has selected and arranged things so that it can be achieved. The goal
'shows Jbrth God as he is in his eternal essence. before the creation of Na.ture ol'the dialectic is an objective purpose, implicit in the process fiom the begin-
and of a Finite Spirit'.3e Logic for Hegel is thr"rs also ontology. revealing the trirtg. The dialectical process itself is nothing but the attainment of that goal,
structures of the world, and indeed theology, since those structures are of Abso- which consists in Absolute Spirit's coming to self-consciousness, which takes
lute Spirit coming to self-consciousness. These apparently extravagant claims tlrc lbrm of 'absolute knowing' , of the retrospective survey of the entire proc-
cannot be separated from Hegel's critique of Kant. Hegel unremittingly con- ('ss as the way in which that mornent of rational self--transparency has been
demns the critical philosophy tbr its fbrmalism, its conception of the categories rrclricved.
of the understanding as subjective forms imposed on and external to the content 'l'he teleological character of Hegel's thought is most clearly evident in his
provided fbr them by sense-experience. This separation of form and content plrilosophy of history. 'World history is the progress of the consciousness of
leaves the conception of an objectivity independent of the human understand- Itccclot.t-t', he claims, a process which culminates in the ntodern European
ing as unknowable things-in-themselves, 'the coput tnortuut'n., the dead abstrac- rr;rlion-state. Intbrming this progress is a deeper meaning: 'World history is the
tion of the "other", the empty undetermined Beyond'.4o But: 'it appears that, on r'\l)r'cssion of the divine and absolute process of the spirit in its highest forms,
the contrary. Content has itself Forrn, indeed it is only through Form that it has ol llrc progression whereby it discovers its own nature and becomes conscious
Soul and subsistence, and that it is Form itself which changes only into the show .l ilscrlf.' The succession of political fonns which reaches its climax in moder-
of a Content. and also into the show of a something external to this show'.ar rrl.y Ittust thus be understood as specific contributions to the self-realization of
Thus Hegel overcomes the tbrn-ralism of Kant's philosophy not sirnply by \lrsolute Spirit. Indeed, the conflicts of nren moved by particular interests and
seeking to demonstrate the unity of form and content, but by advancing a concep- p;rssions are merely the instruments of 'the universal Idea', which 'keeps itself
tion of philosophical method in which form generates its own content: 'it is Form rrr lltc background, untouched and unharmed, and sends forth the particular
itself which changes only into the show of a Content, and also into the show of a nrlr'r'csts to fight and wear themselves out in its stead. It is what we may call
something external to this show'. This show is the rlovement of the dialectic, in tl,l. t'rtrrtting oJ' reason that it sets the passions to work in its service, so that
which Spirit cornes to self-consciousness by positing a world alier-r from it and tlrt' ;rgcrtts by which it gives itself existence rnust pay the penalty and suffer the
then coming to recognize that world as itself. Thus the negation of the negation loss.' ll
rn which the dialectic conclndes is 'the innermost and most objective moment of 'l'lris is as much a providential view of history as that developed by Christian
Lif'e and Spirit, by virtue of which a subject is personal and free'.I tlritrlicrs such as Augustine zrnd Bossuet (see §3.3 below). Self-interested hu-
Further, this dialectic of (absolute) subjectivity has a circular structure. Hegel rrr;rtt rclions serve a hidden purpose of which those perfcrrming them are quite
says that Logic is 'a circle which returns upon itself-, for mediation bends back unirw:u.c. 'l'hc cliffbrence between Hegel's version and the orthodox Christian
its end into its beginning'.*3 The dialectical movement is a process of self- (,n('is tltlt irt lris philosophy of history the purpose human actors unknowingly
'.('r \'(' is nol llrr: plan firrrnulated fbr mankind by a personal God; rather, it is
1r Hegel, Pltenorttenolog.l, 178, p. I I I
re Hegel, Science of Logic',I, p. 60.
rrrrplit'il irr tltc strttcturc olthc historical process itself-, and comes to conscious-
't0 Hegel, Hi.stctrl' o.l' Philosopht'.lll. p. 472. trt"'s in tltc trotlct't't agc. as philosophy finally grasps the meaning of'this
'r Hegel, Scien<'e of' Logit:. l. p. 47. lrl( r( ('\\.
1r tbid., II, p. 478.
.rr tbid.. II. p. 48.1. " llr'1,r'l. I'lrrltttr,l,lrr'1,1 ll,,rl,l llrtt,,rt lrrltt,,lrrr 1j1'r1.1t1t \'1. (r\. lit).
54 Hegel Hegel
historical' since it shows one fbrm of consciousness is replaced by another
2.3 The debate over modernity because of tensions internal to the lirst form. This is
a much weaker rneaning of
'dialectical' than what Hegel himself would have acceptecl.
Hegel's philosophy is the most powerful single attempt to dcnronstrate that since it does not
entail that the conclusion of the process consists in the definitive
modernity contains within itself the intellectual resources rationally to justify rational under-
standing of that process.
its break with the past. [n doing so it seeks also to show, according to the same lt is not clear how diff-erent this reading of the Phenomenologt, is frorn
standards of rational justitrcation, that the modern state is in principle capable that
ofTered by the postmodernist philosopher Richard Rorry.
of providing the kind of political community that can hold together the conflicts
who writes: .What
Hegel describes as the process of spirit gradually beconring self-conscious
characteristic of commercial societies. The result is one of the great philosophi- of
its intrinsic nature is better described as the pro."r, of
European linguistic prac-
cal enterprises of Western thought. tices changing at a f-aster ancl faster pace.'ol The self-realiiation
Yet, as Habermas points out, 'as absolute knowledge, reason assumes a form oI Spirit then
becolnes a succession of what Rorty calls 'redescriptions'.
none of which can
so overwhelming that it not only solves the initial problem of a self'-reassurance be shown to be ratitlnally superior (in the sense of of1'ering
us a better insight
of modernity, but solves it too well' .as For example, if by the time of the French into the nature of reality) to any other. Such an interpretation
Revolution we have reached the stage where it is philosophically possible to of Hegel sacrifices
his ernbarrassingly ambitious conception of the dialectic,
comprehend the n-reaning of the historical process, what happens now? Many but at o nigf, price:
modernity's claint to be able to demonstrate its superiority over
commentators believe that Hegel regarded his own age as marking the End of the polr..ur",
to be rationally clef'ensible.
History: once the conditions for 'absolute knowing' were established, every- Habermas suggests that, clespite these tlifficulties, 'Hegel inaugurated
thing subsequeut could only be an afterthought. The evidence that Hegel seri- the
discourse tlf m<ldernity. He introducecl the theme * the self--critical
ously entertained the idea of an End of History is at best anrbiguous, but the reassurance
of ntodernity.' He thereby set the terms fbr subsequent debate, in
problern posed by the concept is at least arguably a consequence of his overall which .ltlhe
relation t>f history ttl reasott rem:lins,constitutive'. The
basic positions towards
conception of the dialectic. modernity were staked out during the clebates among German philosophers
A more fundamental difficulty is posed by Hegel's absolute idealisn"r. As we which
followecl Hegel's death in ltt3l, in particularr as ii result
saw in §2.2 above, he conceives the dialectic as a self-justifying process whose
olthe attlrnpt of the
Young (or Lefi) Hegelians to clissociate his concept of dialectical
conclr:sion is implicit in its starting-point, and whose course involves thought reason fiom
the Absolute. and ttl tritnslirt'nr it into an instrument for
generating its own content fiom itself. Stated so baldly. this is an almost mega-
criticizing the existing
political order (see also §4.I below). In these debates, three
lomaniac hyper-rationalism, in which thought by virtue of its rational structure basic stances
towards rnodentity were taken:
produces the world. Many later thinkers have been influenced by Hegel, but
they have usually tried to water dclwn his absolute idealisrrl, or, as in the case of Hegelirrrr critique. tttrnr'cl towurd the practical ancl
anlusetl firr revoluti.n,
his greatest tbllower, Milrx. explicitly re.iected it. airlted at nlobilizirlg the historically accunrulafcd potential
ol'reusgn (awaiting
One might pose the problem in the fbrnr of a dilernrna. We can. on the one releitsc) agaittst its rtttrtilation. ugailrst lhe one-siclc'd ratiorurlization
of the bour-
hand, take what Hegel actually says seriously. In this case, we lrave a philo- gerri's world. The Äi3lrr Ht'gcliutt.; followed Hegel
in the crlvicti.n that the sub-
sophical systenr which, if valid, does succeed in demonstrating the rationality stance tll'stitte arld rcligiott would corlrpensate lirr the
restlessness of bourge,is
of modernity and. as a consequence, in identilying the solution to its social and society, as s(x)n as the sub.iectivity of the revolutionary
consciolsness that incitecl
political problerns. But who would seriously def-end the claim that the Hegelian restlessness yiclclecl to objective insight into the ratirinality
sf the stltLrs quo . . .
Finally. Nict:'r<'he wttttted to unrnask the dranraturgy «rf the
system is valid'? We can, on the other hand, try and preserve whatever we re- entire ,tage-piece in
which both - revoltttionitry hope and the reuction to it * enter
gard as what Marx called the 'rationalkernel within tlre mysticalshell' of Hegel's on the scene. He
removed the dialectical thorn ti'orn the c:ritique of a reason
philosophy by trying to play down his speculative hyper-rationalism.r'- centred on the subject
and shrivelled into purposive rationality; antl he relatecl
Pinkard, tbr example. writes: 'The Phertomen<tlog1, off'ers a dialectical- to reason as a whole the
way the Young Hegelians dicl to its sublimations: Reascln
is tttthing than
historical narrative of hclw the European community has come to take what it power, than the will to power, which it so racliantry concears.r,)
does as authoritative and definitive for itself.'r'This narrative is'dialectical-

'15 Haberntas, Phiktsolthicul Di.tcourse, p. 42.

16 Marx, C«pitctl (3 vols, Harrnondsworth, 1976-81), I, p. 103. I' Ilorty. (-otttingenr..t', lrouy, trntl S<tlidttriö, (Cambridge,
I9g9), p. 7.
1t' Pinkard. Hegel's Phenomutoloer,, p. I3. '" [J:rlrcrrrrits, Pltilrt,topltit.ttl,,
[)l). -50. 392 n. 4.
56 Hegel

This description of the three basic positions taken up lowrrnls rrrodernity af-
ter Hegel provides a useful framework for considering thc srrbsctltrcnt develop-
ment of social theory, provided we are willing to interprct tlrc positions a bit
more broadly than Habermas does. The first stance towarrls rrrotlo'lrity is repre-
sented above all by Marx, the greatest of the Young Hcgclirrns. He rejected
Hegel's absolute idealism, but kept his concept of history as a rlialcctical proc-
ess motored by the contradictions inherent in specific social lonnations. Civil Liberals and Reaction anes
society, or rather bourgeois society (the sarne phrase, bürgarlicltc Gesellschaft,
covers both concepts in German), is not the End of History, br-rt sirnply a his-
torically transitory social fbrm whose claims to realize individual fieedom are
belied by its roots in capitalist exploitation. The Enlightenment aspiration to
create an authentically rational society requires a further social revolution.
The second position is best seen as ernbracing all those who accept modern
bourgeois society as it takes shape in the wake of Hobsbawm's 'dual revolu-
tion' as the closest we can hope to get to a rationally ordered social world. 3.1 Post-Revotutionarydebates
Il Modern liberalism is a prime exemplar of this kind of stance, though its most
sophisticated exponents, such as Tocqueville and Mill, show a complex aware- Fritnce after the fall of Napoleon, uncler first the restored
Bourbon monarchy ( lg l5-
ness of the tensions and dangers of modernity (see §3.2 below). The same aware- 30) and then the regirne of Louis Philippe (1g30--4g),
.*p..i.nced a
ness is also displayed by Durkheim and Weber, who both make clear their period of extraordinarily rich and wide-ranging
inteliectualancl culturalclebate.In
emphatic belief that the hope of a social revolution that will radically improve part, this was a consequellcc of the firct that. as
Johan Heilbrcln puts it, ,around the
on actually existing modernity is the merest illusion. Later sociologists operate year ltl00' Paris was the centre of the scientific
wrlrlcl'., A series of refbrms made
within the same fiamework, thclugh sometimes (as in the work of Parsons: see during the last ycars ol-the: utrcietr r(ginte ancl under the
Revolution ancl the Napo-
§ 10.2 below), the kind of critical charge that is found, say, in Tocqueville or in leonic Elnpire transftlrlnecl the status «lf'scientific teaching
ancl research in France.
Weber is defused. Thus French researchers rnacle a clcrcisivc contribution
to the frtrrnation of the new
Finally, Nietzsche stakes out a third position - the radical rejection of mo- science of hiology at the beginning of the nineteenth
dernity (see §5.3 below). His attack overlaps with that of the reactionary oppo- At the sal.lle tinle' h«lwever, thal the physical sciences acquired
a new sali-
nents of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution discussed below in chapter ence in French culture, they carne uncler clirect challenge.
Romantic writers
3, but goes much further. In particular, he develops a root-and-branch critique sttch its Chateauhriand attackccl the prirnacy o1'scientifi.
,.u.on, championing
of the kind of scientific rationality which the philosophes took to be the source instead tlrc e ttltlti«rtls and intuition. Thc phiklsophers
of the Enlightennrent hacl
of the modern age's legitirnacy. All firrnrs of reason, he argues, are simply attachcd great irrlptlrtance ttl the senses ancl tlre pa.ssions,
but thc'y had n.t usu-
particular expressions of the will to power that is the firndarnental tendency in ally cotlnterptlsed thctn ttl reason. ln cl«ling so, Rt»nantici.srn
tencled also to treat
both the physical and the social worlds. Nietzsche's critique of Western reason art and liter:tttlre a.s it privileged sourcc of experiences
cleniecl to a merely
is a f undamental point of ref-erence both firr Weber and firr Heidegger (see §9.2 scientific Llttderstanding. The skrgan l'urr
ltot.rr l'urt _ art firr art's sake - was
below); his influence is evident also in conternporary theorists associated with probably coined by Bcnjantin Constant in lti04.2
In the hancls of Baudelaire
postmodernisrn, most notably Foucault (see § I 1.3 below). and Flaubert irt the lti40s ancl ltl-50s the iclea becarxe
a systernatic of
In a sense, Habermas suggests, 'we remain contemporaries of the Young Aestheticisln which treated art as a clistinct practice
cletachecl the social
Hegelians'.50 Yet if the firndamental positions towards modernity were staked world and liberated lioln any attempt to require writers
and painters to respect
out between the 1830s and the ltJ80s, they have been greatly enriched, and prevailing religitlus ancl political belief,s or to procluce
work that was socially
sometimes clarified, by the subsequent development of social theory. Or so I usef'ul or even, by conventionar stanclards, beautiful.
hope to show in the rest of this book. The resulting debates concerned more than merely
aesthetic or philosophical
issues' At stake was the historical ancl political
meaning of the French Revolution.
I J. Heilbron,The Rise oJ'SocialTheorl, (Cambriclge,
so Ibid., p. -53. I lbirl.. p. l-57.
5B Liberals and Reactionaries Liberals and Reactionaries 59

Chateaubriand and some other early French Romantics werc lrristocnrts who had largely destructive event ('Saint-Simon's great teacher was M. de Maistre',
been driven into exile by the Revolution. Their critique of scicntilic rationality Flaubert declareds), and of the unjustified class privileges which had survived
was associated with a nostalgia tbr what the arch-survivor Tlllcyrrrnrl called the it. Saint-Simon saw society divided between industriels - those who produced
douceur de vivre - the sweetness of life - under the old regimc. ( )l'tcrr this attitude society's wealth, including not merely workers and other producers but also a
took the form of a straightfbrward political rejection of the Rcvolrrlion, rnost rig- growing number of scientists and other experts - and oistf.s - the iclle parasites
orously expressed in Maistre's claim that '[t]here is a satanic qLrality to the French who lived ofT them. Fourier denounced the competitive egoism encouraged by
Revolution that distinguishes it from everything that we have, cvel scen or any- existing 'Civilization'; he advocated the fbrmation of co-operative communi-
thing that we are likely to see.'r After 1820 the royalist'ultras'who d«rminated ties (or phalun,störe,r) whose example would graclually lead humankind into the
French ministries seemed determined to turn back the clock to bclirrc 1789. new social condition of 'Harntony'.
The Revolution did not, however, come under attack rnerely tiorn the right. The intellectual climate of post-Revolutionary France was furthermore one
The years after l8l5 made the impact of the 'dual revolution' increasingly clear. in which the upheavals of the previous generation hacl inculcated a vivid sense
Following Britain's exaunple, other parts of north-western Eur<lpe, notably in of both the contplexity of social structures arrcl the transfbrmations they hacl
France and what in 1830 became Belgium, were being transformed by the spread recently undergone. This sense was expressed with extraorclinary s«-rciolclgical
of factories capable of mass-producing cr>mnrodities. It became increasingly in.sight in the novels of Balzac, one of whose nrain thenres is the subversion of
clear that a new fbrm of social polarization, between the wage-labourers work- aristocratic values and traditions by the unrestrained pursuit of self'-interest,
ing in these f.actories and their erlployers. had emerged. By the end of the 1830s typically in the firrnr of money-making. In seeking to construct a 'physiology,
Chartism, the first mass political movement based on the new industrial work- of the human types specific to the new commercial order, Balzac portrays sgci-
ing class, was spreading through Britain's mernufacturing areas and threatening ety as a distinctive kind of objectivity. As one of his characters cleclares: 'Yes.
the stability of ELrrope's leading power. Society is another kind of Nature!'(,
As early as l8l3 these developments lecl Francis Jeffrey, editor of the great Liberalisnl as a distinctive political current crystallizecl in Restoration Frzrnce
Whig journal the Edittburgh Reviclr,. to question the optimistic view of the against the background of the assault on the heritage of' 1789 fiom both right
development of commercial society otfered hy Adam Smith and his followers: and lett. Its representatives, who came fiom a mainly Protestant background,
sought ttl dissociatc tlre Revolution flom the Jacobin Terror. Thus Constant, as
The effbct then which is produced on the lower rlrclers of society, by that increase we have seen (§ I .5 above), distinguished the 'ntr)dern liberty' of the incliviclual
of industry and retinement, and that nrultiplication o1'conveniences which are
froln the classical republican conception of collective Iiberty clef'encled by
commonly looked Llpon as the surest tests of increasing prcsperity, is to convert
Rousseau and R«rbcspierre. The liberals del'endecl as the authentic legacy of the
the peasants into rnanutircturers, and the manutircturcrs into paupers; while thc
chanccs of thcir ever enrerging fiorn this condition becolt-rc constantly Iess, the
Revolution thc individual l}eedonrs and thc parliarnentary institutions which
nrore complete and Inatlrre thc system is which originally produced it.a they regarded as the distinctive strengths of thc British systern of government
and which hacl been grudgingly ancl partially concecled by the restorecl Bourbon
The development of industrial capitalisrn ol't'ercd a diff'erent angle on the rnonarchy in the Constitutional Charter of I tt 14.
question of the French Revolution's political legacy. The slogans of 1789 werc The threat ptlscd to liberal constitutionalisnr by the 'ultra' ministries ol'the
liberty, equality, and fl'aternity. But while the Revolution had swept away thc I tl20s prtlv«lked what Larry Siedentop calls the 'Creat Debate', in which a group

old f'eudal privileges and hierarchies, and institutionalized legal equality, pro- of liberal intellectuals known as the ekx'trinuire,r sought to respond to their
found class divisions renrainecl, and were indeecl beirrg widened thanks to the reactionary opponents. Sieclentop writes: 'Liberal.s hacl to clemonstrate that what
Industrial Revolution. The first socialist thinkers - ntost notably Charles Fourier the ultras proposed was not only unjust but irnpossible that even if ultras
and tlre Comte de Saint-Simon - emerged in France under the Erlpire and the could temporarily contmand politicalpower, long-standing social and economic
Restoration. They were liercely critical of the Revcllution, which they saw as zr changes in France ntade their aristocratic progrilmme of hardly more than anti-
quarian interest.'7
I J. de Maistre (1197), Cottsiderutiou.s'on Fr«nt'e (Cambriclge, 1994), p.41. Joseph, comte de The required historical analysis of long-term socio-economic processes was
Maistre ( I 753- 182 I ): of Savoyard background, though his writings had their main impact in France;
servecl the Hor.rse of Savoy as a diplornat, notably as anrbassador to St Petersburg, 1803 l7; his
most celebrated work is The Suint-Petersburg Dirtlogues ( l82l ). s Quoted in P. Bourdieu,,The Rules of Art (Cambridge, 1996), p. gl.
a Quoted in D. Winch, 'The System of the North', in S. Collini et al., That Noble Scianca o.f "? H. de Balzac, A Harlot High ctnd Low (Harmonclsworth. 1970), p. 152.
Politic.r (Cambridge, 1983). p. 55. L. Siedentop, Tocquet'ille (Oxfr»-d. l9g4). ch. 2 (quotulir>rr ll.r>rn
Liberals and Reactionaries Liberals and Reactionaries 61

provided by one of the leading doctrinaires, Guizot, in a se t'it's

ol t'clcbl'ated lec- for Guizot the most distinctive feature of European civilization, its pluralism -
by thc 'sPiritrrllist' critique 'verried, confused, stormy; all forms, all principles of social organization co-
iures betw een lg2l and 1830.s Guizot was influenced
exist therein; powers spiritual and temporal; elements theocratic, monarchic,
of eighteenth-century empiricism developed by phil«rsgplrct's sttclt as Maine
ottly lhlln the ef- aristocratic. democratic: all orders, all social anangements mingle and press
Biran and Victor Cousin, who argued that knowleclge cal))c ttol
on senses such as sight and touclt, bttl ltlso li'tlm man's upon one another. There are infinite degrees of liberty, wealth, and influence.'rl
fect of external bodies
'internal sense', which provided thought with content, notrll)ly hy way tlf
intro- This confused diversity, reflecting the inability of any one class to conquer
cltatrgc. 'social' all the others, is the source of Europe's dynanrisrn and creative energy. The
spection. He theretbre identified two mechanisms of historicill
The lirst involves 'the extensit>tl, tltc grcatcst activity, peculiar virtue of representative government, Guizot believes, is that, as
and 'moral' developtnent.
hand. att ittcrclsing produc- demonstrated by British political experience, it permits the articulation and rec-
the best organization of the social relations: on the one
tion of the means of giving strength and happiness to society; ,tl thc
6ther a more onciliation of diverse and conflicting interests.
hallpirlcss prt>duced'' Guizot's History of Civiliz.tttfutn in Europe is an exalnple of what one of the
equitable distribution, u,rong individuals, of the strength and
internal last representatives of the Scottish Enlightenrnent, Dugald Stewart, called 'theo-
The second, by contrast, consists in 'the clevelopment of the individtral,
retical history'. Like the Scottish philosolthes and Hegel befbre him, Guizot was
development of man himself, of his täculties, his sentiments' his
lif-e. the
'external' able to integrate theoretical enquiry and histclrical narrative into a single coherent
Having thus distinguished between changes in the 'internal' and
latter, on 'the discourse. But nineteenth-century intellectuals found this synthesis increasingly
condition of man. Guizot proceeds in täct to concentrate on the
of the hard to sustain. Another debate of the 1820s, this time among British advocates
history of external events, of the visible and social world'. The centrepiece
is a description of of parliamentary refirrm, illustrates this dilficulty. This pitted Whigs against Radi-
detailed analyses he ofl'ers of social institutions and processes
to win local cals. The Whigs det'ended the existing British constitution as a system of 'mixed
the struggle through which the burghers, or town-dwellers, began
'The formation government', judicir-lusly c<lmbining the three classical pcllitical fbrrns of monar-
politicaitiberties fiorr the feuclal lords in twelfth-century France.
chy. aristocracy, and dernocracy; they fitvoured an extension of the vote. but only
tf u g1..o, social class, the bourgeoisie, was the necessary result of local en-
produces of the most lirnited kind (as was actually implemented by the Great Reform Act
fianchisemelt of the burghers.' The rise o1'the bourgeoisie in turn
of ltt32). The Raclicals advocated a rnuch more thoroughgoing assault on 'Old
the contest of the classes, a contest which c«tnstitutcs the
fäct itself, and which Corruption', the whole systern of patronage which fuelled the Hanclverian state.
fills modern history. Motlern Europe was born frotn thc struggle of the various In I tt I 7 Benthaln and his firllowers rallied to the Raclical programme of universal
led ttl very difl'erent results: in
classes of society. Elsewhere . . . this struggle male sufkage, annual parliarnerrts, itnd the secret ballot.
completely tritrrnphecl, and the government of castes
Asia, fbr e^artrpl.. tlne class Jarnes Mill's Ä-,rsc.\, on Governnt(nt ( ltt20) sought tt>.iustity this programme.
to thlt of classes, ancl society sank into inrrnobility. Thank God, none
conquer or Its premisses were provided by two of the leadin-t doctrines of Bentham's utili-
of this has happenerl in Europe. None ol the classes has been able to tarianism, narnely that 'the l«rt of every hurnan being is determined by his pains
subdue the others; the struggle. insteacl of being a principle of imrnobility' has
principal clitsses ltmong themselves' ancl his pleasures'. and that 'the c«rncern of Governtnent . . . is to increase to the
been a citLtse o1'prqgress: the relations of the
and yielding by uttn()st the pleasures, ernd dirninish to the utmost the pains, which men derive
the necessity underl which they tbuncl thenrselves ol' cotllbating
to conqucr witl-rout the fl'orn one another'. Mill agrees with Hobbes that the fäct that hurnans are guided
tut.ns, the variety of their interests and passions, the desirc
power to satisfy it; from all this has arisen perhaps the most energetic and f'ertile by their individual interest in their own pleasures itnd pains makes government
principle of the development of European civilization.r" necessary. But the same tact also implies that any firrrn of government which
vests power in any group nerrrower than the pcoplc themselves, as both monar-
Marx in
This class struggle (depicted in ternts which seenl to have influenced chy and aristocracy do. will lead to the exploitation by the rulers of the ruled.
tbr what is
the opening lines of the communist Mttni.feslrr) is thus responsible Mill dismisses the Whig doctrine of the rnixed constitution and the connected
idea (def-ended also by Guizot) of parliamentary government as the representa-
8 1787-1874): born in Nirnes. grandson of a Protestant pas- tion of interests as liable to produce nrerely 'a motley Aristocracy'. Only demo-
Franqois-pierre-Guillaunre Guizot (
l8l2-30; cratic government, based upon the regularelection of representatives by universal
tor:hisfhtherguillotineclinApril 17941 Prot'essorof MoclernHistoryatthesorbottne,
of olficial p,.',rrr, l8l4-20:the lea<Jing politician of the Orleanist mtlnarchy afierthe male suffrage, could secure the greatest happiness of the greatest number.12
heltj a series
brought clown by the
lg30 RevolLrtion; Minister of Education, 1832-7, Prinre Minister 1840-8;
1848 Revolution; clevotecl his lengthy retirement to historical rr
, F.-P.-G. Guiz.t ( 1828), Histort'o.l'Cit'itiztttiort in Europe
(Lonilott' 1997)' pp' l6-18'
Ihid., pp. 29-30.
ro .1. l-ivcly trrttl .1. l(tcs. c<ls. lltilitrtritrtr ltt,qit'tttrtl l'ttlilit's (Orlirnl. l()7ti). pp..55 6. li(r.
Ibid., pp.23,129, 130.
62 Liberals and Beactionaries

'l'his deductive proof of the necessity of democracy was subjected to the

Liberals and Reactionaries
organic growth embodied in tradition and established practice: to attempt to
63 !


tamper with this complex and delicate f-abric on the basis of a preconceived {*
rnosl devastating attack by Macaulay in a series of sparkling essays in the Edin- T

ltur,qlt Review, which also effortlessly parried counter-thrusts made by the Philo- l)rogramme of radical refbrm, as the French Revolution did from the very be- Id

sophical Radicals.ri Macaulay makes much of Mill's inconsistencies - fbr ginning, was to invite disaster. Savigny, the founder of the German Historical 1
r:xample, his opposition to female suffiage - while at the same time making School of Law, took this thought further when he opposed refbrmers' attempts,
clcar the reason why Whigs like him objected to the political conclusions drawn starting with the post-Revolutionary Code Napoldon, to founcl the entire legal I

llrrm the premisses of the Ersa.y on Government: 'How is it possible for any system anew. Denouncing the Enlightenment's 'blind rage for improvement',
person who holds the doctrines of Mr Mill to doubt that the rich in a democracy itnd announcin-e the emergence of a new 'historical spirit', Savigny argues that i

such as that he recommends. would be pillaged as unmercifully as under a Turk- 'lhe indissoluble organic connection of generations and ages' means there can i:

he no escaping the influence of legal tradition. This, however, 'will be injurious

ish Pacha?' But Macaulay's objection to Mill's political theory is methodologi-
cal as well as political. He denounces his opponent's attempt, which he compares lo us so long as we ignorantly submit to it; but beneficial if we oppose to it
to the rnethods of the medieval schoolmen, to arrive at political generalizations rr vivid creative energy - obtain the mastery of it by a thorough grounding
by means of deductions fiom a few abstract truths. To this he counterposes, as irt history, and thus appropriate to ourselves the whole intellectual wealth of
the basis of 'that noble Science of Politics', 'the method of Induction', which llreceding generations' .
8 I

generalizes from carefully established facts. ra Thus for Savigny the study of history does not serve to trace modern soci-
The contrast between Mill's method, abstract and deductive, and Macaulay's, cty's progress by comparison with its predecessors: rather, it is a way of appro-
historical and inductive, is all the more striking since the fbrmer's great Historv priating the accumulated wisdom of a particular nation expressed in its law,
rf British India is, as John Burrow puts it, 'not only the last, it is also the most which, bearing 'an organic connection . . . with the being and character of the
elaborate and detailed example of Scottish conjectural history'.rs The Scottish Pcople', evolves according to an 'inward necessity'.'' This privilegin,e of tradi-
Enli-shtenment had combined a general conception of hunran nature with a theory tion dovetailed with the Romantics'nostalgia for the past. The nineteenth-
of history in which society passed through a succession of 'modes of subsist- ('r:ntury cult of the Middte Ages, increasingly seen not, as the Enlightenment
ence' (see§ I .4 above). Mill managed to hold the two together in his History by tcrrded to, as a benighted age of barbarism and superstition, but as a harmoni-
declaring: 'Exactly in proportion as Utilin is the object of every pursuit may ottslY integrated society in which every individual was allocated a meaningful
we regard a nation as civilized.'r6In other words, societies were to be identified role, must be seen against this background.
as more or less progressive historically to the extent that they realized Bentham's lndeed, treating the past as a source of values and models to be used in as-
greatest happiness principle: pre-colonial India, according to Mill, turned out scssing the present could serve as the basis of a critique of industrial capiterlism.
very badly when measured by this bench-mark, thus justifying British rule. But !.ukacs coined the phrase 'Romantic anti-capitalism' to refer to this tendency
the tension between abstract social science and concrete historical enquiry ol'tnodern Western thought. Michael Löwy and Robert Sayre define 'Romantic
became increasingly hard to manage. ;rrrli-capitalism' as 'op1tositiort to capitolisnt in the fiatne of pre-capitolist val-
In part this was because history was now becoming identified with the cri- rrr',r'. This is a protean ideological current, which could take 'restitutionist' or
tique of the Enlightenment and the Revolution. Burke was among the very first t'otlservative forms, seeking respectively to restore sorne version of feudal so-
to make this move.rT In his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1190),he cicty or to preserve the status quo, but which could also articulate revolutionary
portrayed social and political institutions as the product of slow. unconscious, ttttpulses by using some ancient model as the inspiration for creatin-q a more
t'girlitarian society, as in the case of the more radical of the English Romantics
rr ThomasBabingtonMacaulay(1800-59):WhigMernberof Parliament, 1830-,1, 1839-47, 1852- tllyron and Shelley) and of Fourier's Utopian socialism.20 In any of its forms,
7; mernber of the Supreme Council of India 1834-8: also held junior ministerial posts; given a
barony in 1857; a supremely accomplished essayist. but chiefly retnembered fbr his History of
Englund Jrom the Accession of Jutnes the Secorul ( I 848-61 t. '' Ii. K. von Savigny (1814). Of the Voctttiott ofOurAge.ftir Legislarion untl Jurisprudence (New
Ia I-ively and Rees, eds, Utilitarian Logic cmd Politics, pp. 120, 128. York. f 975), pp. 20,22,132-3. Friedrich Karl von Savigny (1719-1861): born in Frankfurt am
15 J. W. Burrow, Et,oLüiott and Society (Cambridge, 1966), p. 4tt. l\l;rirr: stuclied at Marburg. Jena, Leipzig. and Halle universities; appointed Professor of Roman
16 J. Mill. The Historl of Briti,sh lrdio.ed. W. Thomas (Chicago. 1975),p.224. I ;tw ;rt tlrc ttcw University of Berlin, l8l0; Gror.skttn:.ler, i.e. head of the Prussian juriclical system,
r7 Ednrund Burke ( 1729-97): Irish politician and writen author of Philosophical Encluirv into thc lri l.) l{.
Origirt ot''Our ld«s of the Sublitne and thc B<,uutiful {1157); mernber of the British Parlilrtrcrrl. ''' llrrtl , p. 27.
ll66 t)4:lrcriticol'BritishnrisruleinArnerica, India,andlreland.ancl aclcl'cntlcrofthe«rlcl lcgirrre lvl. l.iiwy lrrrrl l(. s:ryrt'. 'liilrrrt.s ol llorrrirrrlic Anti ('lrpitlrlisrrr', iVr,rr, (i<,t.rtrtttr Crititltrc,32
irr Irtrropr'. t l'),\i ll. l)(1.\\utt (rlttol;rltorr lrotrr P lar)

64 Liberals and Reactionaries Liberals and Reactionaries 65

Romantic anti-capitalism challenged modernity's claim to be self-legitimating, consequence of the pursuit of wealth. It makes abstraction of every other human
and judged it wanting by the measure of an idealized past. passion or motive; except those which may be regarded as perpetually antagoniz-
The polarization between history and theory was also encouraged by ten- ing principles to the desire of wealth, namely, aversion to labour, and desire of
the present enjoyment of costly indulgences.23
dencies towards the professionalization of academic life. The early nineteenth
century saw the emergence of modern historiography as an empirical disci-
Before Marx, Comte was the major figure who sought to resist this process
pline based in the universities. The injunction of one of its founders, Leopold
ol'scientific fragmentation and to seek to preserve social theory and historical
von Ranke, to show the past 'wie es eigenlich gewesen' - as it actually hap-
pened - was an attempt to liberate historical enquiry fiom its classical role of
t'nquiry as an integrated intellectual project.2a His basic framework was pro-
vided by a philosophy of history recognizably derived from that of Turgot and
providing practical guidance and to distance it frorn philosophies of history
('ondorcet. Comte claimed to have discovered 'a great fundamental law, to
such as Hegel's. In fact, the new historiography was never as theoretically
which the mind is subjected to by an invariable necessity', namely that 'every
innocent as it claimed - Ranke, for example, conceived modern Europe as an
lrranch of knowledge passes in succession through three different theoretical
organic unity of competing nations each endowed with its own unique char-
slates: the theological or fictitious state, the metaphysical or abstract state, and
acter whose conflicts were regulated by the mechanism ofthe balance of power,
and the rest of the world as barbarous or decadent. Nevertheless, the insist-
lho scientific or positive state'. In the theological stage, phenomena are ex-
plained by imagining fictitious beings - gods and the like; the metaphysical
ence in particular that professional historians should base their studies on ar-
:ilage replaces these with more abstract but still imaginary entities such as
chival research helped make the old Scottish style of 'conjectural history'
('ssences and causes.
seem obsolete.
Economics also evolved into a professional academic discipline, especially
Finally, in the positive state, the human mind, recognizing the impossibility of
after the 'marginalist revolution' of the 1870s, which finally disposed of the
obtaining absolute truth, gives up the search after the origin and hidden causes of
remnants of Ricardo's labour theory of value. Smith had conceived political
the universe and a knowledge of the linal causes of phenomena. It endeavours
economy in broad terms, as 'a branch of the science of a statesman or legisla- now only to discover, by a well-combined use of reasoning and observation, the
tor' .2r The Wealth of Natiorzs contains as much history as it does abstract analy- actual laws of phenomena - that is to say, their invariable relations of succession
sis. But, by the late nineteenth century, the dominant definition of the subject, and likeness.2s
especially as given by British and Austrian economists, conceived economics
as a formal and deductive science based on certain abstract propositions about Comte is thus the founder of positivism, broadly understood as the idea that
human nature (arrived at, in fact, with the help of Bentham's utilitarianism). tlrc modern sciences constitute the only valid form of human knowledge. More
This move, which was strongly contested by the German school of historical irrterestingly, as Heilbron points out, he was 'the first to develop a historical
economists, who preferred a much more inductive and descriptive approach, md dffirential theory of science'.26 Comte conceives his 'positive philosophy'
had already been justified by James's son John Stuart Mill in his 1836 essay rs 'the observation of the rational methods that actually direct our various
'On the Definition of Political Economy'. 22 scientific researches'. He therefore proceeds to a detailed classification of the
Here he calls economics 'an abstracl science' and compares it to geometry: sciences, whose development he conceives as a process of progressive differen-
tl(ion. The sciences constitute a definite order - what he calls an 'encyclo-
What is commonly understood by the term 'Political Economy' is not the science pacdic series' - starting with the most abstract and complex, and proceeding
of speculative politics, but a branch of that science. It does not treat of the whole
of man's nature as modified by the social state, nor of the whole conduct of man
'' 'l-he Collected Works of Jolm Stuart Mill,lY (London, 1967), pp. 325,323.
in society. It is concerned with him solely as a being who desires to possess wealth, I
Auguste Comte ( 1798- 1857): expelled fiom the Ecole Polytechnique in I 8 l6 fbr political ac-
and who is capable of judging the comparative efficacy of the means for obtain-
trvity, worked as Saint-Simon's secretary befbre seeking to formulate his own theoretical system;
ing it. It predicts only such of the phenomena of the social state as takes place in
tlrc (-ourse of Positive Philosophlt ( 1830-42) (in which he coined the term 'sociology') originated
rrs lcctures delivered to an audience which included many of the leading French scientists of the
rr Quoted in D. Winch, 'Higher Maxims', in Collini et al., Noble Science, p. 65. r lrry: str
fiom mental illness in his later years; the System of Positive Polit_v" ( I 85 I *4) sought to
22 Mill ( I 806-73): his intensive cducation by his fäthcr and Bcntham drove him to a
John Stuart r'orrslrrrcl a'Religion of Humanity'.
nervous breakdown, described in his Autobiography; like his father he worked at the East India ' A. ('rrrrtte, Cours de philosophie positive (2 vols, Paris, 1915),l,pp.2l,2l*2; Introduc'rion kt
Company; assistant examiner, 1828-56; examiner, 1856-8; the first leading liberal to champion l'r,.titirt' l'hilosoltlt.t' (Irrdilnlpolis, 1970), pp. |, 2.
the emancipation of women. '' llcillrrrrrr. /li,rr'. p. .r(X)
(i(i I rlrcr;rl:; ;urrl Ilc;rr:lrr)n;ut(!:i
I tl rr.t;tl:, ;rtrrl I llirr.lrorr;u ro:, (;/

accol'ding to tlrc gr.ctrlcr.spr.t.ilir.ilv lrrrrl t.orrr;llt.xit-y ol

lllr t.:rclr sut.t.(.\stv(.(lts(.i
pline: thus 'the six l'Lrtttllrtttctttitl scit'ncr's' lrre nurllrurrlrtir.s,

ics, chemistry, physiology, arrd' Prrysics'.,r. s.cirr()gy.,

;llrys 3.2 Agonistic liberalism: Tocqueville and Mill

Comte's conception of the sciences in gencral rurtl ol' 'social

physics' wirs No ont' nr()r'c clcirrly cx;rrcssctl thc dilertrttas of the post-Revolutionary epoch
deeply influenced by the formation of moclern biology in
the carly ytr., .l'r6c tluur .lolrrr S(uurt Mill. Hc sought to remain täithful to Bentham's and his fa-
nineteenth century. Cuvier and other researchers
sought to characterize the clis- tlrt'r''s trtilitarianisnr, and indeed was the major British thinker most receptive to
tinctiveness of living organisms by means of the concept
of organization: every ('()nrtc's positivism; at the same time, however, he showed a painful awareness
organisrn was a self--regulating system oriented on
certain basic functions such ol tlrc llrrnantic critique of the soulless scientific rationality of modern Europe.
as f-eeding, breathing, and reproduction. Comte
closely analysed this concep- llis cconomic writings helped to lay the basis of modern economics as the ab-
tual revolution and sought to translate it into the study
of the social world. stnrct cleductive science of self-regulating markets. But, in the penultimate book
Following Condorcet, he sees the fundamental cause of
his:orical change as r rl' lris Principles ofPolitical Economt' ( I 848). he predicted that the tendency of
lying in 'the general and necessary progress of the human
spirit,: the law of the rlrc rate of profit to fall which Ricardo had attributed to the law of diminishing
three stages thus provides the basis of 'the science of
social development,. This rc(urns (see §1.5 above) would reach a'minimurn' where investment and out-
'idea of the continuous progress, or rather of
the gradual development of hu- prrt would no longer increase. Mill thought this 'stationary state' might in cer-
manity' distinguishes sociology from biology. gut in the
study of .social stat- llrin circumstances represent an improvement on the present, and further
ics" the laws o1'coexistence of social phenämena, the biological
concept of rrrrticipated that 'the relation of masters and workpeople will be gradually su-
consensus, that is, of 'the fundamental solidarity of
all the poisible aspects of pe rseded by partnership' in the fbrrn of either 'associations of the labourer with
the s<lcial organism', plays a critical role. Indeed, 'the
,.ot ,ätion, of orO., unO the capitalist' or'association of the labourers among themselves'.3r
progress must' in social physics, be as strictly indivisible
as in biology are those The ambivalences endemic to Mill's thought are an example of what John
of organization and of life, from which indeed in the eyes
of science they cle- ( iray has felicitously called 'ugonistit'', by which he means 'a stoical
rive'' The 'revolutionary crisis of modem societies'arises
frorn the way in which, itnd tragic liberalisrn of unavoidable conflict and irreparable loss among inher-
since 1789, otderand progress have been counterposed,
so that ,uil th" great cntly rivalrous values'.r2 Regarding modernity as the highest possible social
efTorts in favour of order have been guided by
a retiograde spirit, and the prin- cxpression of human rationality - what Haberrnas calls the 'Right Hegelian'
cipal eflbrts fbr progress by raclically anarchicalcloctrines'.28
The positive phil- position on modernity (see §2.3 above) - does not imply that one is necessarily
osophy rnay thus help to overcome this crisis by removing
'the actual confusion blind to the costs and tensions involved in achieving and maintaining this tbrm
of men's minds' caused by 'the simultaneous employment of
three radically of society. Weber is the later social theorist who most fully embodies this com-
incompatible philosophies
- the theorogicar. the metaphysical, and the posi- plex view. But the most interesting representative of agonistic liberalism in the
p<lst-Revolutionary period is undoubtedly Tocqr-reville.33
This first encounter between biology and social theory
in Comte's writings Tocqueville's roots in the Norman nobility rnight have turned him against
was to be of great moment. By explicitly fbrmulating
the concept of social the French Revolution. Indeed, his great-grandtäther Malesherbes, previously
evolution and associating it with the processes of growing
compl.*iry that con- a prominent critic of the ancien rögirne, perished on the guillotine fbr serving as
temporary biological scientists were seeking to
conceptualize, Comte exerted a Louis XV['s def-ence lawyer when the latter was tried befbre the Revolutionary
powerful i,fluence on rater trreorists, notably Spencer (see
§5.2 berow) and Convention; only Robespierre's fall saved Tocqueville's parents from a similar
Durkheirn' But his own substantive social theäry and
tion that consensus would be re-established thiough the
in particular his predic- fate. Nevertheless, early on he identified himself with the liberal def-enders of
vesting of -o.ul and
intellectual authority in a 'spiritual Power' moclelled
on the Catholic Church
caused even admirers such as fhe younger Mill
- 3t The Collected Works ofJohn Stuart Mill,lil (London, 1965), p.169.
to quail.r0 Those seeliing a aeeper 'r2 J.Gray, IsaiahBerlin (London, 1995),p. l.Graycoinsthephrasetoref'ermoreorlessexclu-
understanding of modernity after the Revolution
would have to look elsewhere. sively to Berlin's versior.t of liberalism (though he cloes recognize Weber as a precursor: ibid., p.
Comte. Cours,l, pp. 4l ,64; Introtlut.tion, pp.20,66-7 (rranslation 58). But the expression seems to admit wider application, particularly since Gray's claims fbr
:2n Comte, mo<lificcl,l. Berlin's originality are somewhat overstated.
Cour.s,lI. pp. I 01, 112, 123, l6;5. Anclreski, ed., The
pp. 137, 138, 162, t50,12j (rranstarion modifiect).
Es.senrial Cr»rtte(l,onclo., lg74), r'r Alexis-Charles-Henri Clirel, comte de Tocqueville ( I tt0-5--59): born into the old Norman no-
bility; trained as a lawyer and employed briefly as a magistrate; toured the United States and Canada.
-'r0 J'Comte, Cottrs.I, p. 3B; Introtluc.tion,p. 29.
s. Mill ( 1865). Auguste C.mte ancr pr.sitit,isnr (Ann l83l-2; parliamentary deputy, I 839-48; nrember of the National Assembly. I 848-51 : Minister of
Arbor, l96l). Foreign AfTairs, 1849: retired from politics after Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte's l85l coup d'ötat.
68 Liberals and Reactionaries Liberals and Reactionaries 69

the Revolution under the Restoration, writing later: 'I have broken with part of rtrain contribution to social theory, in the two volumes of Democracy in Americct
my family, with beloved attachments and precious memories, to embrace the ( 1835, 1840). Since, 'sooner or later, we shall arive, like the Americans, at an
cause and ideas o1"89.'34 Confronted with Gobineau's theory of racial inequal- irlmost conrplete equality of condition', the point of studying the United States
ity (see §3.3 below), he expostulated: 'Do you not see inherent in your doctrine is to acquire a better sense of the direction in which Europe is moving.
all the evils engendered by perrnanent inequality - pride, violence, scorn of 'focqueville is struck by the Americans' success in organizing a republican
fellow men, tyranny and abjection in all their forms?'35 Iorm of government on a continental scale, and at the same time sustaining a
Nevertheless, Tocqueville's aristocratic background may have allowed him high degree of decentralization, reflected not simply in the federal constitution,
to consider the problematic condition of contemporary society with a greater but especially in the vitality of New England township meetings. He neverthe-
detachment than, say, the troubled Mill. The intellectual framework of his writ- less discovers a new version of the old dan-ser in the shape of 'the tyranny of the
ings is, in many respects, an eighteenth-century one reflecting particularly the majority'expressed both in the operation of political institutions and the power
influence of Montesquieu. He systematically contrasts aristocracy and demo- of public opinion:
cracy, but relates this less to political institutions in the Iirst instance than to the
entire complex of ideological and social conditions associated with these dif- The authority of a king is physical and controls the actions of men without subdu-
ferent forms of government. In doin-e so he was fbllowing the example of Guizot ing their will. Br-rt the ma.jority possesses a power that is physical and moral at the
and the other doctrinuire,l'durin-u the 'Great Debate' of the 1820s (see §3.1 same time, which acts Lrpon the will as much as Lrpon the actions and represses not
above). As Larry Siedentop puts it, only all contest, but all cont«rversy.
I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real
freedom of discussion as in
Restoration liberals called the emergent society 'democratic', whereas eighteenth-
century Scots had called it'commercial'. The difference is revealing. The Scot-
tish usage made the 'mode of subsistence' perhaps the crucial f-actor in social Tocqueville's diagnosis of the threat to individual fieedom represented by
change, whereas French liberals ernphasized the ditierent belief\ or norms which the tyranny of the majority, particularly in the shape of public opinion, heavily
helped to constitute aristocratic and democratic societies - the fbrmer nrarked by influenced Mill in his best-known work. On Liherty ( l8-59). Characteristically
inequality of rights and conditions, the latter by eqr.rality of rights and condi- he there seeks to square the circle by reconciling a right of individual self-
tions.16 developrnent with utilitarianisrn's concern with the greatest happiness of the
greatest number, appealing to 'utility in the largest sense, grounded in the per-
Tocqueville also took one of his leading themes fiom the doctrinuires. They manent interests clf man ärs a progressive being'. Meanwhile, Mill warns tlrat
feared that the bureaucratic and centralized state developed under the absolute Europe is 'decidedly advancing towards the Chinese ideal of nraking all people
rnonarchy, further strengthened by the Revolution and the Empire, and inheri- alike'.r" This f'ear that the West was declining into a stertic Oriental despotism
ted by the Restoration regime represented a fundamental threat to individual obsessecl many nineteenth-century liberals. Tocqueville himself saw such a
lieedom. In 1822 their leader, Royer-Collard, warned that greater social equal- condition as a consequence of centralization: 'China appears to me to present
ity was producing an 'atomized society' (xtciötö en poussiör'c) vulnerable tcl the most perf-ect instance of that species of well-being which a highly centrerl-
bureaucratic despotisrn.rT This concern infbrms Tocqueville's writings. His Iast ized administraticln may f'urnish to its subjects. Travellers älssure us that the
major work, Tlte Ancien Röginte und the Rev,olution ( 1856), left unfinished at Chinese have tranquillity without happiness, industry without improvement,
his death, charts the development of centralization under the Bourbon monar- stability without strength, and public order without public morality.'10
chy, and seeks to demonstrate how it fragmented French society, and encour- Mill's reflections on the problem take the form of a contribution to norma-
aged the kind of abstract and irresponsible intellectual speculation which reached tive political theory - that is, he seeks to characterize in abstract terms the na-
its apogee in the Jacobin regime. ture of individual freedom and to identify the limits of legitimate state
The problem of centralization also tbrms the starting-point of Tocqueville's interf-erence in that fieedom. Tocqueville offers, by contrast, particularly in the
second volume of Democracy in Americct (1840), a sclcio-historical analysis
1'r Letterto Corne, 13 Nov. 1845, quoted in A. Jardin, Tocclueville (New York, 1988), p. 396. of the circumstances productive of threats to modern liberty. There, in the
15 Letter to Gobineau, 17 Nov. 1853, in J. A. de Gobineau, Selected Politicttl Writings, ed. M. D.
Biddiss (London, 1970), p. 178. '' A. rlc'f-txquevillc. l)ctrtot trrt t' in Ame rit'u (2 vols. New York, n.d.). I. pp. 14,273.
ro Siedentop. Tottlttt'ville, p. 27. "' .1. S. Mill. ()l Liltr'r'tr'(l l:rrrronrlsrvorllt. 197:l). pp. 70. l3tt.
'7 [hitl.. p. 2(r. r" 'l'trt't;ltr't ill<'. l)r'rrt,,, rrrt t. l. 1t (l l 11 ,l().
70 Liberals and Reactionaries Liberals and Reactionaries 71

tradition of early modern French morctlistes and of Montesquieu (see § 1.3 above),
tendency of equality to keep men asunder and they have subdued it.' He lays
he concentrates less on exploring the political and social structures, and more
particular stress on the role of civil and political associations in American life,
on examining the moeurs - the belief's and customs - characteristic of demo- since 'associations ought, in democratic nations, to stand in lieu of those pow-
cratic societies.
crful private individuals whom equality of condition has swept away'.aa They
Tocqueville depicts a form of lif-e governed primarily by the attainment of rnay thus. like Montesquieu's 'intermediary powers' stand between the naked
individual well-being. This helps to explain the peculiar dynamisni and rest- individual and a potentially over-mighty state.
lessness of democratic societies, as each individual seeks to maximize his ma-
But Tocqueville conceives of the role of 'free institutions' as more than the
terial gratifrcations. It also accounts for a certain 'softening' of manners, and ncgative one of imposing limits on central power. Just as individualism saps
for the replacement of patriarchal authority within the fämily by relations based grublic institutions by undermining civic participation, so the remedy lies in
on atl-ection and intimacy. But this transformation of the family highlights one
cncouraging citizens to play an active role in political life: hence Tocqueville's
of the critical consequences of equality of condition. a powerful tendency to- interest in the direct democracy of the New England town meeting. As Roger
wards the privatization of social lif'e: 'Democracy loosens social ties but tight- ('. Boesche points out, '[t]his insistence on widespread democratic participa-
ens natural ones, it brings kindred more closely together, while it throws citizens lirrn as an essential component to the word freedom . . . sets him apart from
more apart.'11
lrl most all his nineteenth-century liberal counterparts.'a-5
Democratic societies are permeated with individualism. Tocqueville is care-
In Mill and the doctrinoirer we can see take shape what Judith Sklar memo-
ful to distinguish this quality from the universal and instinctually based det-ect rably called the 'liberalism of fear', whose 'overriding concern is to secure the
of selfishness, or excessive self-love (egoi'sme). Individualisrn is a modern phe- gxrlitical conditions that are necessary for the exercise of personal freedom'.46
nomenon 'of democratic origin'; it consists in 'a mature and calm f-eeling, which
lirom this perspective, public life can easily be represented as athreat, some-
disposes each member of the community to sever hirnself from the mass of
llring to be warded ofT in order to preserve the private zone of individual tiee-
fellows and to draw apart with his family and friends, so that after he has thus rlom. In conceiving the public sphere more positively, and citizenship as active
fonned a little circle of his own, he willingly leaves society at large to itself'. Its pirrticipation in political aflairs, Tocqueville harks back to the classical repub-
effect is in particular to undermine the individual citizen's incentive to take part lican tradition of Machiavelli and Rousseau.
in public life. 'Selfishness blights the genn of all virtue; individualism, at first, The overall effect of Tocqueville's analysis is, however, greatly to increase
only saps the virtues of public lit-e; but at the same tirne it attacks and destroys llrc sense of modernity as inherently conflicted. Thus he characterizes the long-
all the others and is at length absorbed in downright selfishness.'42 lcrm consequences of the 'democratic revolution' on men in the following terms:
The absorption of individuals in their private atTairs which equality of condi- "l'hey had sou,qht to be free in order to make themselves equal; but, in propor-
tion encourages fhcilitates the destruction of political freedom. Thus equality tion as equality was more established with the aid of freedom, fieedom itself
and despotism 'perniciously cornplete and assist each other. Equality places wls thereby rendered more difficult of attainnrent.'47 This presented the politi-
ttren side by side, unconnected by any common ties; despotism raises barriers
crrl problems of modern times as much rnore deep-seated than a liberal of a
to keep them asunder; the former predisposes them not to consider their fellow slightly earlier generation such as Constitnt had suggested. For Constant the
creatures, the latter makes general indifference a sort of public virtue.' Indeed,
l;r'cnch Revolution had gone off the rails by seeking to achieve an ancient col-
Tocqueville fears a distinctively modern fbrm of despotism combining 'the lcctive freedom inappopriate to modern cornfflercial societies (see § 1.5 above).
principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty', 'an immense and 'l'trcqueville, by contrast, argued that there was an endemic conflict between the
tutelary power, which takes it upon itself alone to satisfy their [i.e. the citizens'] lwo prime modern values of equality of condition and individual freedom. So,
gratifications and to watch over their fäte', an 'absolute, minute, regular, provi- ol' lhe ideals of the French Revolution, liberty and equality were eternally at
dent, and mild' power that keeps men 'in perpetual childhood,.al
otltls with one another, while fraternity had dissolved into the endless pursuit of
It is no part of Tocqueville's argument that this new form of benevolent privutc gratification endemic in democratic societies.
despotism is an inevitable consequence of equality of condition. On the con-
trary, he claims that'[t]he Americans have combated by free institutions the rr lbitl.. II, pp. Il0, ll7.
' lt. ( '. lJocse he, 'The Stranee Liberalism of Alexis de Tocqueville', Histr.,i1' of I'oliticol Thoughr,
1r lbid., II, p. 208.
.' ( l()li I l. p. lt{.

'[ Ibid.. II, p. 104.

" l. N. Sklrrr. "l'he l.iberalisrn of Fear', in N. L. Rosenblr.rnt, ed.,Liberalismantlthe Llorttl Life
(( ';rrnlrr irlltt'. Mltss. l()li9 ). p. J I
11 Ibid., II, pp. 109, 336-7.

'lirt rltt«'r'illt. l)t'ttt,,t'rrrr r. ll

' P I I l.

72 Liberals and Reactionaries Liberals and Reactionaries 73 !

This diagnosis has helped to constitute the problem-situation of modern so- ,r'n\(', lhere is no disorder, for disorder is commanded by a sovereign hand that
cial theory. Tocqueville's analysis of the privatizing tendencies of modern de- ,rrlr111i15 it to a rule and forces it to contribute to a good.'50

mocracy evidently has contemporary resonances. It has been deployed in order l'lrt' irnmediate source of this providential view of history is undoubtedly
to provide the social underpinnings of one of the more interesting accounts of tlrr' 1it'r:itt seventeenth-century Catholic divine In his Discourse on And his exploration of the causes and consequences of polit;- I ttrtt't't',s'ul History (1681) Bossuet argues that the successive epochs of world
cal centralization is plainly an important contribution to the discourse on mod- lrr',tory (which he conceives largely in biblical terms as the ages of Adam,
ern bureaucracy most fully developed by Weber. Tocqueville's dissection of l.Juirlr. Abraham, and so on) are permeated by God's secret plan.
democratic society does, however, suffer from an obvious weakness which is
perhaps closely related to the preoccupations with moeurs and with public life llris
is why all those who govern feel themselves subjected to a greater power.
that are the source of the insights it ofTers. As noted above, in drawing on lrt'y achieve more or less than they intended, and their plans never lack unex-
pr't'lctl effects. Neither are they masters of the dispositions which past centuries
Montesquieu and the earlier moraliste tradition, he effectively sidesteps the
Ir;rvc rtrade in aftairs, nor can they predict the course which the future will take,
analysis of commercial society developed by the Scottish Enlightenment.
l.rr lilrrn being able to fbrce it. He alone holds all in his hands, who knows the
This precludes him from considering, as Hegel had already begun to do (see n;unt. of everything that is and that is not yet, who presides over all times, and
§2.1), the extent to which the problems of modernity were related to the dis- ;rrt i('ipates all discussions.s2
tinctive economic mechanisms and class antagonisms of what Marx would soon
call capitalist society. It is not that Tocqueville ignores economic matters. He llossttet's hold on nineteenth-century French intellectuals is indicated by the
notes the Americans' absorption in 'a kind of virtuous materialism' as they l,rr I llurl cven Comte praised 'the great Bossuet' for conceiving 'universal his-
pursue their private pleasures amidst the bustle and instability of commercial t,11' '1r 'one homogeneous series'.53 Maistre employs Bossuet's framework in
life. He also argues, in what is in effect a side-glance at the effects of the Indus-
'rr h't lo unalyse contemporary events, but he paints a much darker picture than
trial Revolution in Britain, that the division of labour is subordinating workers I r rr r s X lV's court preacher did at the apogee of Bourbon absolutism. The French
to their masters, and producing thereby a 'manufacturing aristocracy' that is lr,'r r rlrrlion, as we have seen, Maistre declares to be 'radically bad' . But its evil
'one of the harshest that ever existed in the world' (though, because the manu- r rrrt'rt'ly one instance of that which permeates the whole of creation. He spurns
facturers lack a sense of collective identity, 'one of the most confined and thc llrr' 'lnotlcrn philosophy that tells us all is good': 'in a very real sense, all is evil,
least dangerous').ae But Tocqueville shows little of the understanding displayecl lr, (' n()lhing is in its place'. Indeed, the king of Dahomey was right to say that
in their different ways by Smith, Hegel, Ricardo, and the younger Mill that t iorl ttt:trlc the world for war', as is shown by 'the long series of massacres that
modern life is bound up with a new form of economic system with its own Ir r'. ',oilctl cvery page of history. One sees war raging without interruption, like
peculiar dynamics and conflicts. His writings, for all the insights they ofTer. ,r r .ntrrrtrcd f'ever marked by terrifying paroxysms.'54
resonate as much with early modern political thought as they do with the work I rottr this perspective, imbued with a pervasive sense of original sin, 'fmlan
of later theorists fbr whom the existence of capitalism has become a fundamen- r i'r rl. lrorribly evil.' Social order is maintained only through the regular appli-
tal reference-point. , ,rlr,rr ol'violence. Thus the executioner is 'the horror and the bond of human
r .,r irliott. Remove this incomprehensible agent from the world, and at that
, , r\' rrronrr:nt order gives way to chaos, thrones topple and society disappears.'
3.3 Providence and race: Maistre and Gobineau l,rr 'lt'lvil cxists on the earth and acts constantly, and by a necessary conse-
lr{'n( t' il rnust be continually repressed by punishment.'5s
Less surprisingly perhaps, the same quality of being situated as it were midway \\'lr:rt. llrcrt. is the meaning of the French Revolution according to Maistre? It
between older ways of thinking and the theoretical revolution represented by
the Enlightenment is displayed by the most resolute opponents of the French l\ l,rr..lrr', ('ttrt:irlcnrlit»r.r', p. 9.
Revolution. Maistre is a particularly interesting example of this stance. His l,r, (
lr r('\ lltirt igrtc llossuet (1621*1704): Bishop of Condom, 1669-8 I ; Bishop of Meaux, 168 l-
I 'rrf 11111rt rrl lltt' l)rrrrpltin (fbr whom he wrote the Discourse); most celebrated fbr his sermons,
political writings repeatedly affirm that human affairs are governed by divirrt'
, rr \'oll:riri'trrlrrrircrl lris prose style.
Providence: 'Nothing happens by chance in this world, and even in a sec«rnclru't r I rrlrr'r t.ttt,tltli,t(,.\ rlc l)rt.s,ttrct ( l9 vols, BesanEon, 1840), IX, p.262.
I rrrnft'. ( ttuts,ll. P. Jt7; I,..s,sctttittl ('tttttlt', p.2(X).
'1r{ G. Lipovetsky, L'Ere du vide (Paris, 1983). l\l,rr.,trt'. ('rttr.titlt.tttlit,l,§. l)l). Jl. i l. .) l, l"l
're Tocqueville, Democracy,ll, l4l, 170. I Irr,lt'.rrl .Ilt,'Wt,rl':ttl .l,,tt1tl1 ,l, llltri.tltt' (l.orrtlorr, l()(r5), 1l;t.2(X). l9l l.

74 Liberals and Reactionaries Liberals and Reactionaries 75

is impossible fbr the republican regime to sustain itself inde{initely (Maistre An undeniably new note is, however, sounded by Gobineau.60 His Essay on
wrote the Considerations on France in 1196, not long after Robespierre's fall), the Inequttlity oJ the Human Races ( 1 853-5) takes aim at two of the basic as-
fbr 'nothing is new, and a large republic is irnpossible, since there has never sumptions of the Enlightenment. First, Gobineau denies the idea of historical
been a large republic'. Moreover, since 'every imaginable institution is founded progress. He does not believe, for example, that the moderns have achieved any
on a religious concePt', a fbrm of government which blasphemously claims to real intellectual or political improvement on ancient Greece and Rome. His
base itself on human reason alone is doomed fiom the start. The sufl'ering caused concern is with 'the fall of civilizations', 'the most striking, and at the same
by the Terror and the Revolutionary Wars are God's punishment for the impi- time, the most obscure, of all the phenorrena of history'. The decline of civili-
ous arrogance envinced by this claim: 'in our epoch, coming down to our level, zation is, rnoreover, inevitable: 'every assemblage of men, however ingenious
Providence punishes like a human tribunal'.s6 the network of social relations that protect it, acquires on the very day of its
But God condescends to use even the 'vilest instruments' for his own larger birth, hidden among the elements of its life, the seed of its inevitable death'.61
purposes: 'this monstrous power, drunk with power and success, the most fright- Why are civilizations doomed to collapse? Gobineau's answer to this ques-
ful phenolnenon that has ever been seen and the like of which will never be tion represents his second challenge to the Enlightenrnent. As the title of the
seen again, was both a horrible chastisement for the French and the sole means essay declares, he rejects the idea of human equality which was axiomatic for
of saving France'. The triumph of the counter-revolution over the republic would the philosophes, however much this assumption might be qualified by, fbr ex-
have meant France's eclipse in the European state systern. The Jacobins, with ample, the racisrn we saw Hume and Jetfbrson display towards blacks (§1.5
their centralizing ruthlessness and revolution ary ölan, were the means through above). Gobineau declares: 'The irreconcilable antagonism between diff'erent
which this outcome was prevented, and France's leading position was preserved races ernd cultures is clear"ly established by history, and such innate repulsion
for God's plan. Thus: 'When we think about it, we can see that once the revolu- must inrply unlikeness and inequality.' His classification of humankind reduces
tionary movement was established, only Jacobinism could have saved France them to variants of three fundamental races - in descending order of intellec-
and the monarchy.'-57 tual and physical powers and even of beauty, the'white', the'yellow', and the
In a brilliant essay on Maistre, Isaiah Berlin argues that his 'deeply pessinris- 'black'. 'The great humitn civilizations are but ten in number and all of thern
tic vision is the heart of the totalitarianisms, of both lefi and right, of our terrible have been prodr.rced upon the initiative of the white race', and in particularof
century'.s8 Yet, in conceptual terms at least, there is very little that is new in the Aryans originating in central Asia who are the source ol'all that is vigorous
Maistre. His view of a world ruled by evil, war, and bloodshecl, though ex- and creittive in the European racial stock.('l
pressed in particularly forcefulterms, derives from orthodox Augustinian Chris- Yet decline and death are, as we have seen, built into every civilization fiom
tianity's clairn that the Fall of Man introduced a raclical fault into God's creation. the start. The fundamental cause is the tendency fbr different races to mix.
Maistre's political theory proper combines abizarre revival of the medieval Civilizatir)ns are typically fbunded by the colonization or concluest of an inf'e-
doctrine that the pope is the source of all secular authority with the traditional rior 'f'enrale' race by a superior 'male' one. The master-race usually has f'ewer
claims of clnssical thought. Thus, as we have seen, he rules out the possibility members than the groups over whorn it rules. Conquerors and conquered inevi-
of the French republic surviving because 'nature and history together', or rather tably intennarry: initially tlris racial nrixing invigorates the civilization, but,
ancient and early modern philosophers and historians, 'prove that a large indi- over tirne, it progressively drains away the original vitality of the masters. The
visible republic is an impossibility'. What distin-uuishes Maistre is the extrem- civilization accordingly degenerates: 'The word degencrate, when applied to a
ity of his political language - itself a reaction to both the novelty and (to him) people. nreans . . . that the people has rro longer the sarne intrinsic value as it
the moral scandal the Revolution represented, and the lucid rcalism he often ought to have, because it has no longer the same blood in its veins, continual
displays in his analyses. Thus he argues that revolutions have their laws, which adulterations having gradually aff-ected the quality of that blood.' The outcome
will, in time, tävour the restoration of the monarchy. He notes, tbr example. the can be seen in the confusion o1' races and cultures that dernoralized and
emergence of an 'aristocracy of office' in Revolutionary France that will, as in
Cromwellian England, help produce the desire for political stability necessary
to revive the monarchy.5e 6() Joseph Aühur de Gobineau (ltl l6-82): born to a bourgeois fanrily in Bordear"rx. though he
assumed the title of comte in 185-5; traiued as an Orientalist; after working as a journalist,
56 Maistre, Con.sideratio,Ts, pp. 33,41, 14. 'Iocqueville's secretary whcn the latter was Foreign Minister in 1849; thereafter served as a diplo-
51 lbid., pp. 8. 16.
rltt till 1877.
)ri I. Bcrf in, 7'hc' Cnxtketl 7'inber of'Hrrmunit.t, (Lonclon, l9()l), p.
127. "l (i«rbittt'it u.,\'t' I t't. t'tl l't tl it'ttI
t it Writin,q.s. pp. 42, 43.
)() Miristrc, ('rttr.rirlanrtirlr,r, pll. :12. 90.
lbitl..pp lll ll)
/(; Irlrur;rlr;;rnrlllu,; rr;ltorr;urc:; Itlrr:ltl:; ittltl llcitr:lton;utcr; / /
rrlllrrllrlt'ly tlt'slt'.yt'tl itttlrt'ttlrl ltotttr'. Mrtlcrrr llrrrollc
is r-clrrr-rrirrg l, rlris.srrrlc. liott. wlrt'rr tlrc t':rrllr wls still slrakcn by its rcccrtl culirstrrrplrcs lurtl willrotrt lury
ttl' 'ntrrtttrtil1" lts llrc Aryltrt slock is irtlultcruterl
throirgh adrnixture with .tlcgcn- tlclcrtcc lrgrrirrsl tlrc l'earful el'fbcts ol'their last clcath-lhr«rcs'.'l'hc rilccs lirrnrecl
irr this terrible geological shakirrg up are set onto pernranently diffbrent paths:
Gobineau's racial theory was merely the most systematic 'their primordial unity cannot and does not have the slightest influence on their
articulation of a
widespread ideological reorientation which occurred
in mid-nineteenth-century clestinies'.66
Europe' The Western colonization of the rest of the
world encouraged some This quasi-theological conception of history informs Gobineau's account of
European intellectuals to treat racial difference
as the fundamental category by

the future as well as that of the origins of humankind. History reveals no dy-
means of which to understand the social world.
Robert Knox, the Edinburgh namic principle - say, what Darwin would soon call natural selection (see §5.1
anatomist who ernployed the grave-robbers Burke
and Hare, expressed essen- below) - merely the constant patterns arising from conquest and racial inter-
tially the same view as Gobineau's when he decrare cr, in The
Races oJ. M,n mixture: 'transcending any transitory or voluntary action of either an individual
(1850): 'race is evelything; literature. science,
art - in a word. civilization. de- or a nation, these fundamental determining factors in life operate with imper-
pends on it'.nr
turbable independence and impassiveness'. Their inevitable outcome will be
The development of particular forms of knowledge
could be mobili zed in the disappearance of the human species. The ultimate achievement of the great
support of this construction of race. Thus William
Jones's suggestion at the end Aryan peoples has been to create a single world-civilization, thereby fulfilling
of the eighteenth century that the classical Hindu language
of Sanskrit was the 'the suprerne goal of all history', fbr 'the ultimate aim of the toil and suf'fbring,
conlmon ancestor of a distinctive family of Inclo-European
languages was re- the pleasures and triumphs of humanity is to attain, one day, supreme unity'.
interpreted in racial terms, so that linguistic
affinities became signs ortr,. exist- But the attainment of this unity implies the racial confusion and degeneration
ence of a commolr Aryan race. Maine's anthropolo-eical
writings, immensely which destroyed Rome, now on a global scale, and hence the disappearance of
influential on Victorian thought, were infbrmed by
the ass-umption that the white race. Racial weakness will bring in its wake population decline, and
'[clivilization is nothing but a name for the
old order of the Aryln world, dis- eventually the 'final obliteration' of humanity in another 6,000 or 7,000 years'
solved but perpetually reconstituting itself under
a vast variety of solvent time.6i
So Gobineau, like Maistre, sees the lridden hand of Providence at work in
Gobineau's elaboration of such beliefs into a philosophy
ol'history cffected history. His version of this philosophy of history culminates in the fatalisrn
afäteful fusion of biology and social theory. onecan cletocr
irr his wiitings the with which Tocqueville taxed him in their correspondence. Cobineau clairned
obsessions with degeneration and miscegenation
which pcr-rncrrlc subsequent that his theory depicted humankind's fate beyond good and evil: 'l am not tell-
racist literature. including Mein Kampf'.It wourd,
howcvcr.. hc ir rnistake to ing people "You are accluitted" or "You are condemned". I am saying "You are
overstate the modernity of Gclbineau's thought.
The conccprt ol'hiokrgical evo- dying."'68 Fascist ideology would take his view of history as race war, and his
Iution, whose complex interrningling with racist ideology
I r.orrsitlcr-in chapter obsession with biological degeneration, and marry them to the idea of a deci-
5, is quite absent fiom it. The Essa-v antedates Darwirr's ()r.iqir
r of'Specie,s, sive assertion of collective will. In this tbrm, Gobineau's pessimism would
which was published in 1859. Despite his own anrbivrrlcrrcr.
lrwrr*ls Clhristian- help incubate horrors beyond the imagination of even the darkest nineteentlr-
ity, Gobineau in his accclunt of the sources ol'r'ucirrl tlil'li'r.t.rrr.r.
lrccepts the century thinkers.
biblical figure fbr the age of the earth of betwecn (r.(xx)
rrrrrl 7.0(x)
The fact that different human groups can slrcccsslrrll-y
inlt.rlrrt' lcads hirn
reluctantly to reiect the idea of polygenesis thc sirrrrrltrrrrt.rrs
eral distinct human races * which had tascinatcrl tlrr'
t.r.r..rtir, of sev-
l,.rrlirlrlr.rrrrrt.rrt. liut, if the
humatt species began as one, it soon broke aplrrt irrtr) r:r(.(.
are 'absolutely fixed, hereclitary , and pe rntr, rrj,,,'. 'l' .wcre
r li l lt.r r.rrr.r,s fixed
in the earliest epoch of our terrestriar rif'e .. . rrrrrt irrr(.(ri;rrt.rr
;rrrt,r.rrrc: crea-
(r'] Ibicl.. pp.
59. t-53.
64 Quoted in Burrow, Evolution,
p. 130.

:t Quotedinibid',p' l6l.SirHenryMaine(ltt2l i{l{): .t'trr|,rt.,l,lr.rr.,rrrl.rir,rr ()rl.rrl lrndthe 66 Gobineau, Seleucd Politit:ulWriting,,s. pp. 103, l06-1,161.
InnsofCourt.ancl then,afierserl,ingasLegal Mutrlrt.r.ol tlrt.(,()utr(rl,,l 67 lbid., pp. 163. 17l-2. 171.
lrr,lr.r lx(rr(,.;rt ()xf-ord
again and Cambridget most celebrated w'rk:,rttl.rrrr ( I li(r I 6rr Letter to Tocqueville, 20 Mar. 1856, ibid., p. l8l.
Marx 79

precisely against this stance that the great Russian critic of the 1830s and 1840s,
Vissarion Belinsky, rebelled :

I thank you most humbly, Eger Fedorovich [i.e. Hegel], I acknowledge your philo-
sophical prowess, but with all due respect to your philosophical cap and gown. I
have the honour to inform you that if i should succeed in climbing to the highest
Marx rung of the ladder of progress, even then I would ask you to render me an account
of all the victims of life and history, of all victims of chance, superstition, the
Inquisition, Philip II, and so fbrth. Otherwise I should hurlmyself head first fiom
that very top rung.3

But what if one were to liberate Hegel's dialectic fi'om his absolute idealism,
and to abandon his essentially theological attempt to justify 'the existence of
evil"/ Then one could truly say, in the words of Belinsky's contemporary
Aleksandr Herzen: 'The philosophy of Hegel is the algebra of revolution.'a
4.1 The adventures of the dialectic This was the step that Marx took.5 He was by no means the first to have the idea
of setting Hegel on his feet, as Engels fhmously put it - that is, of secularizing
Hegel's response to the profbund tensions which the aftermath of the French the Hegelian dialectic.6 Hegel's philosophy exercised a peculiar fascination fbr
Revolution had exposed in European society was to interpret them as specific young radical intellectuals in the 1830s and 1840s. This was particularly so not
instances of a much larger pattern. World history was essentially a process of simply, as we have seen, in Russia, but in Germany itself. [n these countries the
constant transfbrmation driven by the contradictions internal to and constitu- Holy Alliance - the absolute r-nonarchies of Austria. Russia, and Prussia - sought
tive of sLlccessive social and political forn-ts. Yet at the same time as thus dra- after l8l5 systematically to repress any signs of a revival of the radical-
matically generalizing tiorn the experience of his own generation, cau-qht up tts democratic irnpulses unleashed by the French Revolution. In this climate of
it was in the whirl of the 'dual revolution', Hegel sought to fieeze the dialecti- repression and censorship, political criticism was displaced onto philosophical
cal process, to treat it as a circular movement which sirnply developed what speculation. 'In politics the Germans thoughl what other nations did', Marx
was implicit in its starting-point and whose conclusion consisted in the recon- later wrote.i Hegel said nruch the same thing: 'We have cornmoticln of every
ciliation of all conflicts within the self-transparency of Absolute Spirit. The
efTect was to undercut the awareness of tension and instability expressed in his
claim that 'Contradiction is the root of all movement and life'. Dialectical rea- I Letter to Botkin, Mar. lll4I, quoted in A. Walicki, A Hisrorl, o.f Russiutr Thought.f-roru the
son can then seem like an almost Buddhist quietism, the contemplation of the Enlightennrcnt to Murxi.snl (Stanfirrd, lL)79),p. 124.
a A. Herzen, My Pu.;t and T-ltotrgltlr, abr. edn, ecl. D. Macdonald (Bcrkeley, l9U2), p.237.
eternal pattern of things well captured in these lines of T. S. Eliot (hin-rself a 5 Karl Heinrich Marx (ltill3-83): lrorn in ]'rier to a secularizecl Jewish thrnily: stuclied law aud
student of the late Victorian British Hegelians): 'Only by the form, the then plrilosophy at Bonn ancl Berlin universities: eclitor-in-chief of thc. Rlrcini.sche Zeittrtrg,l842-3;
pattern, I Can words or music reach I The stillness. as a Chinese jar still I Moves moved to Paris in lU43 and Blussels in lU45; leacler of the Communist League, ltt47--50: editor-in-
perpetually in its stillness.'l chief of the Neue Rheinischa Zciturtg. ltt4t3-9; alier the def'eat ol the 1848 Revolution went into
Quite aside from the philosophical dif1iculties involved in Hegel's absolute cxile in London, where he spent the rest of his li1'e. ofien in great poverty; fbunder and leacler of the
International Working Men's Association (the First International), ltt6-l 72.
idealism, his description of his philosophy of history as 'a theodicy' which
'should enable us to comprehend all the ills of the world, including the exist- " K. Marx and F. E,ngels, Collt'cred Works (-50 vols. London. 197-5- ), XXVI. p. 3tt3: hereinirf -
tcr CW. Friedrich Engels ( Iti20-95): born in Barrnen to a fämily of Protestant mill-owners; worked
ence of evil, so that the thinking spirit may be reconciled with the negative irt Manchester tbr the family firm Ermen and Engels, 1842_,1-. obtairring the material for T'he Con-
aspects of existence' seemed to imply the kind of complacent acceptance tlitionoftheWorkingCla.ssirtEngland'.Marx'sclosestfiiendandcollaboratorfiom lS44onwards;
of sufTering and oppression that Voltaire had attacked in Candide.) lt was Io«rk part in armed struggles in Elberf-eld and the Palatinate during the death-agony of the 1848
Ilcvolr"rtion; worked at Ermen ancl Engels, 1850-69. providing the Marx family with indispensable
linrrrrcial support: edited the sec«rnd and third volumes of Capit«laficr Marx's cleath: dr,rring the last
I T. S. Eliot, 'Burnt Nortorr'. itt Collected Poems 1909-1962 (London. 1963), p. 194. lwt'rrty-livc yclrs ol'his lile. his home in London becarne one of thc nrain centrcs ol'the British and
r G. W. F. Hegel, Lct'ttrrc.s on tlte Philo.solthv ol Wot'lrl History: Intxxluc'tion (Cambridge, 1975). ittlt'r'tt;tlionltl llthottt nr()\'('nr('nl.
pp. 42 .1.
I ('l,y lll.P. lfil
80 Marx
Marx 81
kind within us and around us, but through them all the German head quietly lar, the Young Hegelians tended to see the critique of religion as the precondi-
keeps its nightcap on and silently carries on its operations beneath it.'8 tion of any broader political challenge to the established order in Geimany.
By the 1840s 'the German head' was thinking revolution. The group of this they recapitulated the French Enlightenment's conception of history
as (in
young German intellectuals known as the Young Hegelians emerged at the Condorcet's words) 'the progress of the human mind', and its view of
beginning of this decade. They had in common the aim of emancipating the Christianity as the main underpinning of the ancien rögime-The German
Hegelian dialectic from the Absolute, but ditfbred over precisely what this had thus not yet shed its nightcap.
implied. Bruno Bauer, for example, argued that Absolute Spirit was merely a Marx in his first political writings in the early 1840s displays borh his grow-
metaphor for human self'-consciousness. He thereby replaced Hegel's absolute ing discomfort with this broad approach and an attempt to use some of
idealism with a version of subjective idealism, according to which history was Feuerbach's main categories to develop a more materialistic analysis
of soci-
a succession of forms of consciousness. Feuerbach by contrast developed a ety' Thus in the Contribution to a critique oJ'Hegel's philosophy
,,y fugnt ( I g43),
much more original critique of Hegel based on a version of the naturalistic he persistently taxes Hegel with inverting subject ancl predicate
üy ti.rtlng po-
materialism which became increasingly influential in German intellectual litical institutions as expressions of the Absolute Idea. Marx concedes that ,[ilt
culture around the middle of the nineteenth century.') shows Hegel's proflndity that he feels the separation of civil from political
Feuerbach's main tools in this critique were the concepts -taken over by Marx society as a Contr(rdic'tion.' Rather, however, than the state reconciling
the con-
- of inversion and alienation. He argued that the diffbrent forms of reli- flicts of civil society, 'It]he atomism into which civil society ptunles
in its
gion, reaching their climax in Christianity, involved the transposition of dis- politicalrzcr fbllows necessarily fiom the fact that the community,
tinctively human powers onto alien and fictional entities. This was a process o1' nal being in which the individual exists, is civil society separatecl
fiorn the srate,
inversion: the 'subject' - man, the active and creative factor in history - was orthat the politit:ul stute is an abstraction fiom it.'The modern state is indeed
reduced to the status of a 'predicate', that is, of a dependent attribute, the crea- like God in Feuerbach's critique of Christianity an alienated projection
tion of a being - God - that was in fact the product of the human imagination. It
- of the
colrlmunal social lif-e which only exists in the impoverished form
of a civil
was also a process of alienation: man lost his essential powers to a being which society riddled with competition and instability. Fortunately, however,
he conceived as fundamentally other than him. Hegel's absolute idealism was il society is beginning to transcend this alienatecl condition by iernanding
rarefied and abstract version of this same process, in which everything physical cal expression in the form of universal male suffiage: 'Electrtral
and human is reduced to means for the self--realization of an impersonal God, the ub'stract politicul stute is therefilre the demand fbr its clissoluLion,
but also
the Absolute, that was just as imaginary as the more narve versions worshipped fbr the dissolution of'civil society.'to
in conventional religions. What was required, Feuerbach argued, was an inver- Marx thus identifies Feurbachian inversion the restoration of the real
sion of this inversion. Man must recognize himself as the real subject of the
ject to its proper place with the most raclical political
- clemand of the day, and
process, thereby resuming control over the capacities he had ascribed to God and thus (not only in his argument but also in the mincls of Europe's
ruling classes)
the Absolute, and recognizing these latter entities fbr the fictions they were. with social revoluti«rn. Plainly, pursuing this analysis required taking
a clgser
Though Feuerbach rightly saw himself as a critic of Hegel, his arguments look at the structLtre tll'civil society. Like Hegel belore him, Marx closely
remained in many ways within a Hegelian tiamework. Hegel also conceived ied the classical p«rlitical economists. These researches helpecl to prompt
the dialectical process as one of alienation, in which Spirit loses itself in intpcrrtant shifi away fiorn Feuerbach. As a first approximation
to characteriz-
Nature, which it counterposes to itself as an other, only to rediscover later the ing the extent of the latter's break with Hegel, one rnight say that he
essential identity of subject and object, self and other. Moreover, the emancipa- the Absolute with Man as the subjcct of the dialectic. But what
is Man? Feuerbach
tion Feuerbach seeks from the hold of religion and idealism is an intellectual rejected the more straightfbrward forms of inclividualism: 'The
essence of man
one. For all his philosophical differences with Bauer, he too conceived history is contained only in the community, in the unity of'mtrn with
as a succession of forms of consciousness; both argued that political liberation To underline both the primacy of the communal over the individual,
from Prussian absolutism depended on a process of enlightenment. In particu- humanity's growing awareness of this truth, Feuerbach often tended
to use the
expression 'species-being' (Gattungswesen) to refer to human nature.
His ac-
* G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Historl- rf PhiLosoph.y (3 vols, London, 1963), III. p. 426.
count of species-being was, however, fraught with difficulties. Thus
a central
' Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach (lB04J2): his rr-rost important work, Ilre Essence o.l'Chris'tiun-
ir.v (1841), was translated into English by the novelist George Eliot; declared: 'Der Mensch ist tt' CW III, pp.75,79,l2l.
was er isst' - Man is what hc cats. ll [,. Feuerbacl'r. Mttttili',rlc.t'ltltilosolthitltrt,,s.ctl. L. Altlrrrssr.l (1, l()7 t).,. lr)li
gZ Marx Marx 83

by Christianity and ideal- rialist conception of history and an unrelenting polemic against the idealism of
aspect of the human essence that had been concealed the Young Hegelians. Before going on to consider Marx's historical material-
with nature' Man'S aware-
ist philosophy was, Feuerbach argued' nlan's unity ism in the following section, it is worth pausing briefly to reflect on the novel
his dependence on nature'
ness of this, and more particularly of his neediness,
reason (there is a Romantic view of the relationship between beliel's and representations, on the one hand,
derived more from his Ii.,.,r.,, and emotions than his and social relations and institutions, on the other, which these writings of the
suggests' Feuerbach con-
strain in Feuerbach's philosophy)' As this summary I840s began to develop.
passive: one of his key con-
ceives man's relatiopship to nature as essentially The idea that thoughts were to be considered not solely in ternts of their
cepts. sensibility (Sinnlichktrir), was used by
Kant to designate the receptive
in by human consciousness' truth-cotrtent. but alscl with respect to the social role they rnight perfrrrm was
fäculty through which sense-impressions are taken very firr fiom new. The ntore radical philosophes had attäcked orthodox Chris-
ofl-ering little ac-
Thus conceivecl, species-being is abstract and indetertninate, tianity as a body of nryths which helpecl to sustain an un.just s«rcial order. Thus
cess to the rich historical development which
Hegel had so successl'ully achievecl.
in The Ego ancl its Holbach argues that 'clespotisr.r-r is the work of superstitit>n'. Superstition itself
It was therelbre highly vulnerable to Max stirner's attack is an essentially intellectLral tault: 'Mun is superstiti«rus only because he is l'ear-
in a series tlf abstract
Otyn (1844) 6n the concept 9f 'Man' as sirnply
the latest
,spgoks' GOtl. the State, the Absotute - which merely served to suppress the ful; he is t'earlul only because he is ignrlrant.' Rulers and priests colrspire to
- keep mcn igttrlrant: 'Thc rnaiority ol'sovereigns are afiaicl to cnlighten nlen:
irieducible reality ol' tlre individLral subject' acc«trnplices o1'the pricsthood. they ally thernselves with it to slnother reason
in the first tna.lor
Marx makes extensive use of the concept of species-being and to perseclrte all thosc who havc lhe c<lurage to Announce it.' The soluti<ln is
the Ecotrtttttit' trtul
work tcr reflect his reading of classical political economy. therefbre [o erttct>uritge rational thinking.l'<tr'lul.s .\'oon os tnun (lurc,s'to tltink,
difterent ctlntent'
Pltil|.sttltltit' Mcytust'ript,s ,l tS'l+, but he gives it a
fundametttal. but it is an activc the emlti ra tfi' tltc pri<,.t't i.s' rlt,,slroy(d.' ta
Hunran beings' relationship t<l naturc is indeecl Man's irrtellcctuul urtdcrclevcklprttertt ancl sclf'-intercsted rnunipr.rlation thr-rs
through which they transforrn
relati1lnship clelinccl by thc productive activities c<lnbinc to prcservc s«lcial opprcssion. Against thc background ol'such bclief
and s«rcial ctrvirontnerrt. This stance inrplics 'it l11()rc p«rsitive ap- ,s

their physical the strcss laicl hy both tlrc Enlightcrrrtrcrtt arrd the Young Hegelians «rn the thco-
'Hegel's stitnclpoint is that ttl'
pritisal 0l'Hcgcl's philosophy than Feuerbach's: retical e xposLlrc ol' rcligious nryth as thc prcc«rnclitiolr ot' political liberation
the e.s'tretl(c tlf trrln.' The trotl-
rrrtrtlern ptllitical ccollollly' Hc grasps lrtbour as
is rrl;sl'ttctlv t,.ttdl becottrcs intclligiblc. Alrcacly in lrcucrbach. howcvcr. wt: see a shili. Hc ilrgucs
ble is that 'thc .nly labour which Hegel rectlgnizes that thc various lirt'ttts ol'r'cligi«lLrs alierra(ion cium()t [rc understoocl lrs lncre
labtlur nitturalistically' its
labour'.rr lt is ,',"..*rury insteacl to understand error. They reprcsent l necLrsliilry slagc irr the rle velopnrcnl ol'hunurn consci<lr-rs-
hurnan beings in tlrder to prtlduce
tl-rc c«t-gpcrativc activities r'tndcrtakcn by ness: in particulat'. (he rnos( arlvarrccd slalc ol' ulie:natiorr in Christiunity is a
the ttse-vitlttcs rcclttired (o rtlcet tl-reir neecls' preconclition ol'nriul's arriving at conscior.rsltcss ol'hirnsell'as a spccics.
Marx' in the
once this stcp is tlkc:n. ollc's view tlf history is tritllsttlt'tned' Mitrx tukes this irnalysis, wlriclr cvidcntly rellccts Hcgcl's inl'lucncc. r.r slcp
alienatitln' httt what is
Mttrtust'ripls at itny rirtc. still treats it as a process
lab.ur. M.clern b.u' soci- furtl'rcr. ln a l'ittnous pitssasc ol'his lll43 lntrocluction to A Contributiott to tltc
:,rric.atccl n.w is tl-re Icle. rlr Man. b.t social
wtlrker's ltlss «lt'ctlntr«ll Crititltrc rt.l'Hegcl',s I'ltilo,soltltt fi llig/rl, hc writcs: 'llcligiorr,t rlistl'css i.s al the
cty is thc vcry ilclllc 0l'alicnati()n, since it rests tln the
siln)e tintc thc r,.r1trc,\',\iotr ol'rcal rlislrcss and also thc /»'rrlr,.v/ lrguilrst rcal dis-
«rver his lahour ilntl his srtbtlrdinatitln to the
capitalist' 'Priyrrte propcrtl is thus
tlf ttlientficd ltiltrtur" lndeecl' tress. Religirlrt is thc sish ol-tlrc oppresserl crcaturc, thc hcurt ol'a hcurtlcss
the proclr-lct, the rcsttlt, thc tlecessafy Consequence world..just as it is the spirit of spiritlcss corrcliti«ms. lt is lltc oltiutrr ol'the peo-
.lpl()litical ccononry has Irercly lirrmulated the laws tlf'estrarrged labtlur'' It
any rlere intel- ple.' Usually orrly lhe linal sentcncLr is c1r-rt>tecl, bul, sel in thc contcxt ol'thc
tirllt>ws this cliagn,rsis that alienation cannot be cured by
stlcial - or more entire passagc, it figr-rrcs in un argunrcnt that rcligion canno[ he undcrstood
lectualenlightcnrr.,',i. Encling the atienatit>n of labour recluires
'the emancipation of stlciety frt>m privirte prop- prirnarily as a set of lalsc bcliel-s, or cven as tlre work o1'lnanipirlative priests
precisely sgcialist - rcvolution:
rtf'tha workers''t:' and kings. Religious firith is a reflcction ol'real needs in a distorted social world,
erty is expresse«l in the politi<'ultirrrn of the e'munt'ilttttitttt the displacement o1'the aspiration to a better Iif-e onto a world beyond. Conse-
a break with the Young
Marx's transtormati«ln of Hegel ancl Feuerbach rnacle quently, '[t]he detnattd to give up illLrsions atrout the existing state r>f affhirs is
Gerntun ldeologr' ( 1845-7)'
Hegelians inevitable, a t1love consLlmmatecl in
becotile known as the utate- the demctrul to give up o ,\'tute fi'ulJhirs whic'h needs' illusiorts.'r'Religious
This work is at once the tirst outline of what would
il llrrr'«rn cl'Holbach, Tertes c'lutisis (Paris.
i CW lll' P.333' t' ('lV III. pp. 175. 176.
' (-1'Y I I l. PP. 719 . 280 '
84 Marx Marx 85

illusions will thus survive any purely intellectual refutation so long as the social Their use represents the productive powers of the society in question, measured
conditions which produced them continue to exist. Present here is the kernel of by the productivity of labour.
The level of developrnent of the productive fbrces reflects at any given time
Marx's theory of ideology - that is, of his atternpt to show that the widespread
the particular technology human beings use in order to meet their needs. This
acceptance of certain beliefs has social causes which arise from the contradic-

tions of class society. What, then, are these contradictions? technology presupposes knowledge of nature which is applied in production.
The operation of this technology, lurther, typically involves a particular form
o1'social co-operation among the direct producers, what Marx in Capital calls
4.2 History and capitalism the 'labour-process'. Changes to the labour-process, resulting fiom the discov-
ery ol'new techniques, or fiorn improvements in the social clrganization of pro-
Marx wrote in 1852: duction, allow increases in the productivity r>f labour - in other words, the
developrnent of the productive fbrces.
I do not clairn to have discovered either the existence of classes in modern society
This accolrnt of the productive filrces reflects Marx's view of human beings
or the struggle between them. Long befbre me, bourgeois historians had descrihed as inventive social producers. Social co-operation is an essential feature of hu-
the historical development ol this struggle between the classes, as had btlurgeois man existence. He contenlptuously dismisses what he calls the 'Robinsonades'
economists their economic anatomy. My own contribr-rtion was l. to show that of bourgeois thought, which seek to deveklp a theory o1'society by starting
the existenc'e tf't'lussas is merely bound up with <'ertuin hi,storit'al in tha fiom man alone in the state ol'nature. as il'he were Robinson Cruscle on his
tleyelopruent tf'pruxlut'tiott',2. that the class struggle necessarily leads to the rlrr'- desert island: 'Production by an isolated individual outside society . . . is as
totorship o.f'the prutlcturiut: 3. that this dictatolship itself constitutes no ntore than much an absurdity as is the developrnent of language without human beings
a transition to the ufutlititm of-ull t'lu,s.srs and ttt tclussle.r,s.rot'i?l'.y.rt' living together and talking to each other.'r7 HLurlan beings at the same time,
hclwever, have a flexibility and a capacity to nronitor sell-consciously their
The Scottish Enlightennrent made possible the exploration of the 'economic thoughts and actions that is deniecl otlrer anirrtal species. They are therefclre
anatomy' of the classes by developing a conception of history as a succession able to innovate, to corr.rc up with new ways ol'prcducing, thanks to which the
of 'modes of subsistengLr' (see § 1.4 above). Marx took over this conception of productive forces develop.
history: thus The Gennun ltle ologv fitllows The Wealth rf Nutittrzs in treating Marx calls the labour-process 'the univcrsal condition fbr the metabolic in-
the clevel<tpment of the clivision ol' labour ars the ntotor of historical progress. teractiorr between nran and nature. the everlasting nature-irnposed condition of
Marx, however, elaborates a consiclerably more complex set of concepts than hur.r.rar.r cxistcnce'. As we saw in the prcvious section, he envisages the relation-
those used by Smith or Millar. The rnaster-concept of his theory of history is ship between hurnanity and its natural envinlrrrrtent as a dynamic one. Improve-
that of the lnode of procluction. Though this expression has several uses in Marx's ments in thc pnlductive tilrces allow hurnan bcings to gain greater control over
writings. its rnost imp«lrtant is to specify a number of basic economic types of their physical corttext. But the labour-proccss rcpresents only one aspect of
society. he ref-ers to the ancient (or slave), the Asiatic, the feudal. and thc social procluction:
capitalist rnocles of pnlduction. Each of these constitutes a distinctive s«tcitl-
economic system with its own 'laws tlf mtltion'. Thc tastc ol'the porridgc cltrcs not tell us who grcw the oats, ancl the process we
The Scots' 'ntt)des of sr.rbsistence' were characterized by the fbrm of tech- have prcscnted cloos rrol re veal thc conditions urrrler which it takes place, whether
nology on which they were based - hunting, pasturage, agriculture, and manu* it is taking place urrdcr the slave-owner's brutal lash or the anxious eye of the
facture. As the list just given indicates, Marx's modes of production are capitalist. whether Cincinnatus undcrtakes it tilling his couple of acres, or a sav-
distinguished. in the first instance, by the social relations they involve. Each ase, when he lays low a wild beast with a stone.rH
nrode is in fact a complex, internally diftbrentiated entity. It combines a given
level of development of the productive forces with a specific set of production To answer these questions it is necessary to cclnsider the relations of produc-
relations (or, as Marx sometimes puts it, social relations of production). The tion. These consist fundarnentally in the social relations of efl-ective control
productive fbrces consist. in the first instänce, in the basic eletnents of produc- over the procluctive forces: 'Whittever the sociitl tbrm of production, workers
tion - hurnan labour-power and the material means of production it ernploys. and means of production always rernain its fhctors . . . For any production to
U K. Marx, Glrorrlr'r.s.rr, (Harmonclsworth. lc)73), p. 134.
rr' '' K. Mlrrr . ('trltitttl 1.1 r'ols. I Ilrrrnor.rdsrvrlllh. l()7(r li | ). l. 190 I
Mitr'. ltt.52. CW XXXIX, pp. (r2. (r.5. 111r. .
Lellcr lo Wcytlcrttcycr. -5
86 Marx Marx 87

take place they must be connected. The particular form and It'trttlc irr which this Marx develops and elaborates the complex set of distinctions which consti-
connection is effected is what distinguishes the different ecottrttttic epochs of tutes his theory of nrodes of production in the course of writing the vast body of
the social structure.'re The nature of- this 'connection' betwccrt labour-power manuscripts devoted to the study of one particular mode - capitalism - and
and the means of production depends crucially on who controls tltetn. Where culrninating in the three volumes of Cupital(1867. 1885, and 1894). Here his
they are controlled by the direct producers themselves, either collcctively (as starting-point is provided by classical political economy, and in particular by
under primitive or advanced communism) or individually (as in ccrtain egali- Ricardo, who does indeed portray the class structure of modern society as an
tarian peasant societies), the scope for class difTerentiation is cxtremely lim- antagonistic one. since landlorcls, capiterlists, and workers can each only in-
ited. Classes and the conflicts between them arise where a minority controls the crease their respective shares of the net product by reducing those of the others
productive forces. (see § 1.5 above). But neither Ricardo nor arly other classical econorrrist distin-
Exploitation provides the link between nrinority control and class antago- guishes between the filrces and the relations r>f production. They are therefitre
nism. [t occurs wherever a groLrp has consolidated a sufhcient degree of control led to assurtle in parrticular that any complex prodr-rctive process must necessar-
over the productive forces to compel the direct producers to labour not simply ily be organized through investment by a private enterprerreur who clairns
to nteet their own needs, and those of their dependants, but also to support this cornpensation in the filrrn of profit.
clominant group. Exploitation thus consists in the appropriation of surplus Marx introduces the c«rncept of production relations in The Povcrtv rlf'
labour - that is labclur over and above the rtecessary labour required to support Philttsolthr,(ltl47) in order t«r distinguish capital. conceived as a historically
the clirect producers - by the nrinority controlling the productive tbrces. The specific sttcial relationship, frorn the means of prodr-rctir>n (rnachinery and the
result is the division clf society between exploiters and exploited. It is this nec- like) which it uses. The effbct of confusing tcchnokrgy and social relations, as
essarily antagonistic relationship which is the basis of class division. As Geoffrey the politicitl ec«lnotnists clo, is t«l eterniz.e h«lurge«ris society by presenting its
de Ste Croix puts it, 'clirss . . . is essentially the way in which exploitation is speci{ic I'eatures necessälry prereqLrisites of proclucti<ln:
reflected in a social structure'.r" Modes of pmduction itre thus to be diffbrenti-
ated, not according to tlre fbrrn of technology which they use, but in ternrs of Whcn thc ccoltolnisls say that prcscnt-day rclltior)s - lhc relutions ol'bourqcois
the kind of exploitation on which they rest: 'What distinguishes the diffbrent production - ilrc lutturitl, thcy irnply that thcsc arc thc rclatiolts in which wcalth is
crcittccl itncl prodttclivc lirrces tlevclopc:tl in confilnnity with thc laws ol'rraturc.
economic filrrnations of society . . . is the firrrrr in which this surplus-labtltrr is
Thcsc t'cllttions thcrclilrc arc tltcnrsclvcs nalrrral Iaws inrlcperrdcnt ol'thc inllu-
in each case extorted frorn the imnrediate producer, the worker.'rr
cttcc of'titttc.'l'hcy itrc ctcrrtal laws wlticlr rnusl ulways govcnr socicty. ThLrs llrcre
The resLrlting conception of the social structure is succinctly summarit,ecl in
Itas been histrlry. but thcrc is rro longcr lrry.r'
this famous passage:
Neccssarily, therelore, Marx's star.tcc t«lwnrds classical political ccolr«lrny is
The specific fbrnt in which unpaid surplus-labour is purrtped <lut of the dircct
a critical ot'lc - hc hoth appxlpriatcs and lranslirrnts its lcacling thcories by ap-
prrtclucers determines the relationship of dontination altd scrvitttdc. its this grows
proachirtg thcttt frrttr within il vcry clil'l'orcnt li'anrcwork. ThLrs he tlkes ovcr
directly out of production itself and reucts back on it in tut'tt as a dcternlinant. On
this is based the entirc configuration ol'the cconornic coltrtttunity arising fkltn the' Ricardo's labour thcory ol'valuc, but rnakcs it thc basis ol'his irccor-rrrl ol'capi-
actual relltions ot'production, and hencc als«r its sprccilic politictl lilrrrt. It is in talist expl«rit:-ttion. Clapitalisnt is whitt Marx calls a systcnt of gcncralizcd conr-
each case the direct relationship of the owners of the conclitions of prodr,rction - a modity productiotr - in other worcls, the pnrducts ol'labonr typically take the
relationship whose particular lirrrn naturally corresponds ttl a certain levcl o1'clc- fonn tlt'cotttttroditics which arc bought ancl sold on thc rnarket. Their nrarket
velclpment of the type and ntiutner ol' labour, ancl hence ttl its socii,tl procluctivc prices tend to gravitate around their values - that is, thc socially necessilry
power - in which we find tlre innerrnt>sf secret, the hidden basis of the cntirt' labour tirne requirecl to produce therr-r. But labour'-powcr itself is a cornrnodity.
social structure, and hence also the politicat fbrm ol'the rclationship of sover- In other words, capitalist relations of production presuppose the separation of
eignty antl dependence. in short. the specilic firnn of the state in cach case.r' the direct producers fi'oltr the nleans «rf production - the ofien brutal process
of dispossessing peasants of their land that Marx describes in the English case
in part 8 of Cupitul. volurne I.
Ibid., II, p. 120. The expropriation of the peasantry gives rise to the peculiarly ambigLroLrs
G. E. M. cle Ste Croix. The Clos,s .9truggle irt the Atu-ient Greek World (London. l9tt l). p. -5 I tieedom of the worker under capitalism: he is 'fiee in the double sense that as it
Mlrx. (ir7rilr11. I, p. 325.
Ilritl.. lll, p t))1. '' CW VI. p. l7J.
B8 Marx Marx 89

free individual he can dispose of his labour-power as his own commtldity, and process governed by natural laws beyond human control. The extreme verslon
that, on the other hand, he has no other commodity fbr sale . . ' he is tiee of all of this fetishisrn is what Marx calls the 'trinity formula' developed by post-
the objects needed for the realization of his labour-power'.24 The relationship Ricardian economists, according to which the three 'factors of production' -
between worker and capitalist on the labour tnarket is sirnilarly ambiguous. In land, labour, and capital - each derives an income (respectively, rent, wages,
formal, legal terrns, they are equal, since the worker is not a slave or a serf and interest) by virtue of its contribution to the productive process. This theory,
subject to ihe direct physical power of his or her prospective employer' But in which completely eflaces the distinction between the fbrces and relations of
1..ul t..*r, those of the relations of production, they are unequal, since the worker production,
must sell his or her labour-power in order to live while the capitalist controls
the means of production which the worker lacks. The result of their market cornpletes the rnystification o1'the capitalist rnocle of production, the reillcation of
exchange is thus a bargain on unequal terms, as a result of which the worker is social relations. the immediate coalescence ol'the rnaterial relations of produc-
exploited. tion with their historical and social specilicity: the bewitchecl. distorted. topsy-
Marx's account of this process clepends critically on the distinction between turvy world haunted by Monsieur le Capital and Madame Ia Terre, who are at the
sitme time social characters and things.r"
labour ancl labour-power. Labour-pclwer is a commodity like any other, and it
therefbre has a value that consists in the value tlf those goods and services
What c«rmmo«Jity f'etishisrn thus u..r,r, is not simply the contracliction be-
which the worker must purchase in order to live ancl that is represented by the
twecn capital and labour'. Marx in ljrct identi{ies two l-undamenlal conllicts con-
wage he or she is paicl. The use ctf this labour-power consists in the activity ol'
stitutive «rl'thc capitalist n.rocle o1'prodr-rcti<ln. The first consists in the exploitittion
Iabour. Labour, accorcling tcl the labour theory (ll' value, is the source of the
of wage-labour, the second arises fi«lrn the competitive accumulation of capital
value of commodities. Now the worker typically creates lnore value in a work-
and is rcsponsiblc lirr the regular econornic criscs to which bourgeois society is
ilg diry than the value ol his or her labour-power. F<lur hours may be takerr up
creates value equal ttl that of the consumer goods
liable. This rnoclc ol' production is distinguishcd frorn earlicr firrms ol'class
*ith n...rsary labour. which
socicty by, arnong othcr things, thc lirct that the prirtte ob.iectivc of exploitation
the daily wage can purchase; the other fbur htturs, of surplus labour, creilte
is not the consurnption ol'thc cxploitcrs thernsclves. Thc bulk of thc surplus
surplus vtilue tbr the capitalist, value tor which hc has advanced no comesponding
valuc e xtractccl fronr the wrlrkins class is rcinvested irr the e xpansi«rn and irn-
value. The prolrts of capital consist in this surplus vitlue. representing the wtlrk-
provcrlrcnt ol' productiort.
er's unpaicl surplus labour, and thus, Marx claims, are n«lthing but the tiLrits ol'
This proccss. the accunrulation ol'capital, lrad alrcatJy hccn highlighted by
Snrith ancl uther political ccorrornists. Marx's account ol'its causcs is rrot l'unda-
This argument posits a systernatic cliscrepancy between how things appcar
'the spherc mcntally clil'l'clerrt ll'onr theirs, hut it scts thcrrtt in :r bnraclcr histrlrical corttcxt,
and how they really arc in capitalist society. The surl'itcc consists in
and his asscssnrcnt «ll' its consequerrccs docs part conrpany lirlrn thcirs. Thc
of circulation or comrnodity-exchange', of nrarket transactions such as th«rsc
bourgcoisie, hc argLlcs, is a clilss dividecl ar)rong cotnpctittg. nrutttally antago-
between capitalist and worker. These apparently ctlnsist i11 saL:hanSes betweert
nistic, capitals: 'Capital exists anclcan only cxist as rnirny capitals.'17 Irrdiviclual
fr-ee and equal commoclity-owners. 'a very Eden o1'the innate rights ol' tttittt . . .
capitalists conrpctc with each othcr in ordcr to gain lilr thernselves thc largcst
the exclusive realrn o1'Freedom, Equality, Property and Benthanl'. Beneath thc
possible share of the surplus value thcy havc collcctivcly extracted fhlm the
surfirce, however, once we enter 'the hiclclen itbtlde tlf prtlduc{.i{)ll', wt) discovcr
working class: 'Thc capitalists, likc hostile brothers, dividc arnong thernselvcs
that the worker is exploitecl. An understanding of thc underlying structtlre ol'
the loot of other people's labour.'r*
the capitalist econorny is, however. irnpeded by the very operation tlf that
It is this process ol'cornpetition which is rcsponsible lor the accurnulation of
economy. The fäct that the products of hurnan labour circulate tln the Irlarket
capital. Marx rcjects any cultural or psychological explanation firr the priority
gives rise to what Marx calls 'the f-etishism of the conrrnodity': 'the definite
the capitalist gives to accurnulation: 'in so firr as he is capital personified, his
social relation between men thenrselves . . . assunles here, fbr them, the tantas-
motivating firrce is . . . but the acquisition and augmentation of excharrge-
tic fbrm of a relation between things'.rs
values . . . As such. he shares with the miser an absolute drive towards self'-
Since the social relationship between producers is rnediated by the exchange
enrichment. But what appears in the miser as the mania of un individual is
of their products, the market economy Comes to be Seen as an autonolllous
16 Ibid., III, p. 969 (translation rnodified).
rr Murx. Cultitol.l, pP. 272-3. '' Marx, GruntJri,yse, p. 414.
ri lbitl.. l, pP. 279 ttO' l6-5. '* K. Marx.'I'ltcrtric.t of .Strrytlus-Vultrt (3 vols. Moscow. l()(r.l 721. II. p.29
90 Marx Marx 91

in the capitalist the effect of a social mechanism in which hc is rrrcrcly a cog.'2e other means of production (the rationale for these names is that only variable
An individual firm which fails to match its rivals' investrncnt irr pxrductivity- capital is responsible for the self-expansion of capital, since Iabour is the source
enhancing innovations will find itself undercut and driven oul ol'business. This of surplus value). The investment imposecl on capitals by corlpetition tends to
is the 'social mechanism' that promotes capitalism's tenclcncy to expand the be labour-saving - in other words, it increases the productivity of labour by
productive forces. The peculiar dynamism and instability ol'bourgeois society allowing f.ewer workers to prclduce a given output with the help of ntore ma-
arise from this tendency: chinery. The ratio of constant to variable capital what Marx calls the organic
composition of capital - therefbre rises. A given investment is theretbre liable
The bourgeoisie cannot exist withourt constantly revolutionizing the instmments to ctlnsist in a larger proportion of capital invested in the means of production
of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with thern the whole and a smaller prtlportion invested in labour-power than irr the irnmecliate past.
relations of society . . . Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted dis- But clnly labour-power creates value and surplus value. If the total investment
turbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish grows relative to the variable capital invested in labour-power, then the rate of
the bour-ueois epoch lionr all carlicr ones. All tixed, fast-frozen relations, with
profit - the retttrn tlre capitalist rnakes on this total investrrren[ rnust lall.
their train of ancient and veneritble prejudices and opinions. are swept away, all -
An obvious ob.iection to this theory is that it is sr.rrely irrational firr capitalists
new-tirrmed ones become anticprated befirre they can ossifi. All that is solid melts
into air, all that is holy is prolhned, antl rnan is at last cclmpelled to face with sober
to undertakc investntents which lcad to a lull in thc rate ol'prolit. Marx's expla-
senses. his real conditions of lil'c. and his re lations with his kind.r0 natitltt appears ttl lack whitt are sometirnes callcd 'rnicrofounclations' in other
wtlrds' it gives no ilccoLlnt ttl'the tnolivations which w6ulcl leacl capitalists t.
These celebratccl lines f«lrn the Conutruttist Mcrnifesto, written shortly bc- prtlducc this resLllt. In firct, Marx does provide such an account. He suggests
fbre the 1848 rcvolutions, explain the 'everlitsting uncerterinty and agitation' ol' that innovatiotls are initiated hy sonlc incliviclual capitalist wh«r undcrtakes ar
modern times as a consequcnce of the particular rnotivations which capitalist productivity-cnhancirrg investltrent bccausc it will l«rwcr his costs 9f precl1c-
production relatir>ns encoLrrage in econonric actors. But, if tlris condition is thus titln below thc avcragc filr his scctor. The innovatur is the rcby able to reap extra
historically situated. its ternrination is also ann«runcecl. Capitalisnr is not thc pKl[its itttcl to ttndel'cut his l'ivals. Thcy in tunr rnr.rst copy his il'they
cnd of history, nrercly a transitory lirrrn ol' social prcduction. The very tcrt- itrc to stay in business. Once thcy d«r so, itvcragc costs irr thc scct«rr l)rll t«l the
dency towards capital accunrr"rlation thaL is thc source of its dynamisrl also lovel cstahlishcd hy thc inltovatrlr. His spccial actvantage clisappcars, but, 1s ir
reveals its inhcrent lirnits. result tll'this routld «rf intt«rvitliolt. the orgarric colrrpositiorr of capital has risen,
In the third volunre ol'Cupit«1, Marx cliscusscs thc tenderrcy of thc ratc ol' arld so thc overall ratc «rf profit firlls. A scric:s ol'inclividLrally rati11lal dccisi«lns
profit to fhll which Ricardo hacl alrcady p«rstulatccl (sce § 1.5 above). Ricarclo produccs a gltlhally irrali«rrtitl rcsult. Snrith hacl pointctJ t9 the way in which
based his explanation <11-this terndency on Malthr"rs's law ol'population: dinrirt- individLlal acti«ltts corttbine to protlucc unintcnclccl conscquences (see 1.3
ishin-g returns in agriculturc woulcl rnake it rnore expensive to producc filocl abtlve): herc, htlwcvcr, thcrc is no'invisible hancl' to cr.rsurc that thcse conse-
ancl thercby cirLrse wa-scrs lo risc ancl prolits to lall. Hcnryk Grossrnan clcscribcs qucr)ccs rnaxirnize tlre gencral wcllirrc.
this theory as 'pseudo-dynantics, thc dynarnic lactrlr is not inhercnt in the Tw<l tlthct' I'caturcs ol'Marx's thcrlry «lf whitt he calls 'the law of thc tcnclcncy
econonric process itself, but is rathcr a rtaturitl lorcc which inl'luenccs the tlf thc ratc of prtlfit ttl f all' are worth noting. First, whercas Ricarc6 cxpl,ins
economic process fr«rrn the outsidc'.tr Marx, by contrasl, trcats thc tcndcncy falling prolits by firlling productivity (specifically in the agricultural sector),lirr
of the rate of prolit to lirll as a consequence «rl'the intrinsic charactcr o1'capital- Marx thcy are a conseqLtence of ri,sing productivity. The growth ol' nteirns sl
isrn its a socio-economic systern. production relative to laboLtr-power represc'nts the increa.seci p«rductivity of
Central to his acc«runt is the suggestion that capital accur-nulation will pnl- labcltlr: each workcr operates a larger quantity of rnachincry ancl processes more
gressively change the structure ol'production itself. To conceptualize this struc- raw materials in order to produce a greater number of goods. Yet the expression
ture Marx distinguishes between variable capital, which is invested in employing in value terms of this development of the productive fbrces is the risingorganic
labour-power. and constant cerpital, the valLre of machinery, raw materials, and composition of capital and hence a fall in the rate of profit: 'The progressive
tendency fbr the general rate of prolit to fall is thus simply the expression,
rq pecttliar to the cupitalist mode of production, of the progressive development
Marx, Capitd,l, p.739.
'ro CIYVI, p.487. of the social productivity of labour.'32
'r II. Grossrnann. 'Marr. Classicirl Political Econolt.ty and the Prohlenr of Dynamics',11. Capitol
ttttrl ('ltt,:.s.3 (l()17\. p.67. '' Mitrx, (.rt1t11q1l.lll. p il<).
92 Marx Marx 93
Secondly, Marx only posits a tendenc), of the rate of profit to lall rather than At a certairl stage of development, the material productive fbrces of society conle
an absolute trend. He argues that there are 'counteracting influcnccs at work, into conflict with the existing relations of production or - this merely expresses
checking and cancelling the effect of the general law, and giving it simply the the same thing in legal terms - with the property relations within the framework
I character of a tendency'. Indeed: 'the same causes which produce a fall in the of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development these relations
general rate of prolit provoke counter-efTects that inhibit this fall, delay it and turn into their f-etters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution.r5
in part even paralyse it'. Marx discusses various such'counteracting factors',
though perhaps the rnost interesting of these - recurrent economic crises - is Each mode of production thus experiences, broadly speaking, two phases -
not fbrmally listed as one. 'Crises are never more than momentary and violent the first in which the relations of production stimulate the development of the
solutions of the existing contradictions,' he argues, 'violent eruptions that re- forces of production, the second in which they becorne limits to further eco-
establish the disturbed balance for the time being.' Crises occur when the fall in nomic growth. A peculiarity of the capitalist mode of production is that both
the rate of profit makes new investment irrational. Output and employment fäll, these phases are to some degree integrated in the trade cycle, growth and stag-
and firms go bankrupt. This process represents the destruction of capital, since nation succeeding each other during the course of each individual cycle. How,
assets decline in value and may even be physically scrapped. The effect is to then, do these structuralcontradictions, the result of tendencies inherent in every
reduce the overall amount of capital in the economy. But the t-alling rate of mode of production, bring abr>ut social revoluticln, and thus the establishment
profit originated in the fact that total investnlents had risen relative to the source of new production relations perrnitting the further dcvclopment of the prclcluc-
of surplus value, narnely labour-power. The destruction of capital during a re- tive filrccs'?
cession, by reducing the size of these investments, will tend to restore the rate It is here that the class struggle assumes particular irnportance. Marx ancl
of profit to a level where economic expansion can be resumed: Engels gave their most precise formulatir>n of its role in 1879, near the end of
the fbrmer's lif'e: 'For almost 40 years we have ernphasized that the class strug-
The periodical devaluation of the existing capital. which is a means, immanent to gle is the ilnlnediate motive filrce of history and, in particullar, that the class
the capitalist rnode of production, fbr delaying the tall in the prolit rate and acceler- struggle between bourseoisie and proletariat is the great Iever of modern social
ating the accumulation of capital-value, distLrrbs the given conditions within which revolutitrrl.'r" To call the class struqgle 'the intmctliute ntotive fbrce of history'
the process of circulation and reproduction-process of capital take place, and is suggests that there is a tnore fund:.rnrental one behind it. Marx in fact posits two
therefore accompanied by sudden stoppages and crises in the production process.I mechanislns tlt'historical change - the tendency trlr structural contradictions to
develop between the firrces and relations ol'production, and the class struggle
Economic crises are thus 'immanent' to the capitalist mode of production as arising frorn the division of society between exploiters and exploited. The latter
both a consequence of. and a means of temporarily overcoming, the tendency of is a chrtlnic t'eature of every class society - 'an uninterru;ttecl, now hidden, now
the rate of profit to fall. Yet the fact that stable economic growth can only be open fight'. in the words of the Munife,sto - but it becomes more intense when
restored for a while by such disruptive means is a sign of the inherent limits of a systelnic crisis devclops, uslrering in 'an epoch of s«lcial revolution'.r7
bourgeois society: 'The true barrier of capitalist production is capital itself.'34 Dtt such periods of acute class struggle inevitably produce social revolution
The business cycle of boom and slump which Marx was the first systematically to itself'/ Nunterous colnmentators have been quick to clairn that Marx believed
analyse arises from the extreme tensions caused by the subordination of the de- that they d<t, itnd accordingly to ascribe to him a fatalistic or deterministic con-
velopment of the productive forces to the priorities of competitive accumulation. ception of history. There are certainly passages in his writings which support
such an interpretation. Thus, afier describing the expropriation of the small
producers during the phase of the 'prirnitive accumulartion' of capital, Marx
4.3 Class struggle and revolution declares: 'Br"rt capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a natural
process, its own negation. This is the negation of the negation' in which the
The conflict which Marx discerned between the forces and relations of produc- capitalist expropriators are themselves Here we see the influ-
tion in capitalist society was, he believed, merely one instance of a larger pat- ence on him of the teleological philosophy of history developed by Hegel and
tern. Successive modes of production have each experienced a systemic crisis
deriving from this same conflict: '5 K. Marx , A Corttributiort to the Critique Ltf Political Et:onon\,(London. 197 l). p. 2l .

I Ibid.. III. pp. 339,

"' CW XXIV, p.269.
lhid.. lll. p.3-5tt.
-1.+5. 3-5tt.
" CW VI, p. -ltl2.
" 'n Mllrx, ('tt1tit,rl. l. p. t)'rt).
94 Marx Marx 95

inherited by Feuerbach, according to which alienation is it ncccss:rry phase of as thechief victim of bourgeois society. But, precisely because of its sufTerings
development in order to achieve the full. enriched self'-consciottsttcss that is the and deprivations, the working class was thought to be incapable of undertaking
goal of the dialectical process (see §§2.2 and 4.1 above). independent political action. Social change would come about as a result of the
Yet much of Marx's thinking is hard to reconcile with such u historical tele- action of an enlightened elite, whether this was identified with progressively-
ology. 'Men rnake history,' he famously wrote, 'but they do nttt Itritke it just as rninded businessmen, as it was by Fourier who hoped to persuade them to
they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by thclnselves, but finance his phalansteries, or with the kind of revolutionary conspiracies to
under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted fiom the past.'3e which Auguste Blanqui and other early French communists devoted their pol-
Human action is constrained, this passage suggests; it is subiect in particular to itical activity.
the structr-rral limits constituted by the forces and relations of production, but it Marx believed that neither gradual refbrm nor insurrectionary putsches could
is not determined in such a way as to make what happens the inevitable conse- fundamentally transform society. He also rejected the idea that the working
quence of these limits. In the even more celebrated opening lines of the Mani' class was too corrupted and distorted by its rnaterial situation to carry out a
'each time ended, either in the revolution as 'bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to
.festo, Marx says that the class struggle in the past
revolutionary rbconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the society'.12 His opposition to what he regarded as elitist conceptions of social
contending classes'. This suggests that the systemic crisis of a mode of produc- change did not mean that Marx deniecl the existence of obstacles to revolution.
tion poses alternatives rather than deternrining oLltcomes. But the same chapter On the contrary, his theory of ideology, first devel«rped with respect to religion
concludes with the prediction that the 'tall the bourgeoisie] and the victory (see §4.1 above), atsserted that social mechanisms caused the widespread ac-
of the proletariat are equally inevitable'.40 ceptance of beliefs supprlrtive of'the existing rlrder. Thus:
Two poles can thus be detected in Marx's thought, each resting on one of the
The icleas ol'the ruling class are in every cpoch the nrling ideas: i.c., thc ruling class
mechanisms of historical change he posits - the tendency for the productivc
which is the ruling nruteriulfirrcc ol'society is at the sarnc tir-ne its ruling intellect-
forces to develop, on the one hand, with the irnplications of inevitable progress
rrrrl lirrcc. The class which has thc nlctrls ol'rnaterial production at its disposal,
this can be made to carry, and the class struggle, on the other, full of contingerl-
cottscrptcntly also controls lhe nreans of rncntal production, so [hat thc ideas of
cies and uncertainties. Later Marxists would gravitate towards one of thesc thosc who lack thc nreans ol'rncntal prlduction irrc on the whole sub.icct to it.a'
poles - for example, Kautsky towards the first and a lnore fatalist version tlf
historical materialism (see §-5.2 below), Lukäcs towards the second and a thetlry This passagc li'orn Tltc Gcnnun ldcolog.v asserts what is sonretirncs called
of class subjectivity (see §9.1 below). the 'drlrninant ideology thesis': the social powcr o1'the exploiting class alklws
Marx's account of socialist revolution certainly inclines in the latter direc- it to irnpose its ideas on socicty gerrcrally. This the«ll'y bcars at lcast a lirnrily
tion. His theory of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall does not imply that resernblance to thc Enlightenrnent critique oIorganized rcligi«ln as a c«rnspiracy
capitalism is liable to break dclwn simply because of its economic c<lntraclic- of priests and rulcrs: both sccnr lo view the rnasses as passive rcccptaclcs firr
tions (some later Marxists did seek to develop a theory of capitalist collapse, the 'ruling ideas'. The theory of c«rnrrn«ldity l'ctishisrn developed in Cupitol
most notably Rosa LuxemburginTlrc At't'utnu\utittn ot''Cu1titulII9I3l, but suclr (see §4.2 above) posits it dil'l'erent nrechanisnr which does not presume on rnass
attempts were always fiercely contestecl by other Marxist economists). Mitrx's passivity. The daily workings ol'the rnarket economy cncourage individuals to
own expectations fbr the downfall of capitalism depended crucially on the cle- see it irs iln elutononroLrs proccss g«rverned by rratural laws. This percepti«ln is
velopment of the workirrg class into a self-conscit-rus political subject capable not sirnply an error: 'To the producers . . . thc social relations between their
of taking control of society. Socialist revolution is indeed necessarily a process private labours appear asv,ltrtt they- are, i.e. they do not appear as direct social
of selJ'-emancipation: 'The emancipation of the working class ntust be achieved relations between persons in their wnrk, but rather as rnaterial relations be-
by the working class itself.'ar tween persons and social relations between things.'aa The social relations
In thus making working-class self'-ernancipation the key to social transfitr- between producers are mediated by the exchange of their products on the
mation Marx was going against the mainstream of contemporary radicalthought. market: it is this real f'eature of a cornmodity economy which fäcilitates the
The Utopian socialists certainly thought of the ernerging industrial proletariat perception of capitalism as a natural phenomenon outside human control.

re CWXl.p. 103. CW Y, p.7.

1o CiV VI, pp. 4ti2.496. ClYV. p.59.
1t ('W XXIV. p. 2(r9. Marx. ('rt1ti1,11.1. p. 166 (emphitsis atlilcd)
96 Marx Marx 97

exploiting class might exercise its political domination indirectly - neither in

The class struggle represents the main counter-force to such pressures to
Napoleon II['s Second Empire (1851*70) nor in post-Refbrm Britain, Marx
accept the existing order. Marx sees this as arising in the first instance from the
believed, did industrial capital directly exercise political power, even though
economic conflict within the process of production over the distribution of the
the state still promoted its interests, but universally '[p]olitical power . . . is
net product between wages and profits. Contrary to legend. he does not accept
merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another'.48
the Malthusian 'iron law of wages', according to which workers' incomes tend
This theory of the state explains his further belief that the 'dictatorship of the
towards a bare minimum of physical subsistence (see § I .5 above). On the con-
proletariat' was a necessary prerequisite fbr the achievement of communism.
trary, the share of profits (and hence of wages) may be set anywhere within the
In overthrowing capitalism, the workers would have to forge their own state in
limits set by this physical minimum and the net value created by the workers:
order to overwhelm bourgeois resistance and lay the basis of the future society.
'The fixation of its actual degree is only settled by the continuous struggle be-
Marx's view of what this state would be like became rnore definite as a result of
tween capital and labolrr . . . The matter resolves itself into a question of the
the Paris Commune of lU7l, when the city's krwer classes briefly took control.
respective powers of the combatants.'15
He described the Cotnrnune as 'the political fbrm at last discovered under which
This analysis leads Marx (going once more against the socialist orthodoxy of
to work out the economic emancipntion of labour'. The f'eatures of the Com-
his day) to view trade unions positively, since the better organized workers are,
mune which he stressed were those which broke down the distinction between
the better they will färe in the struggle over distributiotr. Trade unions can,
the state apparatus and the mass of the popurlation and extended popular par-
however, only combat the ef'fbcts of capitalist exploitation rather than abolish it
ticipatirln in governrnent - the aholition ol-the sLanding anny and the police,
altogether; the capitalists' control over investment, and their consequent power
their replitcemenf by a popular rnilitia, the election subject to the right of irnme-
to increase the rate of unemployment and thereby to undermine workers' bilr-
diate recall of .judges ancl other public officials, and the reduction of their sala-
gaining position, gives them the ultimate aclvantage in purely distributional
ries to the average wagc. Indeed, the Conrnrune 'was a Revolution against the
conflicts. The most important function of trade unions frlr Marx is their role in
Stute itsclf. this supcrnaturalist abortion ol-society, a resullption by the people
increasing workers' selt'-confidence and strengthening their organization. The
filr tlre people, of it.s own social lit'e'.r')
experience of class struggle, even over relatively narrow economic issttes, helps
Already in the early lU40s Marx hacl fircusccl his criticisrn on the nrodern
the workers to transfirrrn themselves from mere victirls of expl«lititti«rn inlo
state as an rthstracti«ln alicrrated lirlnr an atornized civil society and propt-rsed its
self--conscious subiects increasingly willing to take on the task of sociitl trans-
dissolutiott along with that ol'civil socicty itsclf (scc §4.1 abovc). This therne
formation. The latter process must thus be underst<lod as the 'coinciclence ot'
continucs to inforrn his later political writings, where it is not only integrated
changing of circumstances ancl of htttnan activity <tr sell'-change'.4t'
into his ntature theory ol'history, but also reinlilrced by a I'erocious critique of
The trajectory of the working-class movement would be tiorn econorrric is-
the hr.rreaucrittic ttatut'c ol'thc rtroderrt statc. Thus Mitrx, in it rnanner strikingly
sues concerning either individual etnployers or groups of thern to p«tlitical oncs
sirnilar to Trrcqucvillc's, traccs thc devcloprncnt ol'the Frcnch statc, 'with its
involving confrontation with the state (Marx was here to some degrce gcneral-
enol-tnous bureaucratic and military organizatiorr, with its extensive aurcl artifi-
izing from the experience of the early British workers' n.lovernent as it clevel-
cial state ntachinery, with a host ol'ol'licials nunrbcring hall'a nrillion, besides
oped from early attempts to tbrm tracle unions to the Chartist derrtitntls lirr
an anny ol'another halla nrillion, this appalling parasitic bocly', and argues that
manhood suffrage in the 1840s). Already in his early writings Marx had
'all Icvolutiotts pcrf'cctcd this rnachinc instcad of breaking it. Thc parties that
criticized the limited character of the 'political enrancipation' achieved by the
conteltdcd in turn for dornination regarded possession ol'this huge state edifice
Frerrch Revolution: 'The so-called right,s o.f'mon... are nothingbut the rights
as the principal spoils ol'the victor.'50
of a memlter oJ'civil 'sociel.1', i.e. the rights of cgoistic man, of man separated
Socialist revolution, then, el.f'ects the destruction of this bureaucratic and
from other men and fiorn the community.' A fuller 'hurnan emancipation' was
military erpparatus, and replaces it with politiczrl institutions through which the
necessary to overcome the separation of the state fiom civil
working class directly participates in the process of government. This concep-
Once he had fbrmulated his nraterialist concepticln of history, Marx came to
tion of revolution indicates that Marx does not equate socialism with the expan-
see the kind of state produced by'political emancipation', the modern liberal
sion of state power, say, through the nationalization of the means of production.
parliamentary state, as, like indeed all states, a means of class domination. The

]lt CWVI. p. -505.
CW XX. p. 146. 're
16 ('lV V. p. 4. CW XXll. pp.334,486.
Str CW XI.
t' ('W Ill. pp. l(rl. l6li. PP I l(.5 (r.
rT 1l


9B Marx Marx 99

i On the contrary: 'Freedom consists in converting the state fiom an organ super- tinue afier classes have been abolished. Marx's vision of comrnunism is thus

imposed upon society to one completely subordinzlte to it.'sr Furtherrnore, Marx's closely connected with the theory of hurnan nature that continues to intbrrn his
view of socialism as self--emancipation seems to bear a family resemblance to mature writings.
the classical republican conception of liberty as the property of a collective Marx continues to command our attention not simply because of his enor-
ri agent (see § 1.5 above). Transformed and rendered self-confident through the
experience of the class struggle, the workers under the dictatorship of the prol-
mous influence. His social theory is comparable only to Hegel's in the complex
and integrated analysis it oftbrs of modernity within a broader interpretation of
etariat cease to be subjects and becorne citizens in the real sense of the word, history. Weber is perhaps the only modern social thinker whose writings match
collectively exercising self-mastery through their active participation in, and Marx's scope and depth (indeed, their historical range is much greater), but his
direction of, the political process. In this version. however, Rousseau's prob- is a much tenser, more arlbivalent theory, always, as it wele, on the verge of
lern of overcoming the conflict between the private and the general will is ap- breaking int«r l'ragments. But thus conrparing Marx with Hegel serves to high-
parently avoided, since it is the workers' cla,vs interest that leads them to light the reasons why so many express profound scepticism about hirtr. For, in
undertake 'universal emancipation'. Marx thus conceives the proletariat as the constructing a 'grand narrative' that claims in principlc to cornprehend the en-
'universal class' which Hegel had thought the bureaucracy to be. tire c«rurse t>l'history, is he not liable to a materialist reductionism as disabling
Even this universal emancipation is, however, merely a prelude to the attain- as Hegel's idealist recluctionisrn'l Most of the numerous detailed criticisrns of
ment of a developed communist society. Deeply critical of the Utopian social- individual aspects of Marx's thought (though not all - the issue of the internal
ists' attempts to anticipate the course of history by developing detailed accounts consistency of his economic theory has provoked extensive debate) - lbr ex-
of post-capitalist society. Marx says very little about comrnunism. In one of his ample, his supposed neglect of national and ethnic conflicts. and his apparent
last important texts, the Critique oftlrc Gotha Progrurnnre ( 1875), he suggests failure to anticipate capitalism's capacity to renew itsell'- as well as the assess-
that distribution in the 'higher phase of communist society' will be regulated by ment ol'the historical tate of his doctrine alier the Russian Revolution. turn
the principle 'From each according to his abilities, to eaclr according to his ultinrately orr this l-undarnental question. How well the tradition he filunded
needs.' Operating on this basis presupposes certain conclitions only gradually has been ahle todeal with this challenge nray enrerge in the rest ol'this book.
achieved afler the overthr<lw of capitalism, notably the transcendence of 'the
enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, irnd thereby
also of the antithesis between mental and physical labour', labour's becorning
'not only a means of lif'e but lif-e's prime want'. and the further gnlwth of the
productive fbrces 'with the all-round development of the individual'.sr
This passage shows Marx attempting to give a historically realistic arccount
of the conditir>ns on which a communist society would depend (how success-
fully is, of course, ilnother matter). It also presupposes the view of hunran
nature he had developed in his early writings, notably the Ec'ortorttic' und
Philosophit: Munuscript,s, where labour is affirrned as 'the essence of man' (see
§4.1 above). A society where labour is 'lif'e's prime want' is one where hurnan
beings are able to fulfil themselves as inventive social producers. It is because,
on this view, well-being consists in self--realization through creertive activity
that the members of communist society can be persuaded to accept a distrib-
utional principle which abjures material incentives and allocates on the basis of
need. Furthermore, since human beings fulfil themselves actively, socialist rev-
olution marks, not the end of history. but the end of the 'prehistory of human
society':53 history - the refäshioning of the world by social labour - will con-

CW XXLY,p.94.
CiV XXIV. p. tt7.
Mrrrx, ( iltlr'i lttt I i t ttt. 1'». 22

Life and Power



Now, we propose in the first place to show, that this law of organic progress is
the law of all progress. Whether it be in the development of the Earth, in the
development of Life upon its surface, in the development of Society, of Govern-
ment, of Manufäctures, of Commerce, of Language, Literature, Science, Art, this
same evolution fiom the sirnple to the complex, through successive differentia-

Life and Power tions. From the earliest traceable cosmical changes down to the latest results of

civilization, we shall find that the transfbrmation of the homogenous into the
heterogeneoLrs, is that in which progress essentially consists.r

Darwin thus cannot be seen as the parent of such views. The scientific model
ofl.ered by Sir Charles Lyell in his Principles of'Geologv ( 1830) - the recon-
struction of the historical past on the basis of inf-erences tiom unifbrm laws of
nature - exerted a powerful influence on Victorian social scientists. One of
the main problerns which their theories were constructed to address was that
5.1 Evolution before and after Darwin of the evidence of 'primitive' societies provided by archaeological evidence
and. more importantly, by the experience of colonial administration in Eu-
Marx's is the most important instance of the class of evolutionary social theo- rope's Asian and Atiican empires. The concept of a progressive evolutionary
sequence allowed practitioners nf the new discipline of anthropology (or ethol-
ries.It involves, in other words, a theory of history which ( l) distinguishes
between kinds of society (on the basis of the fbrces and relations of production ogy) both to affirm the continuity of human social filrms and to diffbrentiate
that prevail in them); (2) specifies the mechanisms which cause one kind of between 'bitrbarous' ancl 'civilizec'l' societies, with, of course, modern West-
society to change into another (contradictions between the fbrces and relations, ern civilization cilnstituting the chief'instance of'the latter. Thus the outcome
and class struggle); and (3) claims that these changes curnulatively represent of the c«rmparisons conclucted by Mainc in Anciant Luw,(ltl6l) is that 'the
the increase of a specific property (the development of the productive filrces). movcrncnt of the progressive s«lcicties has hitherto been a movernent.from
Stcttu.s lo Contnu'I', frorn f'eudal ancl Asiatic hicrarchy t<l nroclern bourgeois
Earlier versions of such theories of history had, of course, been developed dLrr-
ing the Enlightenment (see § 1.4 above). Around the rliddle of the nineteenth indiviclualism.r
Inasmuch as evolutionists such as Spencer clrew on evolutiorlary biology, it
century, however, a variant of evolutionary social theory became increasingly
tendecl to bc thc vcrsion cleveloped by Lanrarck.r In his Philo,yophic z.oologique
influential which treated the pattern of development of hurnan history as rncrely
a specilic case of the process of evolution at work in the living wclrld generally.
(1809), Lamarck ardvanccd thc idea of 'transfirrrnisrn': the existing world of
This developrnent is, of course, closely associated with Darwin's thcory ot' living organisms is the rcsult «lf the gradual rnodifications their ancestors un-
evolution by natural selection.r Yet the idea of an evolutionary conception o1' derwent over the course ol'tirne. These lranstilrmations constitute a directional
process, il rnoverncnt fiotn the sirnple t«l the cornplcx, that represents at the
both nature and society had been fbrmulated befbre his Origirt. of'Spec'ia,r was
published in 1859. Spencer wrote in an essay which appeared two years earlier: same time the progressive pcrl-cction «rf the living world: increased cornplexity
is a sign ol'greater perf'ecticln. This process is driven by two tbrces, a kind of
It is settled beyond dispute that organic progress consists in a change fiorn the inner drive that'ceaselessly tends to make organization more complex', and
homogenous to the heterogeneous. the adaptations which rlrganisms make to cope better with their environment.
Lamarck believed that organisnrs were so plastic that the action on them of
their environment would directly cause adaptive modifications in thern; he

r Charles Robert Darwin (ltt09-82): born ir.rto the English uppcr middle clasststr,rdied at Edin- r H. Spencer, E'^r'.rrr-y.r.' Scientil'i<', Politit'al, untl Speculatit'e (3 vols, London, l89l), I, p. 10.
burgh and Cambridge universities; abandoned the idea of taking the cloth firr scientific studies;
IJerbert Spencer ( 1820-c)3): the largely self'-educated author of a voluminous body of philosophi-
took part in HMS Beagle's scientific survey, I 83 1-6; fbrmulated the theory of natural selectiou in
cll, scierltific, sociological, and political writings.
1838, but only published it in 1859 atler A. R. Wallace developed a version of the same idea;
' H. S. Maine, Ancient Luw,ed. F. Pollock (London, 1901).p. 174.
intellcctually darirrg but personally timid - the prospect of contiontation sent him to bed with | .lc'an Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet. Chevalier cle I-anrarck (1144-lfl29): natural historiun:
stor.turclt I rotrhlcs.
hclltctl establish thc Nrttiorlrl Mttscunr <lf Ntrlrrrll [-lislory irr I'lrris ilr l7()-1.
102 Life and Power Life and Power 103

further argued that these adaptations would be passed on to the organisms' to a given environment, some variations will allow organisms to reproduce
descendants: 'the generation between the individuals in question preserves the better than others.
acquired modifi cations' .5 Frorn these premisses. Darwin drew the following conclusion:
Lamarck's theory of evolution is thus teleological, since the process of gradual
modification is governed by the goal of perfection, even if nature is no longer Owing to this struggle fbr life, any variation, however slight and fiorn whatever
cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species,
conceived as the creation of a divine artificer. Frangois Jacob writes:
in its infinitely complex relations to any other organic beings and to external
nirture, will tend to the preservation of that individual, antl will generally be in-
According to Lamarck, Iinality does not involve a primary intention, a decision to
herited by its oft.spring. The off.spring. also, will thr-rs have a better chance of
produce a living world and gradually guide its development. It is made up of

surviving, tor, of the many inclividuals which are periodically born, br"rt a srnall
short-term finalities, so to speak, each centred on the well-heing «lf an organisn-t
nurnber can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if
that is to be produced later, since adaptive intention always precetles realization.
usel'ul, is preserved, by the terrn Natural Selecti<ln.')
In the enil, the plan followed by nature is airned at providing the world with
always more complex, more pert'ect and better adapted organisms.6
The theory of natural selection ofl'ers an explanation of evolution that is,
as Elliott Sober puts it, 'selecticlnal' rather than 'clevelopnrental'.r0 Historical
One can understand why such a theory should appeal to those eager to present
materialisnr is an example of a developmental theory: according to Marx, soci-
their own society as the pinnacle of the entire evolutionary process: we shall
eties change as a result of the contradictions internal to thern. But. for Darwin,
see how this conception of change as a process of progressive difterentiation
evolution occurs not because individuals develop, but because they vary'. More
exerted a powerful influence on social theorists, commencing with Spencer
specifically, the f'act that sorne of these variations adapt the organisrns bearing
(§5.2 below). It is, however. crucial to understand that Darwin's theory of
them bettcr to their environment and that thesc organisrns are able to pass orr
evolution is radically at odds with this conception. In the Origin of'Species,
these variations to their descendants changes the cornposition of the population
he sought to establish two fundamental points. First, he offbred evidence of
of organisnrs over tirne - these clescertdants, other things bcing equal, come to
the fact of evolution - of 'descent by modification'. In other words, existing
represent a larger prop«rrtion ofthe population.
species of plants and organisms are not 'special creations'. as Christian tlrtho-
But, furthcr, as Jacoh puts it.'Ivlariation occurs randomly, that is, without
doxy still asserted, products of divine design, but are the descendants of earlier
any relation between cause and result.'rr This does not rnean that adaptive vari-
species. But Darwin's real originality lay in the explanation he tlf'fered firr
ations are sirnply accidents lacking any cilusal explanatiorr. On thc contrary,
evolution - natural selection: 'l am convinced that Natural Selectitln has been
Darwin was str«lngly influenced by Lyell's 'unifirnnitarian' assurnption that
the main but not exclusive means of modification.'7
the sarne cuuserl laws opcrate universally.The crucial point is that the causes of
Darwin indeed calls his book 'one long argument' tbr natural selection. This
variations have nothing to d«l with their potentially adaptive consequences.
argument is based on the following premisses. In the first place, 'many morc
Evolution is thus a hlind process, driven not as Lamarck claimed by an implicit
individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive . . . consequently.
force driving towards greater perl'ection, but by the interaction between inde-
there is a tiequently recurring struggle for existence'. Secondly, individual or-
pendently varying organisrns and their environmcnt. All thc diversity of lif'e is
ganisms vary, usually in small, but sometirnes in significant ways. Thirdly.
thus t<l be understood printarily as the consequence of 'this very slow, inter-
Darwin afhrmed 'the strong principle of inheritance': organisms are able ttl mittent action of natural selection'.rr
pass on variations to their offspring. He confessed to not understanding the
In fbrmulating the theory of natural selection Darwin was influenced by his
mechanisms through which this happened: 'Our ignorance of the laws of vari-
extensive reading of Scottish political economy. Sober points to the analogy
ation is profound.'8 (According to the 'Modern Synthesis' established in between Smith's 'invisible hand' (see 5\ 1.3 above) and the idea that 'the strug-
twentieth-century biology, inheritance operates through the genes - strings of gle for existence favours individual adaptive characteristics and thereby increases
DNA molecules which govern the manufacture of proteins - passed on by par- the level of adaptedness in the population'.r3 Darwin himself says the concept
ents to their offspring.) Finally. organisms exhibit differential fitness: relative
Ibid., p. ll5.
5 Quoted in F. .lacob. The Logic ofl.iving Svstems (London, 1974), pp. 141-8. 149'
E. Sober, The Noture o.f'Scl<,oion (Chicago, lL)93), pp. 147ff .

6 Ibid., p. 150.
Jacob, Logic,p.174.
7 C. Darwin,Tlrc Or,qin tl'Spc<'ies h),Meun,y of Nuturtrlselec'tion (Harmondsworth, 1968), p.69. I)arwin, Origin, p. 1-53.
n Ibitl.. pp. -115. 6l{. 102.
Sol'rcr. N«ttr t't'- p. I li().
104 Life and Power Life and Power 105

of the 'Struggle for Existence' is 'the doctrine of Malthus applied with mani- For a theory of society to be evolutionary three conditions must hold:
( l) The theory involves a typology of social fornts which potentiallt, has some
fold force to the whole animal and ve-{etable kingdoms'. But he is careful to
qualify this statement: '[ use the term Struggle for Existence in a large and kind of directionaliry ro it . . .
(2) It is possible to order these fbrms in such a way that the probability of
metaphorical sense'. ra
staying at the same level of the typology is greater that the probability of regress-
For one thing, success in this struggle does not consist in killing ofTrivals (as
is suggested by such lurid pictures of evolution as are invoked by Tennyson's (3) ln this ordered typology, there is a positive probability of moving fiom a
image of 'Nature, red in tooth and claw'), but in survival and, above all, in given level of the typology to the next higher level.r,)
reproductive success. For another the struggle need not be with other organ-
isms; it can be with the environment: 'there must in every case be a struggle firr Thus understood, an evolutionary theory nrerely implies that 'there is sonre
existence, either one individual with another of the same species, or with the process, htlwever weak and sporadic, which inrparts a clirectionality to move-
individuals of distinct species, or with the phvsit:ul contlition,; of'\ff?'.rs The use ments fiorn one filrm to another', but'there is no claim that societies have
Darwin makes of Malthus is thus a conrplex one: while the latter uses his theory needs tlr teleoltlgically driven tendencies towards achieving some final state'.2r
that population rises faster than food production irr an attempt to dernonstrate Darwin and indeed Marx are largely tree of evolutionism in this latter, tele-
that society cannot move beyond a condition of inequality, Darwin treats natu- ological sense. But, «rf course, there may be a considerable tliffbrence between
ral selection as a creative tbrce that is responsible firr the imnrense diversity of the actual content of a therlry and the version in which it comes to be wiilely
the living world. accepted and propagated. The enorrnous impact <lf Darwin's the<try of evol-
A further dif-fbrence with Larnarck is that Darwin is reluctant to depict the uti«rll by natural selection in late nineteenth-century Europe and Arnerica un-
evolutionary process as one of increasing perf'ection culrninating in the human doubtedly helped tu entrench an evolutionist vicw of the worlcl. More specifically,
species. When initially filrmulatirrg the concept of natural sclection in 1837 hc it was uscd tt>.jr"rstily both Western domination of the rest of the world an{ the
wrote: 'ltisabsurdtotalkofoneanirnal bcinghighcrthananother.Wc consider prevalence ol'/rti,r,scz.-./hirc capitalisrn in WesLenr societies themselves.
those, where intellectual fhculties arc most developed, as highest. - A bee d«lubt- Spcrlcer coincd the plrrase 'the survival ol'the littcst', which Darwin sub-
less would Iusel . . . instincts' irs a criteri«rn.rt'Elsewhcre he wr«lte: 'Ncver usc sequcntly adoptcd.rr This skrgi.ul appeared to lcgitirnizc cxisting social hier-
the words higher and l«lwer.'r7 In lhe Origin itscll'hc docs sornctirnes violatc archies as thc outcol'ltc ol' natural sclcction. Thus the Yale social scientist
this in junction. But at the sarne timc hc insists: 'l believe . . . in no Iaw o1' ncc- Williarn Grahant Sultrncr wrotc in ltttt3: 'Thc rnillionaires ilre a procluct ol'
essary devekrpment.'r8 As S«rber puts it, natural sclcctitllt, acting on the whole hody ol'nrcn to pick out those who can
mect llrc rccluircrncnt ol'certain work to bc clonc . . . Thcy gct high wages
Darwin thought ol'organisrrs us bcing rn«rdilicd by thcir lrxul cnvin rnnrcrrts; his

and live itt lr.rxury, but tlrc bargain is a g«rod one lrlr society.'r'Herc Srnith's
therlry ol'natural selcction givcs no rolc to the l-unrrrckian itlea . . . that e volution is
'invisihle hitnd'and Darwin's strugglc lilrcxistcrrce are brought togcthcr in thc
driven by sorne central lirrce that tends in all populations to p«rduco a singlc sor[ ol'
progressive change. Natural sclcction prcdicts a bush rathcr than a laddcr. Oppor-
idetllogicul synthesis that hits cornc to bc known as Social Darwinisrn.
tunistic populations cvolve in llrc various dircctions that cnvironrnents tirrtuitously Racist thcorizing was already well cstablishccl bcfbrc thc appcarancc ol'thc
make available; they do nol urrlirlcl in accrlrdance with sornc intcrnul tlynarnic. "' Origin, rIS we saw in §3.3 above. Nevertheless, as Richard Hof.stadter puts it,
'[a]lthough Darwinism was not thc prirnary source ol'the belligercnt ideology
lt is theretirre necessary to distinguish an evolutionary theory, either ol' and dtlgrnittic racism ol'the late nineteenth ccntury, it ctid bec«lrtre a new instnr-
nature or of history, fiom evolutionisrr. In the domain ol' social therlry, as ment in thc hands of the theorists of race and struggle.'ra [n Britain an«l the
Erik Olin Wright puts it, the latter involves the idea that 'societies inexorably United States this kind of thinking tended to take the form of 'Anglo-Saxonism':
develop towards some end-state of increasing adaptation to environmental as practised by E. A. Freeman, fbr example, the cornparative stu«ly of political
or material conditions'. By contrast, he suggests. institutions revealed the primacy even among Aryans of the 'Anglo-Saxon

Darwin. Origin, pp. I I6- 17.

Ibid., p. I l7 (emphasis added).
E. O. Wright. 'Ciddens's Critique ot Marx', Naw Lcji Re,,'it,w,,138 ( 198-l), p. 26.
ll Ibid. \
Quoted in A. Desmond and J. Moore, Darwin (London. 1992), pp.232.
Quoted in J. W. Burrow. introduction to Darwin, Origin, p.33.
H. Spencer ( I 864), The P rincipLes of Biology (2 vols. London, 1 898), I, pp. 530- I .
Darwin, Origin. p. 34fi. Quoted in R. Hofstadter, soc'ial Darn*ini,srn in American Thought (Boston, 1955), p. 58.
Sobct.. Nttttrn'. p 172. Ibid., p. 172.
irn lr

106 Life and Power Life and Power 107

race', distinguished by its (somewhat contradictory) capacity tbr both self'- of a very widely read literature by authors such as Ernst Haeckel and Wilhelm
government and the imperial stewardship of 'lesser' races. Bölsche devoted to the popularization of evolutionary biology. This grew out of
As rivalries among the Great Powers began to intensify towards the turn of earlier traditions, notably the thirly reductive scientific materialism developed by
the century, this cocktail of race theory and vulgarized Darwinism took on a Ludwig Büchner, Carl Vogt, and Jakob Moleschott in the 1850s - although it
more anxious and belligerent tone. Thus tl-re Revd Josiah Strong predicted in often also took over Romantic conceptions of the mystical unity of nature, as in
1885 that, as the land filled up, Bölsche's 'erotic monism'. The political bent of this popular Darwinism was
liberal-prcgressive and anti-clerical. In the repressive climate in which Bismarck
Then will the world enter upon a new stage of its history _ the .t'inult't»npetition of' introduced the Anti-Socialist Laws at the end of the 1870s, Darwinism was treated
ruce.rJor which tlrc AngkrSulon i.s baing .yc'luxtlctl.ll'l do not rcacl it amiss, this with hostility in conservative circlcs: the ultra-reactionary Krcu::.cittlrg even
powerful race will move down up«rn Mexico, down upon Central and South
blamed the atternpts on the lif'e of Kaiser Wilhelm I which provided the pretexts
America, out Lrporl the islands upon the sea, over upon Africa and beyond. And
for these laws on the 'ape therlry'. Meartwhile, acc«lrding to Alfred Kelly, at a
can anyone doubt that the result of this cornpetition of raccs will be the 'survival
time when state persecution dicl not prevent the rapid developnrent of the Social
of the fittest"J2s
Derrrocratic Party (SPD), 'Iwlith the exception ol'Bebel's Womeil und Stx'iuli:;rn,

popular Darwinisrn dorninated worker nonfiction reading.'18

In fhct, however, the reception of Darwin's thought cunnot be reduced to
Popular Darwinisrtr of this kind did rt«rl necessarily challcnge the racist as-
such racist and /aissez.-.faire appropriati«rns. Marx's very positive response to
sumptions which had beconre dceply enrbedclecl in Western culturc by this time.
the Origin is well known: 'Darwin's bor>k is very irlportant and serves me its a
'No woolly haired nation has cvcr hacl an irnp«rrlant history', Hacckcl declared.r''
natural-scientilic basis fbr the class struggle in history . . . Despite all deficien-
cies. not only is the death-blow dealt fbr the first tirne here to "teleology" in the
But the n-tost critical step towarcls a gcnuittely nlalign l'usion «ll'biology and
social therlry canrc at the begirrnirrg ol'thc twcnticth ccntury with the ittcrcasing
natural sciences, but its rational basis is ernpirically explainccl.'r('Engels citcd
acccptancc o1'August Wcisrnann's thcrlry that inherilancc dcpcnclccl on thc trans-
the theory clf evolution as one case <ll'the enrergence of a ntore historical corr-
missi«rn ol'itn irttnrortitl 'gcnn-plusrn' li'orn purcnts to ol'f'spring. This. togcther
ception of nature in the physical sciences o1'the clay. The parallels he detectcd
between Darwin and Marx encolrragcd hirn to filrrnulate the idea «ll'certain
within thc rcdiscovcry o1'Grcgor Mendcl's rcrscarchcs int«r the rnecharrisrtt of
universal dialectical laws at work in both the physical and Lhc social wrlrlds.
hercdity, laid thc basis lrlr rnodcrn gcnctics. lts short-tcrnr inrpact, howcvcr,
was to hclp cncouragc thc bclicl'that s«lcial phenonrcna wcrc to hc undcrstood
But Engels nevertheless insisted that evolution by natural selcction involvecl ir
in tcnns ol'thc biological conclitions unclerlying thcnr.
distinctly different causal pattern l'rorn that prescnt in human history. This clil-
Francis Galtrlrr hacl irrventccleugenics in lti(r.5. Basccl on tlrc assurnption that
f-erence arose crLrcially tiom hurnan bcings' ability consciously to rnonitor and
indiviclual abilitics were inhcritcd, it sought to study h«rw sclcctivc brcccling
control their actir>ns, and therefilre t«r rnake the ir hist«rry a lirr less blind process
coulcl scrvc to increasc tlrc cprality of thc huntan nrcc. G:rllort wrotc:
than that of other species:

Darwin did not know what a bitter sittire he w()tc on rnankind, and cspccially on his ll'il twcnticth pirrl ol'lhc costs unrl pains wc'r't- s1'rcnt irr nrcasurcs lor thc irttprovc-
countrymen, when he showed that tiee competition, the strugglc firr existence, which rncrrt o1'the hurnart ritcc thut is s1-lcnt on the irnprovcrttcltt ol'thc brced <lf lrrlrses
the econotnists celebrate as the highest historical achieve nrcnt. is the nornral state ol' antl cattlc. what a galaxy ol gcnirrs nrighl wc r.lot crcatc! Wc rnight intnrducc
the animul kingtk»n. Only conscious organization ol' social production, in which prophots and high pricsts of civilization into thc world as surely as we can prop-
productiort and distribution are carried on in a planrred way, can lifi nrarrkintl abovc agirtc idiots by urating <'rölitt,s. Mcn ancl wourcu of the present day arc, to thosc
the rest of the animal world as regards the social aspcct, in the sanrc way that pro- wc nright hope to bring into cxisterncc, what the pariah dogs ol'thc strccts of att
duction in general has done this firr nrankind in the specifically biologic:al aspect.rT Eastern lown arc [o our own higlrly-bred

The same complexity of response is to be fbund at the more popular level. The eugenicist movement took strength fronr the development of gene theory.
Thus in Germany, Darwin's main irnpact was to help encourage the development William E. Kellicott summed up its basic doctrine in l9l I : 'the Eugenicist

Quoted ibicl., p. 179. :n A. Kelly, The [)cscenr rtJ'Dorwin (Chapel Hill, l98l), p. 12tt.
26 Letter to Lassalle, l6 Jan. I 86 l, in Marx an«l Engels, Selected Correspontlence (Moscow, 1965), rq Quoted ibid., p. I 17.
p. 123. "' F. Galton ( I 86-5). 'Hereditary Talent and Chalacter', in R. Jacoby and N. Clauberman , eds. The
r/ li. Iirtgcls. l)itrlrt tit.t ttl'Ntt!rrn' (Moscow, 1972), p. 3.5. lJcll ('rrrve Debate (New York. 1995), pp. 394-5.
IT ll

108 Life and Power Life and Power 109


believes that no other single factor in determining social conditions and Spencer's substantive social theory thus reflects the belief that'[a] Society is
practices approaches in importance that of racial structural integrity and an Organism.'34 Conceiving society in these terms is an old conservative standby,
character'.3r Eugenics was thus a form of biological determinism - that is, it used (as Shakespeare does in the opening scene of Coriolanrzs) both to assert
asserted ( 1) that social structures are caused by, and therefore must be explained the mutual interdependence of the different classes, and to remind the lower
in terms of, biological structures, and (2) that'race' , conceived as a set of fixed orders of their subordinate place in the state. However, it would misrepresent
characteristics transmitted by inheritance, is the most important of the biologi- Spencer to portray his position as primarily a defence of the status quo. As John
cal structures on which social structures are based. The obvious implication Burrow puts it, 'generally speaking his approach to contemporary institutions
was that the main way to improve society was to encourage the racially 'supe- is that of an impatient laissez.-foire radical'.3s Spencer's political impatience
rior' to mate with each other, and to discourage 'inferior' types from breeding leads him to interlard even his theoretical writings with vigorous criticisms of
at all. The list of crimes which this structure of beliefs has legitimized during the rigidity of Victorian Britain, of, for example, its cult of royalty, hypocritical
the twentieth century is a long one, ranging fiom the compulsory sterilization Christian morality, and brutal colonial policies.s6
of the'unfit'(twelve American states passed sterilization laws between 1907 How then does he square this liberal individualism with an evolutionary
and 1915) to the Nazis' attempts to 'cleanse' Europe of the Jews, the Roma and conception of society'/ Competition, conceived as a fundamental tendency at
Sinti, and other supposedly biologically 'inf-erior' types. It continues still to work everywhere in nature, plays a crucial role in providing the necessary con-
exert its influence through the persistently advocated theory that social inequali- nection. 'As carried on throughout the animate world at large, the struggle fbr
ties reflect innate differences in intelligence. existence has been an indispensable means to evolution . . . Without universal
This very widespread attempt to construct social problems in terms defined conflict there would have been no development of the active powers.' Further-
by biology has deeper roots than can be accounted for on the basis of the influ- more: 'the struggle for existence between societies has been instrumental to
ence of any theory. Thus the increasing tendency of late Victorian reformers to their evolution'.17
treat poverty and social unrest in the East End of London as a problem of racial Driven by the competition among individuals, species, and societies, evol-
'degeneration' to be addressed through a programme of 'national hygiene' re- ution consists in a process of progressive differentiation, that is, in the develop-
flected growing anxieties about domestic class conflict and foreign compet- ment of a more complex and internally articulated organization leading to
ition.rz To appreciate, against this background, the diverse ways in which increased efficiency: 'These differences of function and consequent diff'erences
evolutionary biology was appropriated and integrated into social theory let us of structure, at first feebly marked, slight in degree and f.ew in kind, become, as
consider the ditferences - and the similarities - between two authors strongly organization progresses, definite and numerous; and in proportion as they do
identified with, respectively, liberalism and socialism. this the requirements are better met.'38 The division of labour, first discovered
by economists, also operates in the living world as 'the "physiological division
of labour" . . . Scarcely can I emphasize enough the truth that in respect of this
5.2 Two evolutionists: Spencer and Kautsky fundamental trait, a social organism and an individual are entirely alike.'r')
The progressive differentiation of social organisms leads, over time, to il
(l') Individuulist sociology: Spencer. Spencer's sociology represents perhaps tendency for one form of co-operation to be replaced by another. 'There is a
the most systematic attempt to restate social theory in terms derived from evol- spontaneous co-operation which grows up without thought during the pursuit
utionary biology. As we have already seen, even befbre Darwin published his of private ends; and there is co-operation which, consciously devised, implies
theory Spencer had declared 'the law of organic progress' to be 'the law of all distinct recognition of public ends.' The paradigm case of the first kind of co-
progress'. He further conceived 'organic progress' in Lamarckian terms, de- operation is a market economy where specialized producers co-operate by ex-
fending as 'the only law of organic modillcations of which we have any evid- changing goods and services without any need for conscious regulation to achieve
ence' the proposition that 'acquired peculiarities resulting from the adaptation
of constitution to conditions, are transmissible to offsprinB', and never entirely rr H.Spencer(1882),ThePrinciplesof Socioktey(3vols,London, 1893), I,title of pt. II,ch. II,
abandoning this view after the Origin appeared.r3 pp. 437-50.
'' J. Burrow, Evolution cmd Soc.iett,(Carnbridge, 1966), p. 227 .
rr Quoted in Hofstadter, Social Dorwinism, p. 163.
"' H. Spencer ( 1872-3). The Studt, o.l'Sociologv (London, 1894), pp. 136-41.
'r2 G. Stedman Jones, Outcast Lontlon (Harmondsworth, 1984), chs l6-18. " Slrcncer, Princ:iples of Sociologv, III, pp. 240-l.
rr H. Spencer, Es,r«.r'.r', I, p.9l; cornpare (ltitt6)'The Factors «rl'Organic Evolution'. ibid.. I, pp. '' Slre lrccr. ,\trrrlv.;t.327.
"' Slrcttt't't. l'r itr,'il,l,'s rtf ,\ttt'ittlrt,g.l', I. p. :140.

110 Life and Power Life and Power 111

rl this result. In the case of the second kind, 'compulsory co-opcmtion', 'indiv- the fittest must be produced a social type in which individual claims, consid-
idual wills are constrained, flrst by the joint wills of the entirc gr1)up, and after- ered as sacred, are trenched on by the State no further than is requisite to pay
wards more definitely by the will of a regulative agency which the group the cost of maintaining them, or rather, of arbitrating among them.'aa
evolves'.ao On the other hand, Spencer was well aware that the trend in nineteenth-
Spencer calls societies where this form of co-operation prevails 'militant', century Europe was away from, rather than towards, such a minimal state. He
and those based on 'spontaneous co-operation' 'industrial'. The fbrmer tend rails against the 'power-worship Ithatl idealizes the State', and 'sways in com-
to organizational rigidity; in them, individuals tend to be ranked according mon all orders of politicians, fiom the old-world Tory to the Red Republican'.
to inherited status. 'Under the industrial rögime',by contrast, 'the citizen's He moreover recognizes that the strengthening of state power was driven less
individuality, instead of being sacrificed by the society, has to be defended by by the survival of the old absolute monarchies than by what he regards as mis-
the society. Def-ence of the individual becomes the society's essential duty.'al guided eflbrts at social refbrm which, by keeping the 'unfit' alive, simply weaken
The two types of society have historically existed in various combinations. society: 'if the inf'erior are helped to increase, by shielding them fiom that mor-
In the earlier stages of social evolution, compulsory co-operation was tality which their int'eriority would naturally entail, the el'fbct is to produce,
necessary to produce any fbrm of stable order. The more complex society generation afier generation, a greater int-eriority'.45
becomes, however, the more impossible it becomes to co-ordinate increas- There therefore seems to be no automatic tendency fbr the industrial type to
ingly specialized activities on the basis of coercion: 'in the social organisrn as prevail over the rnilitant. Indeed, the latter springs up in new guises. Thus so-
it advances to a high structure, there develops an extensive and complex trad- cialisnr 'involves in another tirrm the principle of compulsory co-operation'.
ing system'.42 Industrial societies which are firolish enough to adopt any kind of 'communis-
Consequently, societies where the militant type prevails are becoming obso- tic clistribution' will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage, since in
lescent. This involves a change in the fbrm taken by the struggle for existence - them 'the superior' are not alkrwed to keep 'the entire proceeds of their labour',
namely from war to economic competition, as Spencer explains in a passage in some ol'which is diverted 'firr the benefit of the inf'erior and their oflspring'.46
which he demonstrates his willingness to sacrifice the 'unfit' at the altar ol' But, bey«rnd gesturing towards the p«rwer of received tradition, Spencer ofl'ers
progress: very little in the way of an explanation ol'why such rnisguided taith in various
kinds «rl'compulsory co-t-rperation should persist. Despite his etfilrt to form-
Severe and bloody as the process [i.e. warl is, the extirpation of inf'erior races and ulate an evolutionary social theory, he remains strongly wedded to an Enlight-
inf-erior individuals, leaves a balance of benefit to nrankind during phases ol' enment rationalism which treats what it identifies as erroneous beliefs as the
progress in which the moral devekrpment is low, and there are no quick synrpa- products ol' ignorance and prejudice.
thies to be seared by the intliction of pain and death. But high societies. conr-
posed of members fitted to closer co-operutit)n. cann()t carry out destructive (2) Ewlutionurt' sot'iuli,;rtt: Kuut.rk.y,. lf Spencer was a chanrpion of extreme
activities without injurious reactive effects on the rnoral nirtures of thcir n)cn.l- lais,se:,.luirr,. Kautsky was the leading theorctician of thc SPD, and, given the
bers. Afierthis stage has been reached, the puritying process, continuing still an centrality ol'Gcrrttitrt srrcial dcrn«rcracy to the Second International ( ltt89-1914).
important one [src], has to be efl-ected by industrial war by a conipctition bc- of thc w«rrld socialist nrovcn)cnt as wcll.'17 Whcre Spcnccr saw the evolutionary
tween societies during which the best, physically. enxrtionally, and intellecturally. process culrninating in an individualist social orde r, Kar"rtsky conceived human
spread most, and leave the least capable to disappear gradually, fiom lailing to history as a rnovernent fiorn one lilrm ol'communism, that prevailing in'prim-
leave a sufficiently numerous posterity.ll
itivc' societies, to a far nrore advanced lbrm resting on thc developrnent of
the productive fbrces under capitalisrn. Drawing on the rapidly developing
This historical sociology issues in a somewhat ambivalent attitude on Spen- anthropological research of the late nineteenth century, Kautsky estimated that
cer's part towards his own day. On the one hand, he argues that, in cornpetition
among industrial societies, those where the remnants of the militant type are
relatively strong will find themselves at a disadvantage: 'So that by survival of 11 Spencer, Principle,; tlf'Stx'iologv, III, p.607.
'rs Spencer, Stutlt', pp. l-56. l6u-9, 339.
'16 Spencer, Principle,s of kx'iologt', III, pp.604,610.
'10 Ibid., III, pp.245,247. '17 Kar\Johann Kautsky ( I U,5.1- I 938): born in Prague to a theatrical family, and raised in Vienna,
rr Ibi{'I., III, p. 607. but spent most of his lif'e in Germany; editor of Die Neue Zeit. the SPD weekly. 1883-1917; author
1r Spcnccr.51rrr1.r'. p. 330. ol'numerous bo«rks and pamphlets, and editor «r1'various of Marx's w<lrks, rrotahly 'l.lraoria,r ttl'
I lbitl.. p. l().5. ,\tt1tIu.s-Vrt Itrt'.

rli 112 Life and Power Life and Power 1 13

'primitive communism' had lasted 800,000 years, class society a nrere 10,000- conquest of one society by another. He envisaged a pattern rather like that which
15,000 years: 'Measured solely according to its ternporal duration. it is then not Ibn Khaldün depicted in medieval Islam (see § L l above), where nomadic herds-
classless society, but rather society divided into classes that presents itself to us men conquered sedentary agriculturalists: conqueror and conquered then evolved
as the exception, a mere episode in the history of human society.'48 into exploiter and exploited.
Yet, despite this radically difl-erent perspective on the course of history, This ernphasis on the salience of inter-state competition in the creation of
there are certain important points of convergence between Kautsky and Spen- class antagonisms is associated with a hostility to militarism reminiscent of
cer. The fbrmer's original intellectual fbrmation was Darwinist rather than Spencer's contrast between militant and industrial societies. Marx had called
Marxist. He read The Desc'ent of Mon befbre the Communist Mcrni.festo, and force 'the midwife of every old society which is pregant with a new one'.s2
later contrasted his background to that of Mzrrx and Engels: 'They started out Kautsky by contrast declared that 'war has proved to be a terrible obstacle to
with Hegel; I started out with Derwin. The latter occupied my thoughts earlier technological and econornic advancement', and predicted that 'the rnovement
than Marx, the development of organisms earlier than the economy, the strug- in the direction of eternal peace through worlcl cornmerce must finally becorne

gle tor existence of species and races earlier than the class struggle.' Indeed, irresistible, all the more so as at the same time technological development is
like Spencer, Kautsky pref-erred Lamarck's tlreory that 'the acquisition and intensifying the devastations of every war to tlre level of diabolical insanity'.51
hereditary trernsmission of new characteristic:s through the influence of new Kautsky was prone to regard historical fbrces as'irresistible'. He saw the
conditiclns' is the mzrin evolutionary fbrce. to Darwirt's theory of evolution by developr-nent of class society as an organic process cr,rlminating in the replace-
natural ment of capitalism by socialism. Expounding the SPD's Elfr-rrt programme in
This 'rnaterialist neo-Larnarckisnr', as Kautsky called it, did not in fact issue 1892. he declared: 'The capitalist social systent lras run its course. [ts dissol-
in anything resembling the Social Darwinism discussed in §5.1 above.50 He ution is now only a question of time. Irresistible economic forces lead with the
specifically rejected the idea that society is an organism, argued that the pattern certainty of doom to the shipwreck of capitalist production. The substitution of
of human history could not be reduced to that of biological evolurtion, denied a new social order fbr the existing one is no longer desirable, it is inevitable.'54
that the members of 'prin-ritive' societies were intellectually int'erior to their Kautsky clicl not believe that socialisrn c:or-rld be achieved independently of
counterparts in 'advanced' societies, and criticizecl the racist and nationalist human action; rather, historical necessity would operate throush the agency
theories increasingly influential amorrg German scholars. Yet Kautsky's hist- of class conflict. Thus: 'Socialism is inevitable because the class struggle and
orical materialism has a decidedly more fatalist cast than that of Marx and Engels. the victory of the proletariat is inevitable.'s5
Criticizing Engels tor bein-g too ready to adopt Hegel's teleology,he reinter- This did not mean that Kautsky thought history should be fbrced by precip-
preted the historical dialectic in Lamarckian tenns as ar1 interactiott between itate action. He fanrously called the SPD 'a revolutionary party. but not a party
organism and environment in which it is the latter that play.s the active role in that rnakes revolutiorrs'.'" Thouglr hc opposed his old fiiencl Ecluard Bernstein's
the relationship. Thus: '[t is the environnrent that poses the problem that thc attempt in the great 'revisiclnist' controversy at the turn of the century to turn
mind has to solve.'5r the SPD into a openly refirrrnist party. Kautsky also lracked the party leadership
In response to problenrs posed by the environment, human beings clevelop in resisting the pressllres of R«rsa [-uxemburg ancl the radical lefi fbr a cam-
'artificial organs' - tools and other nleans of production. This creates a new paign of nrass strikes to denrocrtrtize the Gernran inrperial state. Socialism was
kind of environment fbr humankind, a social environment which in turn gener- gradLrally being prepared firr within the bowels of capitalisrn, Kautsky believed.
ates problems whose solution requires the developrnent of new tec:lrnologies In particular. Inodern liberal derlocretcy provided the necessary fialnework for
and fbrrr-rs of organization. Where the artificial organs are unequally distrib- the government of any cornplex industrial society, socialist as wellas capitalist:
uted, clilss exploitation arises. Unlike Engels, whose explanation of the devel- 'democritcy also makes it possible to wrest this whole irnnrense state apparatus
opment of clirsses in Tlrc Origin o.f'the Futrill', Privute Propertv otul the Stute with its irresistible power out of the hands of the great exploiters that still
( 1884) concentrated on a endogenolls process of clilfbrentiation within indiv- hold it today and thus to turn the apparatus of domination into an apparatus of
idual societies, Kautsky claimed that class divisions were the product of the
'ls K. Katttsky (lL)21),Thc Materiuli.;t Conc'eptiou oJ [!i.ttot'y, abbr. ecln. ecl. J. H. Kltrtsky (Netv \r K. Marx. C'apital (3 vols. Harntondsworth. 1976-8 I ). t, p. 916.
Haven, 1988), p. 250.
'le Ibid.. pp. 1,46 1.
'' Katrt*sky , Muterialist Cottt't,1tri<ttt, pp.71 ,19.
50 Quotecl in J. H. Kautsky'. introductior.r to Kuutsky. Conception, p. xxxiii.
'' K. Kautsky (1892). Tlte Closs Stuggle (New York. l97l). p.l17.
" K. Kautsky (l9(Xr). litlric.s rtrttl thc ('otrt'clttiotr ol tli,stot'.t' (('hicirgo. l9ltt). p.20(r.
''r lbitl., p. 3rl. 'rr K. Krrrrlskv (l()O()),'l lt,'llrtttrl ltt l'1t11'1'1' (Atlltrllic llir:ltltrltls. N.l. l()(Xr).;t 1-1.

114 Life and Power Life and Power 115

emancipation'. Liberal democracy allowed the working class to take power Auschwitz. 'Abnormality' had become the norm, throwing into question the
peacefully by means of the ballot box, and convert 'the preceding c/ass state' optirnistic cast of Kautsky's version of historical materialism.
into a 'workers' state or social-welfare state' .51
From this perspective, developments after l9l4 represented an aberration.
Consistent with his view of the destructive character of military conflict, Kautsky 5.3 Nature as the will to power: Nietzsche
argued that the First World War was economically irrational. Capitalism was
evolving through mergers and cartels to a phase of 'ultra-imperialism' where Spencer and Kautsky represent two highly influential attempts to treat the course
national economic differences would be progressively overcome. The imperial of human history as a succession of social fbrms whose structure and develop-
rivalries and arms races which lay behind the outbreak of war in August l9l4 ment are best understood on the basis of a general theory of biological evol-
represented a stage of history that was receding into the past: 'the capitalist ution. Their belief that history understood in these terms was moving in the
economy is seriously threatened by these disputes. Every fär-sighted capitalist right direction (even if their views of this direction were strikingly different)
today must call on his fellows: capitalists of all countries, unite!'58 While clp- reflects the self--confident bourgeois society of late nineteenth-century Europe.
posing the war, Kautsky ferociously condemned the Russian Revolution of As this society entered what Eric Hobsbawm has called the 'Age of Extremes'
October l9ll . The attempt to carry through a socialist revolution in an econ- ushered in by the outbreak of the First World War, so the faith in historical
omically backward country was doomed to failure, and could only resull" in a progress expressed by Spencer and Kautsky became increasingly hard to sus-
particularly brutal capitalist dictatorship. Bolshevism, in undertaking this project, tain. The case of Kautsky is especially striking since he survived Europe's de-
represented a voluntarist regression fiom Marxism, a disastrous assertion of scent into the abyss by nearly a quarter of a century, but never abandoned the
will in defiance of material circumstances. world-view he had developed in the ltt70s and 1880s.
During the brief period of stability Europe enjoyed in the l92os Kautsky Evolutionist optimism in fact cilme under challenge well befclre 1914. This
expressed the hope that '[t]he excitement caused by the World War is begin-. . attack was never more forcetully expressed than by Nietzsche.60 His thought is

ning to subside. The economic abnormalities resulting from it are beginning particularly interesting because it dramatizes one of the main tensions in mod-
to give way once again to normal economic conditions in which the fbrce of ern social theory - that between a naturalism that treats humankind as contin-
economic laws is again manifesting itself.' In these circumstances, the labour uous with nature and an anti-naturalism which insists on what sets human
movement could resume its project of winning power by parliamentary rneans, beings apart fiorn other species. Social Darwinisrn and biological racism are re-
since 'It]he more the capitalist mode of production.flourishe.s, tlte better the pellent instances of naturalism; Weber is the most important champion of anti-
prospects rl'the sociolist regime thcrt tutkes the place ol the c:apitalist one.' Amidst naturalism; Marxism, even in its Kautskyan version, seeks to span the two
economic prosperity and social refbrm, the League of Nations' eflbrts to re- positions. Nietzsche develops a critique of modernity that is peculiar in the way
solve international conflicts peacefully stood a good chance of succeeding. in which it combines naturalism and anti-naturalism. The human subject is natu-
Mussolini's attempt to upset the apple-cart was unlikely to be copied elsewhere. ralized, reduced to an incoherent cluster o1' biological drives, while nature is
A fascist coup in Germany would require a million-strong mass fflovement: 'ln subjectivized, since all aspects o1'the physical as well as the social world are
an industrialized country, it is impossible to get hold of such a large number of expressions of the will to power.
scoundrels in the prime of lif-e for capitalist purposes."" It is necessary, then, in the first place to register the virulence of Nietzsche's
These expectations were of course soon overturned, lirst by the outbreak of critique of mcldernity. His contempt firr European bourgeois society is compre-
the Great Depression in 1929 andthen by the National Socialist seizure of power hensive. The various ideological catch-words of his day - progress, evolution,
in Germany in 1933. These events had tragic consequences fbr Kautsky and his democracy, nationalism, socialism - are all dismissed as the merest shibboleths.
immediate family. Kautsky himself died in October 1938 in Amsterdam, where The pursuit of the ideas of the French Revolution - Liberty, Equality, Frater-
he had fled afier the Nazi Anschluss in Austria earlier that year. His son Benedikt nity - has produced the universal mediocrity which Nietzsche sums up in the
spent seven years in the concentration camps, and his wif-e Luise died in image of the Last Man:
()o Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-19(X)): son of a Prussian Lutheran pastor; Prof'essor of Classical
57 Kautsky, Materiolist Cctnception, pp. 387,450. Irhiloloqy at the University of Basle, I 868-79; the decade after his retirement from this post marked
sr1 K. Kautsky ( I9l4), 'Imperialisrn', in J. Riddell, ed., Lenin's Struggle.fbr a Revolutionury' Irt- rrn cxtraordinarily concentrated burst of creativity; in 1889 suff-ered a mental breakdown fiom which
tcnrtrtiorttrl(Ncw York. l9U4), p. 1t30. lrc ncver recovered; during his last years his sister Elizaheth F(irster-Nietzsche turncd hirrr. quite
i') Krrtrtsky. Mtrtt't'irtli,st ('ottt't'1tlitttr,1tp. 1xix, r1.19.,149. 394. ('()r)trilr-y kr thc nrlin lhrtrst «lf his writings, inlo a prophct «ll'(icrnlur rrlrlionalisrrr.
116 Life and Power Life and Power 117
The earth has become small, and upon it hops the Last Man, who makes every- Self'-mastery, which Rousseau and Kant, Tocqueville and Marx, in their dif-
thing small. His race is as inexterminable as the flea: the Last Man lives longest. f-erent ways saw as potentially the property of all men at least, can now be
i 'We have discovered happiness,' say the Last Men and blink . . . achieved only by a handful of individuals. Moreover, giving a law to oneself
Nobody grows rich arrd poor any more: both are too much of a burden. Who still (Rousseau's definition of freedom: see §1.5 above) is now a matter of self-
wants to rule? Who obey? Both are too much of a burclen. creation. What Nietzsche says here can only be understood in the light of the
No herdsman and one herd. Everyone wants the same thing, everyone is the same: earlier development of German classical idealism. One of the strongest tenden-
whoever thinks otherwise goes voluntarily into the madhouse.6l cies of this philosophical tradition was to treat aesthetic experience as a priv-
ileged mode of access to reality, capable of offering insights denied to rational,
The obverse of this attack on the levelling and homogenizing tendencies discursive knowledge. Hegel strongly resisted this tendency (art is the lowest
allegedly endemic to modern Europe is, predictably enough, a positive evalu- form of Absolute Spirit. subordinated to religion and philosophy), br-rt others -
ation of aristocratic society: Schelling and Schopenhauer, tbr example - gave powerful expression to it.
Alexander Nehemas has drawn attention to what he calls 'Nietzsche's aestheti-
Every elevation of the type 'man' has hitherto been the work of an aristocratic cism, his essential reliance on artistic models fbr understanding the world and
society - and so it will always be: a society which believes in a long scale of life and fbr evaluating people and actions'.6s As this makes clear. Nietzsche
orders of rank and dilferences of worth between man and man and needs slavery does not privilege aesthetic experience on the basis of the doctrine of art fbr
in some sense or another. Without the patltos o.f distant'e such as develops l}om art's sake, as a kind of flight from the world. On the contrary, we must see '[tlhe
the incarnate dif'fbrences of classes, from the ruling caste's looking out and down
worlcl as a work of art that gives birth to itself.'(' The process of self--creation
on subjects and instruments and frorn its equally constant exercise of obedience
which some individual humans are able to achieve is thus merely an instance of
and command. its holding down and holding at a distance, that other, more
the cosmic process of 'selfiovercoming' that is the world itself.
mysterious pathos could not have developed either, that longing for an ever-
increasin-9 widening of distance within the soul itself', the fbrmation of ever-higher,
Artistic creation as Nietzsche sees it is not the discovery of harmonious struc-
ralel', lnore remote. tenser, more comprehensive states. in short precisely the el- tures inrmanent in the worlcl portrayed by clzrssical criticism. Rather, like Mod-
evation of the type 'man', the continual 'self'-overconring of man'.62 ern art, it is a dissorrant, discordant process whose products are tense with the
conflicts fl'orn which they arose. These conflicts are, in the first instance, those
Up to a point, this aristocratic critique of modernity is familiar enough. Ro- constitLrtive of human history. ln On tlte Geneubgv r1f' Morals (1887), Nietzsche
mantic ernti-capitalist denunciations of the present in the name of an idealized dismisses attempts to treat morality in either Kantian or utilitarian tenns as, re-
past were corlmon in post-Revolutionary Europe, Nietzsche's polemics otlen spectively, an autonornous systenr of abstract laws, or actions whose consequences
recall those of Maistre, written in prose as vivid and savage as his (see ch. 3 maxirttize the general welfare. In doing so, he challenges any atternpt to discern
above). But the passage just cited strikes a different note as well. The signifi- in history a unified pattern, whether that pattern is derived fiom Hegelian tele-
cance of aristocratic societies lies in their contribution to the 'self-overcoming ology or fiom the nrore conventional evolutionary schemes discussecl in the pre-
of man'. Nietzsche is uninterested in, indeed contemptuously spurns. the elev- vious section. 'Genealogy', as Foucault pr"rts it, '. . . seeks to re-establish the variitr-rs
ation of humanity collectively as un ethical or political goal, but he is very systems of subjection: nof the antic:ipatory power of nreaning, but the hazardous
interested in the elevation of particular individuals: 'the goal r$' luununity can- play oldominations.'t'7 This implies a sociology of rnoral belief. As Hans Barth
not lie in its end but only in its highest exemplars'.6r These exceptional indi- observes of Nietzsche's later writings, 'It]he traditional rnorals he subjects to
viduals are set apart from 'those who have nothing else to do but drarg the past criticisrl are treated more and more as the expression of certain classes.'68
a f'ew steps further through time and who never live in the present - that is to In petrticular, Nietzsche argues that valuations of good and bad emerge in
say, the many, the great majority. We, however.want to become those we ore - aristocratic societies where they perrnit the ruling class tcl affirnr itself and its
human beings who are new, unique. incomparable. who give thernselves laws, way of lif'e. Morality in its Christialr arnd modern urrclerstandings, which have in
who create themselves.'64

6r F. Nietzsche ( 1883-5 1, Tluts Spoke Zarathu.§/,? (Harmondsworth. I 969). I. p. 4(r (translation

t'5 A. Ne'hemas ,'he: Lifb u,s Literoture lCarnbridge. Mass.. 1988), p. 39.
(ir F. Nietzsche (190(r), T'he Willkt Pow'er (Neu,York. 1968,). tr797. p.419.
6: (l8it6). Bet,orul Ctxttlond Elll (Harmondsworth. 1973),§251.p.173.
F. Nietz.sche
rri M. Foucault,'Nietzsche. Genealogy. History'. in P. Rabinow. ed..'l-hc Frttrcult Reacler
r)r F.Nietzsche(ltt73 6). I/tttirnclt,Matlitutiotts (Cambridge. 1983),p. lll. (l llrnrorrdsworth. 1986). p. 83.
()r F. Nictzschc ( ltJtt2).'l'ltc (ltn.,\t'iarrt.c (Ncrv Y«rrk. 197,1). ss33.5. p.266. rrii H. Barth.'l.ttrtlt rrrrrl Irltttlo.q.t (Bcrkclcy. l()7(r).
P. I(rO.

118 Life and Power Life and Power 119



common the idea that the self should deny itself in the irttcrcsts of others, orig- pattern Nietzsche sees in nature generally is the same as that revealed in the
inates in the revolt of the lower orders against their masters. a particularly subtle Genealogy of Morals - the endless struggle for domination among competing
kind of revolt which takes the form, not of open rebellion. but of inverting the centres of power: 'This workl is the will to power antl nothing else besides!
values of the noble rnorality: And you yourselves are also this will to power and nothing else besides!'73
Such assertions appear to represent the most fantastic anthropornorphism
The slave revolt in morality begins when ressentiruent itself becomes creative
the megalomaniac projection of the patterns of intentional human action onto
and gives birth to values: the ra.ssentiment of natures that are denied the true nature as a whole. Indeed, Heidegger ascribes to Nietzsche'ct metttphysics of
reaction, that of deeds, and compensate themselves with an irnaginary revenge,
the absolute subjectivity of the will to power' , though not an idealist metaphys-
while every noble morality develops fiom a triumphant affirmation of self. slave
ics, since here 'subjectivity is absolute as subjectivity of the body; that is, of
morality fiom the outset says No to what is 'outside', what is'different', what is
drives and aff-ects'.7a Yet the will to power is nothing like the will as it has
'not itself'; and this No is its creative deed.6"
traditionally been conceived, that is, as the fäculty of a subject which consciously
The apogee of this 'slave morality' is reachecl in Christianity, which system- sets itself goals and seeks to achieve them. Nietzsche indeed denies the indiv-
atically devalues life in the name of a world beyond. The triumph of Christian- idual human subject any coherence or unity: 'our body is only a social structure
ity represents the subjection of the values of the master to those of the slave in composed of many souls . . . L'e.fJet, c'est moi.' 75 As fbr the will to power, it is
the shape of a systematic negation of this world, a process which reaches its 'not a being, not a becoming, buta pathos - the most elemental fäct fiom which
climax in the levelling mediocrity of post-Revolutionary Europe, a 'nihilism' a becoming and effbcting first emerge'.76 As Richarcl Schacht comments,'pa-
in which everything is devalued. Nietzsche proclaims the struggle of 'Dionysus thos' here means 'a fundarnentaldisposition or tendency'. Thus, ' "will to power"
versus the crucffied' .10 The Greek god Dionysus stands for the affirmation of fbr Nietzsche is simply the basic tendency of all forces and configurations of
lif-e, Christ fbr its negation. Nietzsche seeks a 'revaluation of all values': in forces to extend their influence and dominate others'.77
other words, he wishes - rather like Feuerbach and Marx in their struggle with Nzrture in its entirety - the human world as well as the interactions of physical
Hegel - to invert the inversion accomplished by slave morality, and reinstate a bodies anc'l the clevelopment of living organisnis - is thus the continuous process
system of valuation in which select individuals can once again affirm thern- of transfbrmation arising fiom the endless struggle among a multiplicity of rival
selves and life. But in doing so he takes aim not merely at Christianity, but goes centres of power. The natural kinds and physical laws scientists 'discover'repre-
further back, into the history of Greek philosophy: it is Socrates and his pupil sent at best the epherneral outcome of these conflicts; Darwin's theory of evol-
Plato who are responsible fbr transfbrming the world of experience into mere ution by natural selection is an irradequate approximation to the reality of the
'appearance' to which is counterposed an inaccessible 'truth' or 'reality' be- eternal struggle, not to survive and reproduce, but to dominate. Reality is there-
yond the bounds of the senses. 'My philosophy is an inverted Plutonism,' fbre inherently plural: it has no single essence, no inner purpose fiom which all
Nietzsche wrote in 1870-1, 'the farther removed fiom trr-re being the purer, the else flows. It is also inherently ambiguous. The world is constitutecl by a set of
finer, the better it is. Living in sernblance ers goal.'71 shifting relations of firrce. It fbllows that, depending on one's position within
But what is this lif'e, this 'senrblance' which Nietzsche champions? German these relations, the interpretation that one puts on the world is likely to be difl'er-
Romanticism gave rise to a philosophy of nature (Nuturphilosophie) which ent.Indeed, there is 'Inlo limit to the way in which the world can be interpreted.'78
conceived a kind of inner impulse running through the whole of the physical One of the longest-standin-{ themes in Nietzsche's writings concerns the re-
world. inorganic and organic alike, ancl reaching its highest expression in hu- lativity of knowledge to the interests of those concernecl. Thus he declares:
man subjectivity which represented the whole of nature in microcosm. Nietzsche
'Truth is the kind of error without which a certain species could not live. The
also conceives nature as a totality, but its process is in no sense a directional value for liJe is ultimately decisive.'7e It is on this basis that, fbr example, he
one, or oriented towards a goal: events arise fiom no inner necessity, but occur
rather in the realm of accident - they are 'fragrnents and limbs and dreadful " Nietzsche,Will ttt Power, §1067. p. -5-50.

chances'.72 This does not mean that they have no discernible structure. But the " Heidegger, Niet:.yche, lV, p. I47.
" Nietzsch e. Bevoutl Good ond E li 1, § 19, p. 20. 'l am the ef fbct' - a pun on Louis XIV's declara-
tion 'L'dtat c'est moi' -'l am the state'.
6s F. Nietzsche, On tlrc Genealogr- rf hlorals ancl Ecce' Homo (New York, 1969), p. 36. "' Nietqsche,Will to Pow,er, §635, p. 229.
10 Ibid., p. 33-5. "'n R. Schacht, Nial:.rc/rr, (London, 198,1). pp. 201 ,220.
7r Quotcd in M. Hcirlcggcr, Nicl:.rr'/rc (4 vols, San Francisco, 199 l). I, p. l-54. Nietzsche, Will to Power, §600. p. 326.
/' Nir'lzsclte. Ztrnrtlrtr.stnr. ll. 20.p. l(r0. ' lhid.. §4().3. p. 172.

120 Life and Power Life and Power 121

counterposes to what he regards as the suffocating historical self'-consciotts- process achieved through education, experience, and debate. On the contrary,
ness of nineteenth-Century Europe ' "the unhistorical" . . the art and power of he seems to envisage something comparable to what Darwin calls the 'artiflcial
Historical in- selection' of species of domestic animals, in which particular human types are
.forgetting and of enclosing oneself within a bounded horizon'.80
terpretation, indeed interpretation generally, is necessarily selective - it omits cultivated through 'breeding'. so that the characteristics which 'hi-eher' men
as well as includes; this selection is relative to the interests, not of 'life' in the have acquired through their self'-formation are transmitted, in the Lamarckian
abstract, but of the particular fbrm of life, the particular ceutre of power from fashion so pervasive in nineteenth-century evolutionary thinking, to their de-
whose perspective the interpretation is made. Nietzsche's 'perspectivism' leads scendants.
him ro the clenial of the possibility of objective truth, and thereby to all the

This tension between the biological and cultural is one of the many running
difficulties in which any fbrm of scepticism necessarily erttangles itself. He through Nietzsche's thought. The doctrine of his whose interpretation is most
nevertheless comes to see it as one of the main implications of his doctrine of disputed is that of the eternal recurrence of the same, the 'absymal thought'
the will to power. Thus he writes of 'the necessary perspectivism by virtue of that everything etemally repeats itself'.8s This idea represents the extreme limit
which every centre o1' force - and not only man - construes all the rest of the to which Nietzsche takes his rejection of all interpretations of reality which
world fiom its own viewpoint, i.e., measures, feels, forms, according to its own treat it as moving in a definite direction, whether or not this direction is under-
force'.81 stood in teleological terms as movement towards a goal. His formulations of
This process of construing ancl valuing the world from a speciflc perspective the eternal recurence of the same in his published writings are expressed in
is in many respects the decisive f.eature of the will to power. To see the latter as highly metaphorical terms. It is quite unclear whether or not Nietzsche in-
a drive to dominate in primarily socio-political terms is to misunderstand lends us to take the idea literally - thou-eh he does in his notebooks present it
Nietzsche. As Schacht puts it, ' "power" tbr Nietzsche is fundamentally a mat- as a cosrnological theory about the fundarnental tendencies of the universe -
ter of transformation, involving the imposition of sonle new pattern of orderin-u or rather as a kind of ultirnate test of clne's willingness to affirm life even if
relations upon tbrces not previously subject to thern'.82 This process of form- cverything recurs eternally, rather than give way to the ternptation to sink into
giving is essentially aesthetic. Art achieves greatness, Nietzsche argues, in 'the latalist pessimisrn.
grand style': 'This style has in common with great passion, that it disdains to Commentators also disagree over the idea's consistency with the doctrine of
please; that it fbrgets to persuade; that it commands: that it w'ills - To becomc lhe will to power. The latter presents the world in the aspect of 'becoming', as
master of the chaos one is; to contpel one's chaos to become fbrm: to beconic ir process of continual transformation: yet if everything recurs, this movement
logical. sintple, unanlbiguous, mathematics, lav' - that is the grand ambition is ultimately enfblded within an endlessly repeated cycle. As Nietzsche himself
here.'8i This is what 'becoming what one is' means - mastering oneself by lruts it, '[t]hat evertthing recurs is the closest approrimatictn o.f a w,orld. of be-
turnipg one's lif'e into a work of art, shaping the chaos which not simply each t't»ning to u w,orld oJ'being.'86 The stasis of being thus apparently triunrphs over
inclividual but the entire world is into a formed whole. Nietzsche saw his owrt rcstless becoming. For this reason, the Nazi philosopher Alfred Bäumler ar-
lif-e as precisely such a process which, through the revaluation of all values that gued that the will to power represented the essence of Nietzsche's thought, and
it sotrgit to ef-fect, would help make possible the 'overman' (Übermensc:h),thc lhat, inasmuch as the eternal recurrence was incompatible with it, it should be
higher type of humanity in which such creative selt'-mastery is consummated. played down: Heidegger strongly contested this position.
Heiclegger therefore seeks to distance Nietzsche fiom any tbrm of biological These tensions and ambiguities help to explain why Nietzsche's intellectual
deterrninisrn: 'Niel:s che thinks the "biologicol", tlte essence o.f what is olit'e, itt lrcritage is so diverse. The Nazis took fiom him chiefly the idea of the will to
thedirectiono.fc:ontmanclingandpoetizinS'oJ'theperspec'tivalantlthefutr lx)wer', which they understood as the drive of nations and exceptional individ-
i«tntal: in the clirection of freedom. He does not think the biological . . . bio- rurls to dominate. and married it to a vulgar Darwinian conception of life as
logically at all.'8r This is sornething of an overstatetnent. Nietzsche does tlot t'lcrnal stru,qgle, and to biolo_uical racisr-rl, to produce an ideology bearing very
see the fbrlration of the 'highest exemplars' of hunranity as a purely cultur':rl littlc resemblance to Nietzsche's own philosophy. Weber, and more recently
post-structuralists such as Foucault, took over his view of history as the inter-
;rlrry ol'forrns of domination, and his perspectivism, building these into their
)rr) Nietzsche. Ltntimelv Med.iraions. p' 120.
own lhcories. And the later Heidegger, after his involvenient in National
sr Nietzsche. Will to Pc»rer, §636, p. 339.
8r Schacht, Niet..sclrc, P. 229.
itr Nietzsche. Will to Pov'er, §842' p.;144' Ntt'lzst ltt'. /lrrrrtlrtrtlr rr. lll .' .). p;r l7l'i ().
s'l Heidegger. Ni(t:..\(h(.lll. p. 122. ' Nitlzst ltt'.ll'ill t,, l't,ttt t t;(tl I I t lo

122 Life and Power
Nietzsche's ultimately unsuccessful
socialism, took what he regarded as of
modernity as one of the starling-points
tempt to escape the subjectirism of
gone wrong'
his meditations on how Europe had
not in any way diminish - indeed they
These conflicting interpretations Jo
force of his rejection of
are symptomatic oi - Xiitrsche's significance'-The
modernity lies in its not being undeitaken
in the name of an idealized past'
progress evoked by the Enlighten-
Nietzsche replaced the vista ,lf hirtori"al
and Kautsky with the grim panorama of
ment and evolutionists such as spencer the arlistic
and at the same time he offered
an endless struggle fbr domination,
way of responding to this situation' In
life - or lile as a work of art - as the best
to press on us'
doing so, he posed questions which continue

6.1 Social evolution and scientific objectivity

Evolutionary social theory came in the mid-nineteenth century, as we saw in

the previous chapter, to conceptualize society as an organism to be analysed in
terms analogous to those used by evolutionary biology. But one potential im-
plication of this way of thinking about society could draw it away from the
attempt to place social phenomena within an evolutionary schema. A key de-
,l velopment involved in the constitution of the life sciences at the end of the
,i eighteenth century was the attempt to analyse organisms in terms of their
i .f'unction. Living bodies were conceived, in other words, as organized systems
composed of interdependent parts, each of which played a specific role in
securing certain states essential to the system's continued existence. The
employment of this kind of functional analysis in social theory implied analys-
ing specific processes and institutions from the standpoint of their contribution
to the overall well-being of the society in question. To the extent that functional
analysis comes to predominate in the study of society the issue of where a
society belongs in an evolutionary sequence of types of social formation - along
with, indeed, the broader question of the historical emergence and trajectory of
the society - tends to recede into the background.
Social theorists have always employed functional analysis: classical polit-
ical economy traces the way in which the interactions of self'-interested actors
t'ontribute, via the 'invisible hand', to a state of market equilibrium which rnax-
itrtizes the general welfare; Marx's concept of structural contradiction is a tool
lirr identifying dysfunctions - the tendencies intrinsic to particular modes of
ptrrcluction which come to impede their effective operation. But a strain of so-
t'irrl lhcory focusing primarily on the analysis of functions only emerges at the
t'tttl ol'thc nirtctcenth century. Durkheim played the main part in its creation.l
' lrrrrile I)rrrkhcirtr (lli5() l()l /): lrkt' M:rrx ol'.lewislr. irrtlcetl nrhhinic. origins: strrrliccl ut tlrc
I t olt' Nrrt.rtutlt' Sttllr'ttt'tu(' rr l':rrr',. li"i /() li.r; slrtrlit'tl in ( ;('l nlln-V. llili.5 (r: t ltttt,qi tlt t',ttrt.s itr
.rrr r,rl :'( r('tt( ('irtt(l l)('(l,u'r,r'\ .rl lltt' l ;r, rrlll'ol l.t'llt'rs. llolrk'lrut. lSli/ l()(1.); r'ltttt',r\t;(l('( (ttt..\ il
Durkheim 125
purely methodological replacement of
stood in probabilistic terms. Previously scientists had tended to conceive natu-
It is important not to see this shift as a
ral laws as operating deterrninistically, so that the behaviour of every event
onetypeofanalysisbyanother'Morett,a,.",vothelsocialtheoristofthetjLrst falling under them could, in principle, be predicted by them; statistical laws, by
infrastructure. Göran contrast, made claims only about the relative frequency with which events would
science with its own theoretical
protocors and prof'essional
to a scientific conform to their predictions.
'the central sociological contribution

Therborn ho, ,rgg.rted that ond studl' of The first statistical laws to be fbrmulated were often generalizations from
cttnsistid in the discov'er1'
discourse on society . . . has essentt,lll'

data gathered by bureaucrats and reformers concerned to identify the social
of values and norms - in hunton
the ideologic:al ,o'i'*"nit1' - i'e' to"tmunity

this concept of the problems generated by industrial capitalism. Ian Hacking writes: 'Many of the
aggregate, o.l,rorrou, artd sizes" and ihat formulating
'ypL, necessitatecl a 'socioiogical critique of political
first law-like regularities were first perceived in connection with deviancy:
.ideological community'
suicide, crime, madness, disease.' Indeed. he suggests that
economy,inwhoseformulationDurkheirnplayedaclecisiverole.2 ,ineteenth cen-
of Western socieiy at the end of the
Certainly the condition statistical laws do apply to classes. It is laws about 'theln'. about the other, that
such as Spencer
tury seemed to rig""iit.limits of laissez.liire'Evolutionists from militant to are to be determined, to be analysed, and to be the basis fbr legislation. The classes
from status to contract'
and Maine had depicted a progression in question ale not abstract entities br"rt rather social realities. Inevitably it is the
words, the course of history was moving towards
industrial society - in ottrer
labouring or crirninal or colonial classes that are the chief objects to be changed,
social order which the theoretical for their own good.r
the kind of exclusively market-based But' as Spencer
economists postulated'
of Smith, Ricardo, ancl later marginalist drew to a close'
as the nineteenth century The development of statistical techniques and the results of their application
was painfully aware (see §5.2 above), of and
the trend was in the opposite clirection, towards greater state regulation provided the means to transfbrm sociology from the philosophy of history it
intervention in economic and social
life' had remained in Comte's and Spencer's hands into a form of ernpirical encluiry.
to be called 'collectivism' was' in
part' a
This re-emergence of what came Moreover, the constitution of sociology as an established academic discipline
consequenceofpoliticaldevelopments.BythelatenineteenthCenturyindus- took place in a context where laissez..fltire was widely perceived to have faileC
original, mainly British' base and
trial capitalism had broken out of its both intellectually and practically. Durkheirn insists on the inability of unre-
western Europe and North America'This strained economic individualism to provide the prerequisites of a stable social
coming to predominate throughout and assertive work-
of increasingly powerf\l order: 'It is therefbre extremely important that economic lif-e should be reg-
brought in its wake the emergence
(and, to a large degree, consequent)
ing-class movements. The concomitant to offer
ulated, should have its morals raised, so that the conflicts that disturb it have an
extension of the suffrage obliged
liberal and conservative politicians cnd and fufther, that individuals should cease to live their lives in a moral vacuum
threat of these moverlents and to
social reforms in orcler to defuse the where the life-blood drains away even fiom individual morality.'a
of social insurance in an unsuccessful This stress on the necessity of moral regulation implies, as Therborn argues,
workers' votes: Bismarck's introduction
Democracy is a classic instance of this
attempt to underlnine Gennan social a critical stance towards political economy. Durkheirn praises 'the econornists

process' ! r-r^ -^^"r'+intof Western socl'eties which these reforms

. . . for having first pointed out the spontaneous character of social life, showing
The increased state regulation lhat constraint can only cause it to deviate from its natural course and that nor-
promotedalsofacilitatedttreoevetopmentofempiricalsocialenquiry.Public rrrally it arises not fiom anangements imposed fiom without, but from its own
gathered growiT* b"*: of data
bureaucracies and private philanthiopists this
llce internal nature'. They have nevertheless failed to see that'liberty itself is
about difterent aspects of social
life. Increaiingty organized numerically' llrc product of regulation'. Therefore, he declares in his first major work,The
information about thc
rnaterial was sought and enrployed in order to provide l)ivision o.f'Labour'(1893), his aim is 'to constitute the science of morality',
social.problems,whichstatepolicyincreasingly'oughttoidentifyandrc- llutt is, 'to treat the facts of moral life according to the methods of the positive
Uoirr tt'e pursuit of specific studies
a,d thc
dress. But it also made possible scicttces'.5
by social scientists' one major ninc 'l'ltis lrnhition su-{gests the continuity between Durkheimian sociology and
forrnulatio, ri"Lfirical'generalizations
was the development of the disciplirrt' tlw rrtontli.r'lc trarlition of early nrodern and Errlightenment French thought -
teenth-century intellectuai achievement
by Adolphe Qudtelet of the cott
of statistics, and in particular the refinenrent wl]ich can tlnly bc Lttttlct'
uf a popu,iation ' I Ilrrt'krrtt.'lltt''llrtttitt,q ttl ('lttrtrt't'{(';rrrrbritlgt'. l()t)0). 1rp. .1. IlO.
cept of a statistical law its a property ' lf l)rrrklrr'irtt. l'ntli'ssittrtttl l..tltir'.ttttttl ('it'it lllt,tttlr (l.orrrlorr. l().51). p l).
l'l)rlklrr'rrtt. Ilrt'l)iyi.:i,'rt1tl Iq1l,t,tu (llorrrrrlrrrrll.,.;ttSl). Ill l.rO.rr,.
Durkheim 127
126 Durkheim
into an institution alized discipline, Durkheim founded in 1896 the journal
to social institutions and customs
the study of hurnan conduct in its relationship L'Annöe sociologique, and gathered around him, first in Bordeaux and then in
this concern with'moral lit-e'thus
(see ch. t above). But in Durkheim's case Paris, an influential group of pupils and collaborators.
with the clislocations and antagonisms
understood springs from his preoccupation Durkheim's political outlook will be considered in more detail alongside his
and Spencer) industrial society'
of what he tends to call (following Saint-Simon substantive social theory in the following section. But it is worth first noting the
of moral regulation' is responsible
Thus he argues that rtnornie, orthe absence extent to which his work, at least initially, was a development of themes ex-
for plored by earlier evolutionary social theorists. The Division of Laborzr, though
quite distinctive in conceptualizing society as essentially a moral reality, rever-
the continuaily recuning conflicts and
disorders of every kind of which the eco-
berates with echoes of Comte and Spencer. Both understood social evolution as
nomicworldaffordsSosorryaspectacle.For,sincenothingrestrainstheforces a process of progressive differentiation; Spencer treated the development of the
they are obliged
limits to them that
present from reacting together, or prescribes division of labour as the principal mechanism on which this process depended
bounds. each clashing with the other'
to respect, they tenJ to grow beyond all by
other . . . Men',s passions are stayed only (see §§3.1 and 5.2 above). But how would not a society fragmented into speci-
each warding otf an,l weäkening the
autholity of this kind is lacking' it is the Iaw alized individuals be liable to disintegration? Comte's argument that the re-
a moral presence they respect. If all
of the Strongest that rules, and a state of warfare, either latent or acllte, is neces- establishment of consensus would restore the basis of a stable social order seemed
sarilY endemic.t' to threaten the suppression of the individual freedom characteristic of mod-
ernity; Spencer, by contrast, believed that this freedom could be secured only
Ineans of preventing' or at least
This conception of moral regulation as a by uninhibited laissez..faire. a state of affairs which, as we have seen, Durkheim
with a conservative cast' Indeed'
controlling, social conflict suggests a theory is to determine
regarded as the main soulce of anomie and social conflict.
sociology as a whole
Durkheim himself wrote that 'the object of Durkheim posed the problem thus:
oi societies"T He was not' however' a thinker
the conditions tbr the conservation
sueq3sted that '[i]t makes some How does it come about that the individual, whilst becoming more autonomous,
of the political right. Anthony Giddens has

as attempting to reconstruct liberalism depends more closely on society? How can he become at the same time more of
lr sense to see both fueber and Durkheim an individual and yet more linked to society? For it is indispr.rtable that these two
the one side' and of conservative
in the context of a critique of Marxism on movements, however contradictory they appear to be, are carried out in tandem.
f by Habermas (see §2'3
thought, on the other.' Or. i, the terms formulated
against Such is the nature of the problem. It has seerned that what resolved this apparent
above), Durkheim and Weber seek
to defend modernity (albeit critically) antinomy was the transformation of social solidarity that arises from the ever-
those, such as Nietzsche, who reject
it, and those, such as Marx, who seek
increasing division of labour.r0
revolutionize it.

parliamentary institutions of
Durkheim strongly identified with the liberal Durkheim counterposes two types of solidarity. The first. mechanical solidar-
(1871-1940)' When these institutions were chal- ity, is characteristic of what he calls 'segmented societies'. Here each constituent
the French Third Republic
right during the Dreyfus Affair in the part of society is identical to every other - social functions are, in other words,
lenged by the ,ronu..trirt and rnilitarist
defenders of Dreyfus (a Jewish army
1890s, Durkheim was one of the first
relatively undifferentiated. Social solidarity depends in these circumstances on
an active participant in the repub- 'beliefs and sentiments common to all members of the group'. Organic solidar-
oflicer falsely accused of espionage), and
l'Homme. He may have owed his ap-
lican, anti-clerical Ligue des Droils ie ity. by contrast, arises where the division of labour has developed, so that indiv-
sympathies' According to Georges icluals are allocated to different social roles. Here 'the society to which we are
pointment to the Sorbänne to his Dreyfusard
'Durkheimian sociology established it- s«rlidly joined is a system of different and special functions united by definite
Friedmann, ,ubr.que,t to the Affair,
teaching of the Third Repubtic' rclationships'.rr It is in this context that Durkheim introduces one of his best-
self, alongside secular morality, in the official
and in particular through the öcola's;
through the various grades of teaching, krtown concepts, that of,the collective consciousness (conscience collective):
normales [teachers' colleges].'' In his
effort to develop sociology in Francc
'l'wo c«rnsciousnesses exist within us: the one comprises only states that are per-
sortul lo cuch ol'us. characteristic of us as individuals, while the other comprises
6 [bid., pp. xxxii-xxxiii. 97'5 )' p' I 'l() sllrlcs llurl itrc c()rnrn()n (o tltc wlr«llc ol'stlciety. The torrncr represents only our
I Lukes, Emile Drrkltcirt (Harruonclsworth' I
Undated letter to Bougl6. quotetl in s.
EA.Girlt]ens,.WeberanclDurkheim:CoinciclenceanclDivergence',inW'J.Mtltttrttsctrlttttl'l "' I)trrklrt.irrr, /)lyi.rir,rr. l). \\\.

('.trlt,ttrprtrttrlc.r (l.tlntlotl. 1987)' p' lltti'

Osterharnnrcl. r,rls, &/rr.r wcbt,r ttntl lti,r " llrrtl.. p. l-i I
') Qttoltrtl irr Lrrkcs. l)rtrklrt'ittt ' p' '17(r'

128 Durkheim Durkheim
individual personality, which it constitutes; the latter represents the collective he opposed' He nevertheless helped to
formulate the version of Romantic anti-
type, and consequently the society without which it would not exist. When it is an capitalism frequently drawn on by the German
nationalist right when attacking
element of the latter determining our behaviour, we do not act with an eye to our moderniry (see §9.2 below).
own personal interest, but are pursuing collective ends.r2 Durkheim, by contrast, is closer to Maine
and Spencer in thinking that the
development of organic solidarity constitutes
Mechanical and organic solidarity are distinguished by the extent to which progress over its predecessor:
'Here, then, the individuality of the whole
the collective consciousness prevails over the individual in them. 'Solidarity g.or. at the same time as that of the
parts' Society becomes more eft'ective
that derives from similarities is at tts rnaxinturz when the collective conscious- in mäving in concert, at the same time as
each of its elements has more movements
ness completely envelops our total consciousness, coinciding with it at every that are pecuriarry its own., But
Durkheim disagrees with both spencer and
point. At that moment our individuality is zero.' Where organic solidarity pre- rönnies in so far as they treat the
division of labour as a utilitarian arrangement
vails, however, 'each one of us has a sphere that is peculiarly our own, and among self-interested individ-
uals, and thus fair to see that 'co-operation
consequently a personality'. The role of the collective consciousness dimin- has its intrinsic morarity,.16
The Division of thus offers an
ishes, taking the form of 'modes of thinking and feeling of a very general, inde- evolutionary theory; indeed Durkheim,
like Cornte and spencer, conceives social evolution
terminate nature, which leave room for an increasing multitude of- individual as a process of diff'erentia-
tion in which progressively more complex types
acts of dissent'. As organic solidarity becornes the main fbrm of social integ- replace their simpler precleces-
sors' Yet he denies that 'the different types
ration, '[i]t is the division of labour that is increasingly fulfilling the role that of society are set out in gradations
according to the same ascending rinear series'.
once fell to the common consciousness. This is mainly what holds together Employing an image used by
Darwin to characterize the direction of biological
social entities in the higher type of society.'r3 evolution, DurkhJi. urgr.,
that 'if it were possible to draw up the .o*!I.t.
The distinction between mechanical and organic solidarity is one of a series of genealogical table of social
types, it would have rather the shape of a
binary contrasts by means of which social theorists have sought to conceptualize bushy tlee, doubtless with a single
trunk, but with diverging branches'. He furthei
the difference between modern societies and their predecessors. Maine's distinc- denies that progr.ess arong a
particular branch - say, that from mechanical

tion between status and contract, and Spencer's between militarrt and industrial to organic"r.r,,
an increase in the sum of human happiness: 'there
societies are instances of this kind of contrast (see ch. 5 above), as is that drawn ii no connection between the
variations in happiness and the progress in
by Tönnies between Gemeinschafi (community) andGesellschaft (association).ra the division of labour,.rT Finally,
Durkheim criticize.s 'the former philosophy of
Tönnies regarded the transition from one kind of society to another as essen- history,, of which he regards
even Comte as an example, for its teleological
tially a process of loss: individuals in pre-modern GemeinschaJi were bound modes of thinking, i, which ,the
social environment has been perceived as a
into the social whole by a series of primarily affective connections; social re- means whereby progress has been
realized, and not the cause which determines
lationships in modern Gesellschaft are cold zrnd egoistic, based cln individuals' it,.rB
Seeking to distinguish DLrrkheim's theory
rational calculations of their interests. Thus 'Gemeinschaft should be under- of social evolution fiorn that of his
predecessors, Steven Lukes denies that,
stood as a livin-q organism, Gesellschaft as a mechanical aggregate and arti- as commentators such as Talcott par-
sons have claimed, the explanation of
fact.' Genrcinschafthas its roots in rural life, and above all in the Heimor (home social change in The Division of Labour
is 'biologistic''re,l ukes's interpretation relies.h[ny
country) constituted by the ties of tradition and kinship which are found on land on the fact that this ex-
planation, generalize dinThe Rures oJ sociorogir:ar
long settled and worked by the same peasant community. Gesellschaft, whose iethod( r g95), isorates two
factors as chiefly responsible for the develof,nrent
structure was best portrayed by Hobbes and Marx, is urban and cosmopolitan; of the division of labour.
'These are: Iirstly, the number of social
its principal agent is the merchant. the eternal outsider. Its triurnph 'means the units or, as we have also termed it, the
"volume" of the society; and secondly, the
doom of culture'.r5 Tönnies lived to see the victory of National Socialism, which degree of concentration of the mass
of people. or what we have called the..dynamic
rr lbid., p.61. Roughly speaking, the idea is thar thqmore
tightry packed together grearer
rr Ibid., pp. 84, 85, 122,123.
ra Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1936): born in Schleswig-Holstein; studied at Strassbourg, Jena, r" Durkheim , Division. pp. g5, l68.
Bonn, Leipzig, and Tübingen universities; took his Hobilitcttiort (qualifying him as a university r? Ihicl., p. I 00 n. I 7.
teacher), on Hobbes, at Berlin University in l88l;worked for the Prussian Statistical Bureuu; I" lr' I)urkh eint"l-ltt' Rrrlc: rf',\rt'irlo,qicul
Prof'essor of Economics and Statistics at Kiel University, I 9 I 3- I 6; president of the German Socio- ctl. S. Lukt.s. l.«rrr«krrr ( l()lJl). pp. l-10. 143.
rvletlrocl utur s<,rc<.terl re.rt.s ., sctt.i,ptg-t,tttttl it.s Methotl,
Iogicll S«rcicty. I 909-33. r" Lrrkt.s. l)rrt.l,lrt,irtr.l,l,. l(,/ li
rs lr.'f '(irrnics. ('rtrttttrrrnitt'trtttl rlv.sot itrtiotr (l.orrilort. l()74;. pp. l(). 170. " I)rrrklrr'itrr. lltrl,'t.p I t(r
Durkheim 131
among them for scarce social structures are the unintended consequences of individual actions. Thus
Tlll numbers of people are, the more intense competition
to this state of atTairs by seek- the Austrian economist Carl Menger, a leader of the marginalist revolution,
resources will be; social actors are likely to react highlighted those 'social phenomena lwhich] come about as the unintended
greater specialization' thereby
ing to maximize their relative advantages through
Durkheim denies Spen- result of individual efforts (pursuing individual intere,sts) without a common
i1 promoting a more developed division of labour' Thus
sufficient condition of func- will directed towards their establishment', and argued that 'human indiy'iduals
cer,s claim that environmental differences are a and their e.ffbrts' are 'the final elements of our analysis' in 'the exact social
divided as societies becotne
tional specialization: 'If labour becomes increasingly
ri more voluminous and concentrated, it is not because
the external circumstances sciences'. the equivalent of forces and atoms in physics.2a
for survival becomes more stren- Methodological individualism is, in effect, a generalization of the concep-
ll are nlore varied, it is because the struggle
tion of explanation which became entrenched in economics as a result of the
il uous.'2'
whatever we think of this Darwinian version of Smith's
'invisible hand' as marginalist revolution, in which the optimization of the general welfare is an
is right to say that the causes unintended consequence of the self-interested choices of individual market
an explanation of the division of labour, Lukes
actors. Although Durkheim was, as we saw above, willing in specilic cases to
are exclusively social
it identifies ones. This does not, however' Settle the
strains in Durkheim's thought' employ this type of explanation. he sympathized with the marginalists'oppon-
question of whether or not there are biologistic
relationship between biology ents, the German Historical School, f-or whom the economy was an evolving
Thus consider these remarks of spencef's on the
social organism rather than the aggregate of individual actions (see §7.1 be-
and sociologY: low). Further, if the reduction claim made by Spencer and Menger went through,
in wl-rich these sciences are then the space for Durkheim's autonomous 'science of morality' would vanish.
There are two distinct but equally important ways
being determined by the actions of Hence his insistence on the autonomy of social facts: thus he argues that the
connected. In the first place, all social actions
being vital actions that confbrm to the existence of 'collective tendencies' as 'things. forces sui generis which dom-
individuals, and all u.iion, of individuals
interpretation of social actions in-rplies knowledge of inate the consciousness of single individuals . . . is brilliantly shown by the
laws of life at large, rational
a whole, considered apart from statistics of suicide', which do not change frorn year to year.25 More generally:
the laws of lif'e. in tt e secon6 place, a society as
structure' and ftrnction analogous
its living units, presents phenomena of growth, 'The deterruining couse of a social Jact must be sought aruong antecedent so-
function in an animal; and these last are useful
to those of growth, structure, and cialfacts and not among the states of the individual. consciousness.'26
keys to the first.22 But if Durkheim's opposition to methodological individualism absolves him
of the charge of direct biological reductionism, the situation is much less clear
Spencer thus proposes two connections between
biology: Iirst' societies are
when it comes to the second connection Spencer posits between biology and
turn must be understood
reducible to the individuals composing them, which in sociology, which consists in their conceptuahzing processes analogously.
as organisms: secorld, social pro."rr", operate
in ways analogical to those in Durkheim systematically contrasts the normal and the pathological. Thus he
the first clain-r' In the Rules he
the living worlcl. Durkheim emphatically denies argues that '[i]f normally the division of labour produces social solidarity, it
the basis that 'social facts must
tarnousty defends the autonomy of sociology on can happen, however, that it has entirely different or even opposite rcsults.'
of social facts will be
be treated as things'. Durkheim's evolving conception These 'pathological' or 'deviant' fbrms include the eft'ects of economic crises
What is relevant for present
considered more ior"ly in the followin-e section' and of bankruptcies, which are'so many partial breaks in organic solidarity',
to individuals and their
purposes is that he 4enils that social fact.s are reducible conflict between labour and capital, and scientific specialization. 'In all these
but the system
prop.rti.r. Thus: 'society is not the mere sum of individuals, cases, if the division of labour does not produce solidarity, it is because the
which has its own
io.Ä"4 by their association represents a specific reality rclationships between the organs are not regulated; it is because they are in a
characteristics' .2' s(ate of anontie.')'
constituting sociology as
This position was crucial to Durkheirn's project of Durkheim says that a social fact is normal when it corresponds to 'the aver-
a science distinct tiom economics. The
development of marginalist economics rgc type' in a historical given society, 'the hypothetical being which might be
the explicit formulation of
towards the end of the nineteenth century involved cons(ituted by assembling in one entity, as a kind of individual abstraction, the
what has come to be known as methodological
individualism, the doctrine that
'' ('. Mcrrgcr ( ltilt3), Pntblctn.s o.fEtononit'.v ttnd ,\ociolop.r, (Urban'r. 1963). pp. 133, 142n.1.
li I)trklrcirrr (It3()7), .\rrititlt (l.ond«itt. l9ti9). p. -307.
rr Durkhe in. Divi'sion, P. 20ll' ''' I)rrlklrt'irtr. /lzlr'r'. p I l.l
rr H. Spcnccr.
'l'lrt,Strtlt,p.l Stt<'iofutgt'(l,otttlilrt. I8t)-1 ). p 326'
" l )trr klrt'irrr. l )it i.:irtrr.1r| .)(l l , .)().). l(l l
'' l)trrklrt'iltr. /itt/r'r. pp' 15, I 2()'
132 Durkheim
Durkheim 133
most frequently occurring characteristics of the species in their most frequent from the average. But how far must a case deviate from the average
before it
fbrms'. He conceives normality thus understood in broad terms, so that, for becomes abnormal? Canguilhem concludes:
example, 'crime is a phenomenon of normal sociology', since it is inevitable
that individuals will not always conform to the collective consciousness. Never- To set a norm fnormer'), to normalize. is to impose a requirement on
an existence,
theless, '[t]he principal purpose of any science of life, whether individual or a given whose variety, disparity, with regard to the requirement.
present them-
social, is in the end to define and explain the normal state and to distinguish it selves as a hostile, even more than an unknown, indetenninant.
It is, in fact, a
from the abnormal.'28 polernical concept which negatively qualifies the sector of the given
which 6oes
There is therefore an important respect in which Durkheim conceives society not enter into its extension while it tlepends on it for its comprehension.r/
as an organism, capable of experiencing both health and illness. It is, indeed, by
seeking to identify the normal condition of a specific society that sociology can The difficulty of drawing a non-arbitrary divicling-line between the
offer moral and political guidance as well as describe and explain: and the pathological is brought out by Durkheim'i discussion of crime.
declares that 'to make crime a social illness would be to concede
that sickness
if what is desirable is declared to be what is healthy, and if the state of health is is not something acciclental, but on the contrary clerives in certain cases
something definite. inherent in things . . . [t]here is no longer need to pursue des- the fundarnental constitution of the living creature'.r2 Crime cannot
be a path-
perately an end which recedes as we move fbrwald; we need only to work stead- ological condition because it is so universally present in society: so persistent
ily to maintain the normal state, to re-establish it if it is disturbed, and to rediscover an abnormality would imply that society itself is inherently jefective.
the conditions of normality if they happen to change . . . His role [i.e. that of the Durkheim's employment of the distinction between the normal and
the path-
statesmanl . . . is that of the doctor: he forestalls the outbreak of sickness by main- ological is not merely indicative of the presence of biological forms

taining good hygiene, or when it breaks down, seeks to cure it.r') of reason-
ing in his writings; it demonstrates the extent of his atrachment to
social stability.
In his conception of sociology (though not in his substantive social theory),
This medical conception of sociology reflects a widespread assumption in Durkheim remainecl in many ways a royal follower of comte. comte,
the nineteenth-century life sciences. Thus, when Durkheim writes that'the study rike
Durkheim, argued that sociology is an autonomous science whose
of deviant fbrms will allow us to determine better the conditions for the exist- object is
irreducible to the results of individual action. Like Durkheim also, he
ence of the normal state', he echoes the great physiologist Claude Bernard, who neverthe-
less regarded sociology and biorogy as closely related, and indeed
declared: 'Every disease has a corresponding normal function of which it is prayed an
important part in developing the theory of the normal and the pathological.
only the disturbed, exaggerated, dirninished or obliterated expression.'r0 Claims None of this is to diminish the significance of Durkheim's work, or to
of this nature implied, flrst, that the mechanisms at work in normal and path- ignore
the respects in which it differs from, or goes beyond, comte. yet
ological states are identical, and, secondly, that the distinction between the while, as we
shall see, Weber strongly resists the tug of evolutionary social theory,
two conditions is an objective one, as Durkheim puts it, 'inherent in things'. Durkheim,s
thought in certain crucial ways rests upon and creatively develops its
But the second of these implications at least is very hard to def-end. As Georges assurnp-
Canguilhem puts it. '[t]o define the abnormal as too much or too little is to
recognize the normative character of the so-called normal state. The normal or
physiological state is no longer simply a disposition which can be revealed and
explained as a fact, but a manifestation of an attachment to some value.' In his
6.2 Society as a moral reality
great study of nineteenth-century medical thought, Canguiihem demonstrates Durkheim in The Dit,ision of Labour characterizes the process of social
the difficulty of finding an objective criterion by means of which to distinguish differ-
cntiation as consisting in. among other things, the progres.sive liberation
the normal and the pathological. Defining the normal sttrtistically, in terms of of the
individual personality from the collective consciousness. While this
the average, for example, as Qudtelet and Durkheim do (though in different concep-
tion of social evolution thus contrasts the relative weight of the
ways), täces the problem that, by definition, many individual cases will deviarte collective con-
sciousness in two types of social solidarity, it does nät
rely chiefly on beliefs
Ittttl t'cprcsentations in order to explain the movement from
rrj one to the other. On
Durkheim. Rule.s, pp. 9l-2, 106 n. 10. 104. lltc cotllrltry. thc main crtuses of sociul diff'erentation are, as we
re Ibid.. p. 104. have seen. what
1(r Dtrrklrcirrt. I)ivi.siott. p. 2()l; llertrartl. clttotctl in G. Clngtrillrcru, 'l'ltc Nttrtnrrl ttrttl tltc Ptttlro ':rrrluillvrrr. Nttrtttttl. p1l
't (
-5(r 7. I l().
Io,qir'trl(Nt'rv Yolk. l()()I). 11.
'' I )rrr l.lrt'inr. /irrir,r, yr. ()li.
134 Durkheim
i Durkheim 135

Durkheim calls the volume and density of society. He even writes: 'Everything neo-Kantian philosophers who accused him of a kind
occurs mechanically. A break in the equilibrium of the social mass gives rise to of metaphysical collect-
ivism, he tends in effect to equate these facts with collective
conflicts that can only be resolved by a more developed form of the division of representations.
Thus in 'Individual and collective Representations,(lg9g),
labour; this is the driving force fbr progress.'r3 Indeed, Lewis Coser suggests he writes:
that 'in The Division of Labour he is largely a structural analyst not as far re- while one might perhaps contest the statement that all social facts
moved from Marx as certain commentators have sometimes been inclined to without excep-
tion impose themselves from without upon the individual,
the doubt does not
think'.ra seem possible as regards religious beliefs and practices,
the rules of morality and
Yet, subsequent to this work, Durkheim increasingly comes to conceptualize the innumerable precepts of law that is to say, all
- the most characteristic mani-
society as a moral entity constituted by collective representations which are no festations of collective life. All are expressly
obligatory, and this obligation is the
less mental states for being irreducible to the properties of individual conscious- proof that these ways of acting and thinking ,.. ,ot
the work of the individual but
ness. The extent of this shift may be registered in a review he wrote in 1897 of come from a moral power above him, that which
the mystic calls God or which
can be more scientifically conceived.3T
Antonio Labriola's Essavs on the Materialist Conception of History.Here,while
agreeing with Marxists that 'social life must be explained not by the conception
Thus, having made exteriority and constraint necessary
of it formed by those who participate in it, but by the profound causes which conditions of the
existence of social facts, Durkheim reached a position
escape their consciousness', Durkheim nevertheless argues that 'the economic where he could only
confidently treat collective representations as melting
factor' given explanatory primacy in historical materialism 'is secondary and these conditions. He fur-
ther argued that these representations are 'partially
derived': autonomous realities, that
develop independently of their 'substratum' in the 'morphological,
facts that
had preoccupied him in The Division of Labour:
Not only is the Marxist hypothesis unproven, but it is contrary to facts which
appear established. Sociologists and historians tend increasingly to come together
in their common atfirmation that religion is the most primitive of all social phen- They [collective representationsJ have the power to attract
and repel each other
omena . . . But we know of no means of reducing religion to economics, nor of and to form amongst themselves various syntheses
which are determined by their
any attempt really at effecting this natural affinities and not by the condition of their matrix.
As a consequence, the
new representations born of these syntheses have
the same nature: they are im-
mediately caused by other collective representations
Relative to this shift, The Rules of Sociological Method is generally seen by and not by this or that
characteristic of the social
commentators as a transitional work which, in seeking to make explicit the
approach employed in The Division of Labour, also in certain respects points
Durkheim therefore afflrms: 'collective psychology
towards Durkheim's later view that 'religion is the most primitive of all social is sociology, quite
ply'"0 His mature sociology is thus what David Lockwood
phenomena'. Thus in the Rules he offers the following definition of social fäcts: calls ,normative
functionalism', that is, '[t]he idea that society is a moral
'A social fact is ct way of ttcting, whether or not fixetl, capable of exerting over and ultima tely arelig-
ious entity whose intrinsic feature is a set of commonly
the individual an external constraint' As instances of social facts, he includes held values and be-
liefs.'a0 one can appreciate how serious a probrem
both 'collective representations' and 'social facts of an "anatomical" or mor- the .pathorogicar forms, of
the division of labour constitute for this perspective:
phological nature'. The latter include 'the number and nature of the elementary economic crises and class
conflict in particular represent at best the partial effectiveness,
parts of society, the way in which they are articulated, the degree of cgales- at worst the break-
down, of any unifying moral consensus.
cence they have attained, the distribution of the population over the earth's
Durkheim's most famous monograph, suicicl.e (lgg7)
surfäce, the extent and nature of the network of communications, the design of displays a similarpre_
tlccupation with the consequences of moral regulation
dwellings, etc.' - all the factors, in other words, which Durkheim had cited
Consistent with his general method, he insists that
- ancl of its absence.
when seeking to explain the development of the division of labour.36 suicide has social rather than
individual causes which may be ascertained through
Yet when Durkheim comes to def-end his conception of social facts against the analy.sis of statistical
t'cgtrlarities. This analysis clemonstrates, he claims,
that, in modern societies at
'rr Durkheim, Dirti.sion. p.212.
'r'r Ci. Bougle< ([-orrdon. l9-53). p. 2-5.
L. Coser, introdr-rction, ibid., p. xviii.
'5 Durkheirr, /ür1r',r, pp. 171.114.173.
"' Ibitl.. pp. -5(). .57.
Durkheim Durkheim 137
of the social and passions. It is because these appetites have escaped regulation that mod-
any rate, 'suicide varies inversely with the degree of integration
Durkheim proceeds to isolate two ernity is out of joint.
g.äup, of which the individual forms apart'.
and anomic/fatalistic' How, then, is this condition to be remedied? The answer is implicit in the
pui* of contrasting types of suicide - egoistic/altruistic
^Egoistic diagnosis: through the establishment of an appropriate kind of moral regul-
suici{e is a consequence of individualism; it arises from the despair
asthenia' or social ation. This requires, Durkheim believes, a series of institutional reforms. In
cJused by 'the relaxation of social bonds, a sort of collective
insufficient Suicide and the preface to the second edition of The Division of Labour (1902),
malaise'. But, '[i]f ... excessive individuation leads to suicide.
Altruistic suicide 'is surely very common he advocates the restoration of a modernized version of the medieval guilds,
individuation has the same effects.'
people kill themselves out of a sense of social what he calls 'the occupational group or corporation', arguing that 'the corpo-
among primitive peoples', where
they have, through age or illness, become a ration has everything needed to give the individual a setting to draw him out of
obligation - for example, where
die'al his moral isolation; and faced with the actual inadequacy of the other groups, it
burden on society, or when their superiors
alone can fulfil this indispensable office'.aa Durkheim argues that such corpor-
Anomic suicide is the direct consequence of the weakness of moral
evident in the ups ations, operating on a national scale, should undertake 'functions of mutual as-
ation in modern society. Anomie - 'de-regulation' - is most
which are directly related to rises in the sistance', '[m]any educational activities', and 'a certain type of artistic activity' .4s
and downs of the business cycle,
'in state' in trade and industry generally: This remedy might seem to smack of a conservative nostalgia for the Middle
suicide rate; indeed it is a chronic
Ages. Yet Durkheim rejects any attempt 'to revive traditions and practices that
normal. From top no longer coffespond to present-day social conditions' and argues that 'to find
There the state of crisis and rmomie is constant and, so to speak,
of the ladder, greed is aroused without knowing where to find its ulti- ways of harmonious co-operation between those organs that still clash discord-
to bottom
mate fbotholcl. Nothilg can calm it, since its goal is far beyond
all it can attain' antly together' requires 'diminishing those external inequalities that are the
with the dreams of fevered imaginations; source of all our ills'. This would involve, at the very least, establishing equal-
Reality seems valueless by comparison
abancloned, but so too is possibility abandoned when it in turn ity of opportunity by eliminating all competitive advantages that derive from
reality is therefore
pleasures' nameless sen-
becomes reality. A thirst arises for novelties, unfamiliar hereditary privilege. But, though sympathetic to the more moderate wing of
Hencefbrth one has no strength
sations, all of which lose their savour once known' French socialism represented by Jean Jaurös, Durkheim argues that 'the progress
to endure the least reverse.'2 of the division of labour implies . . . an ever-increasing inequality', because of
diff'erences in natural talents and the necessity of hierarchical organization to
If, '[iln anomic suicide, society's influence is lacking in the basically indiv- secure efficient performance.46 He does not believe that collective ownership of
idual passions, thus leaving them without a check-rein', its counterpart, modern industrial technology would end the present 'state of anarchy . . . fbr.
of 'excessive regulation, that of persons with futures
tic suicide, is a consequence let me repeat, this state of anarchy comes about not from this machinery being
passions violently choked by oppressive discipline" by
pitilessly blocked anä in these hands and not in those, but because the activity deriving from it is not
i"^..rrir" physical or moral despotism'. Yet Durkheim's primary concern is regulated'.47
with those fbrms of suicide which arise from a lack of social constraint
Nor, on their own, would national corporations overcome anomie. Indeed,
he relegates fatalistic suicide to a fbot-
moral regulation, not with their excess: by powerfully articulating the interests of specific occupational groups, they
note on the grounds that it is of 'little contemporary importance''+3 might promote further social disintegration. 'The only means of averting this
Durkheim's description of anomie recalls Marx's evocation of the collective particularism and all it involves fbr the individual, is to have a
of 'the bourgeois epoch' in the Communist lVlani-
ing uncertainty and agitation' special agency with the duty of representing the overall collectivity . . . vis-
of this condition are very diftbrent' For Marx the
.fe,sto. But their explÄations ä-vis these individual collectivities.' This duty is performed by the state. Unlike
constantly disturbld state of modernity is a consequence of the competitive
Marx and Weber, Durkheim does not conceive the state as primarily a coercive
accumulation of capital, and of the dynamic instability it brings
in its train'
institution. A properly functioning state is a necessary condition of the realiz-
of anomie,by contrast, recalls long-standing themes of
Durkheim's diagnos is ation of the individual. More particularly, 'the State is a special organ whose
Western thoughi- in particular, Plato's argument that both a
healthy self and a
properly governed city require reason to direct and control our sensual
rr lhitl.. pp..t7tl 9.
r' I )trr.klrt'irrr. /)i li.rrorr. p. liii.
al Durkheinr' ,srricir/c. pp' 209. 2lr4'211'219' r'' Ilrtrl..;lp. ilt) .l(). II
1r Ibicl.. pp. 2-53. 254. '156 (trrtrtslrrtiott lrt«xlil'ictl )'

I lhitl.. pp 251'i. l7(r rr. 15. ' l)tttkltt'rnt. l'11t11's.tirtrrrtl l'llrtr t.1t \l
Durkheim 139
138 Durkheim

good for the is the interpreter of God, so he . . . is the interpreter of the great moral ideas of
responsibility it is to work out certain representations which hold his time and country."'
in exterior action, in making changes,
coliectivity'. Its 'whole life . . . consists not The importance he ascribed to education helps to explain the intellectual
. . . Strictly speaking, the State is
but in deliberation; that is in representations prominence Durtheim gained in the Third Republic. The politically dominant
the very orgall of social thought.'a8
Fur- Radicals, fiercely anti-clerical but socially conservative, relied on the system of
The state is thus the highest expression of the collective consciousness'
more clearly articulated' they lay, public, elementary schools as the key conduit for instilling republican val-
thermore, as collectir" ,.pr.r"ntations become
debate' De- ues in the mass of the population: Durkheim provided a social-theoretical justi-
become the objects of conscious reflection, and of criticism and
lts development is a fication for this strategy. Georges Sorel, then a Marxist. accurately described
mocracy is the institutional expression of this process'
changing modern societies: him in 1895 as the theorist of the 'new ideas of conservative democracy, estab-
response to the needs of complex, rapidly
lishing more justice in economic relations, tävouring the intellectual and moral
for conduct' but development of the people, encouraging industry to develop in rnore scientific
When things go on happening in the same way, habit will suffice
aie changing continually, habit. on the contrary, must not be directions', and supporting'the intervention of the State'.s2
when circurnstances
in sovereign control. Reflection alone makes possible the discovery of new and
that the future can be ztnticipated'
ef-fectual practices. for it is only by reflection
That is why delibelative assemblies are becoming evel more widely
accepted as 6.3 Meaning and belief
They the means by which societies can give considered thought
an institution. are
of the almost contin-
to themselv"r, unä therefore they becorne the instrument Durkheim'sconceptionof societyas'ultimatelyareligiousentity'(asLockwood
of collective existence demand'4"
uous changes that present-day conditions puts it) reaches its apogee in his last major work, The Elementary- Forms of the
Religious Life (1912). This study of the religious beliefs and practices of 'prim-
The development of democratic institutions also teflects, Durkheim
itive' societies, drawing heavily on case-studies of Australian aboriginal bands,
But this freedom does not 'consist
the modern demand for individual freedom. reflects Durkheim's growing preoccupation with the evidence which anthrop-
in rebelling against nature such a revolt being futile and fiuitless, whether
- ological research provided about the nature and sources of social order. Though
attempted against the fbrces of the material world or those of the social world' his thought continued to display evolutionist assumptions - as Lukes points
necessities he
To be autonomous means, for the human being, to understand the out, '[hle simply took it as axiomatic that there is an identity between (cultural
with full knowledge of the facts.'s0 This essen-
has to bow to and accept them a and .structural) simplicity and evolutionary priority' - this shift in focus implied

tially Stoic conception of freedom as the recognition of necessity is one of a

that the problematic Durkheim had inherited fiorn Cornte and Spencer of
Durkheim's political theory recalls that of Hegel
number of respecis in which placing individual societies within an evolutionary sequence of progressive
all advocated a revival of corporations as a means
(see §2.1 above). Hegel after differentiation no longer occupied the tbreground of his In this
of helping to overcome the conflicts and instability of civil society; he also sense, the Elementory Forms is one of the harbingers of the reaction against
conceived the modern state (admitteclly without the structures of
evolutionary theories of all kinds which reaches its clirnax in structuralism and
regarded as ildispensable mechanisms of collect-
democracy which Durkheim post-structuralism (see ch. I I below).
ive reflection and deliberation) as the ernbodiment of the interests of society as
Rather than seek to offer a necessarily inadequate summary of an extra-
a whole. ordinarily rich and complex work, I shall simply isolate four key themes of the
had also
There are other echoes in Durkheim's political theory. Tocqueville Elementnry Fonns. First, Durkheirr-r criticizes the rationalistic conception of
believed that a combination of democratic public life and vital private associa-
religion which informs the writings of the mainly British anthropologists on
(§3'2 above)'
tions was necessary to reconcile the individual and society whose researches he drew. Thus for F. W. Tylor and other theorists of animism.
Rousseau, like Durtheim, sought to find institutional rneans to channel and
who see supernatural beings as projections of human mental states, 'religious
to the com-
control individuals' private desires so that they were subordinated bcliefs are so many hallucinatory representations. without any objective found-
mon interest (the general will). One such means was education' on which
luti«ln whatsoever'. Durkheim rejects such interpretations, which have their
he wrote of the teacher: 'Just as the priest
Durkheim also laidlreat stress. Thus
''l (Ju«rtcrl in Lukes. I)urkltein. p. ll6.
'ln lbid., PP. 62, -50, -51 . ' (.)rrolt'rl ihitl.. p. .120.
re lhid.. P. 90. '' llrrtl.. p..15(r.
r, lhitl.. 1t ()l
140 Durkheim Durkheim
«rrigins in the Enlightenment view of religion as 'a vast error imagined by the Nevertheless, as Lukes points out, 'Durkheim,s
dichotomy between the sa_
priests': cred and the profane . . . derives from
and is explained by the basic, and multi-
ple' dichotomy between the social
and the individual' that is at the heart of
It is undeniably Lrue that errors have been able to perpetuate themselves in history; thought'5e Thus he argues that the his
but, except under a union of very exceptional circumstances. they can never per-
Australian aborigines' classification of natu-
ral kinds' including the totemic objects
petuate themselves unless they were true prctctic'ully, that is to say, unless, without attached to particular clans to which
interdictions apply, mirrors the internal
giving us a theoretically exact idea of the things with which they deal, they express structure of their societies, and in par-
ticular their sub-division into clans, marriage-classes,
well enough the manner in which they aff-ect us, either for good or for and moieties (or phatries).
Thus 'the classification of things reproduces
the classification. ,J'ntert, ,so that
The 'practical truth' of religious beliefs lies not in their formal correspondence
'if totemism is' in one aspect, the
grouping of nren into clans accor6ing to
ral objects (the associated totemic species), natu-
with the world but in the needs they answer. The mistake made by the Enlighten- it is arso, inversery, a grouping of
ment and its successors among students of 'primitive' religion in part from natural objects in accordance with social groups,.60
their treating religious belief as a matter of the transactions between human be- From this perspective, Durkheim- orgr.J, .[r]erigion
ceases to be an inexpric_
able hallucination and takes a foothord in
ings and their natural environment. Once the problem is defined in these terms, it .*iirylln fact, we can say that the
is easy enough to demonstrate the inadequacy of most religious representations believer is nof deceived when he believes in thl
upon which he depends and from which
fiom the standpoint of the modern physical sciences. But, Durkheim suggests, he receives all that is best in himself:
'[llet us suppose that religion responds to quite another need than that of adapt- this power exists, it is society.' This theory
amounts to a functional explanation
ing ourselves to sensible objects: then it will not risk being weakened by the fact of religion as 'the systenl of ideas with
which individuals represent to them-
that it does not satisfy, or only badly satisfles this need.''5s selves the society of which they are
members, and the obscure but initimate
The need which religion fulflls is sctcial. This brings us to our second fheme, relations which they have with it'.6r
Like any runltional account of a social
Durkheim's theory of religion proper: practice' Durkheirl's theory must specify
the rnechanisms through which this
practice perforrns the role he claims fbr
it. we may consider his a.alysis of
The power thus [i.e. through religionl irnposed on his [i.e. the inclividual's] re- religious ritual, our third theme. as an attempt
to meet this requirement.
spect and become the object of his adoration is society. of which the gods were Durkheim argues that curts pray.a .pr"ponä"rating
rore . . . in arr rerigions . .
only the hypostatic fbrni. Religion is in a word the system of symbols by means This is because society .ornoi-ot . its influence .

of which society becomes conscious of itself: it is the characteristic way of think- it is not in action unless the individuals who.ornpor.
rit unless it is in action, and
ing ol' col lective existence.s" it are assembled together
and act itt common'' Religious rituals serve
to Lring the rnernbers of society
together in a shared reafltrmation of their
Society is therefbre 'ultimately a religious entity' because what is venerated collective identity. Thus .the eff-ect of
the cult is to recreate periodically a moral
in religion is society itself. 'One must choose between God and society', being on which we depencl as it
depends on us', namely society- But
Durkheirn says, but he declares himself 'quite indifferent to this choice, since I the effect or the ceremonies involvecl in
the cult is not simply intellectual or
seein the Divinity only society transfigured and expressed symbolically'.57 He spiritual; they act on the collective senti-
ments of those gathered there. Through
famously defines religion in terms of the polarity between sacred and protäne: their common actions, the assembled
participants in the rituars achieve an
emotional high pitch, a conditi.n of
'collecti ve effervescence'. 62
the real characteristic of all religious phenomena is that they always suppose a ,When
emotions have this vivacrity,, Durkheirn
bipartite division of the whole universe, known and knowable, into two classes arglres, .they may well be
which embrace all that exists, but which radically exclude eerch other. Sacred llainful, but trrey are not depressing; on the contrary,
they denote a state of
cl'f'ervescence which implies a mobilization
things are those which the interdictions protect and isolate; profane things, those of utl ou active forces and even
to which these interdictions are applied.sE It sttpply of external energies.' These states
of eft'ervescence thus involve
:r .cle,se <lf surprus energy which finds
5r expression ,in supplementary and
E. Durkheinr (1912), The Elententatlt fe7'se of tht: Religious Lff? (New York. 1965). pp.u6.
87, 98-9.
55 Ibid.. p. I02. "' l .rrkt's. l )trrl,ltt,ittt, p. )6:
56 Dtrrkhcinr. .Stricitlc, p. 3 12. corrrl.rlrrc 1t1;. lO l.
l"l)trrklrerlrtltrltl M Nllttrssrttlrlti.-l't'i,titirr'('lrt.t.tilit.tttirtir(l..rrtl.n,
'r l)rrrkltcirtt.,!rrr'lrrlrr,(r'tutrl l'ltilt,,sr,/,/rr', p..5J (lrurrsllrliolr rtrotlilictl ). 'l l )rrrklrr.irrr. l)lt.tttr,rrlrtr.\. I ttnu\.1,
196.i).pp. II,l7-lu.
't I)rrr.klrr'irl. l..l(,tu('nl(ttr' /.illr.r. P. 5(r. llrrtl . p;r .l()^l. ll'i() lO\
142 Durkheim
superfluous works of luxury, that is [o say, works of art', and in the 'exuberant society was not sirnply a model.*.hi"h
classificatory thought fbllowed: it was
movements' pertbrmed. less fbr well-deflned cultic purposes than because of own divisions which served as divisions its
fbr the ;y;, of classification. The
the pleasure they give, by participants in rituals. But this 'recreational' dimen- logical categories were social categories, Ilrst
the first classes of things were classes
sion of the cult is subordinate to its predominant function: to send the members men into which these things were of
integrated. It was because men were
and thought of themselves in the fbnn grouped,
of society back to their mundane, proläne lives with a renewed sense of their äf groups, that in their ideas they grouped
shared identity: other things, and in the beginning the
two n,od", of grounding were merged
the point of being indistinguishable.6i tcr

For a society to become conscious of itself and rnaintain at the necessary degree
of intensitl, the sentiments which it thus attains, it must assernble and concentrate Thus Durkheim argues that the
various basic categories western
herited from th.e Greeks space, time, thought in-
itself. Now this concentration brings about an exaltation of the mental life which - crass, number, cause, personality,
takes form in a group of icleal conceptions where is portrayed the new Iife just originated in these primitive classifications: etc. _
'they are a procluct of r.eligious
awakened; they correspond to this new set of psychical fbrces which we have at thought', and therefbre are, like religious
beriefs änd .on..pts generaly, ,es_
our disposition for the daily tasks of existence. A society can neither create itself sentially collective representations',
äisplaying 'the mental statesof the group,.
nor recreate itself without at the same time creatirlg an consequently' 'they. should depend on
the way in which this is founded
and organized, upon its morphuiogy,
upon its religious, moral ancl economic
Durkheim's analysis of these states of 'collective effervescence' is one of his institutions, etc.,66
rnost striking ideas. It would seem to admit of application to social practices Durkheim calls these fundamental
categories 'the fiamework of the intel-
other than religious rituals - tbr example, to collective movements whose aim ligence'' His general conception of
their role reflects the influence of
is not to reaffirm, but rather to refbrm or even to revolutionize society. But of Kantian's like one of his teachers, neo-
the philosopher Emile Boutroux. But
more immediate relevance is an irnportant implication of this analysis: if the regarded the categories of the uttderstanaing Kant
continued existence of a society depends on its renewal through collective acts u, th" necessary condition of any
possible experie.nce' In assigning
the categäries a historical origin,
whose emotional dynamic requires the postulation of an 'ideal', then not sim- might appear to be weakening their Durkheim
force, or relativ izingthem to specific
ply is society the real object of cultic veneration, but all societies necessarily conditions. This is not, however, his social
intention. Thus he writes:
have a religious dimension. Indeed, Durkheim says that 'there is something
eternal in religion: it is the cult and the f.aith'.64 This remark indicates the dis- If men did not agree upon these essential
ideas at every molnent, if they
tance he has travelled fiom Enlightenrnent rationalism: he trcats precisely those have the same conception of tirne, clicl not
space. ..;;;, ;;;;;r, erc., all conra* berween
features of religious life which even those philosophes who were not atheists their minds woul«J be inrpossible.
and with that. ail Iif'e together. Thus
were inclined to disrniss as debased superstitious practices as indispensable could not abandon the categories to society
the free choice of the inclividual
cloni,g itself' If it is «l live there is without aban-
requirements of any functioning society. not merery need of a satisfhctory
fbrnlity' but also there is a ntinumum nroral con*
The same distance is also measured by the fourth theme fiom Durkheinr's of logicaiconfornrity beyond which
saf-ely go' For this reason it uses it cannot
theory of religion, namely the sociology of knowledge it implies. He attaches all its iuthority ,p,r, i,, members to fbrestall
such dissidence' Does a rnind ostensibly

great significance to the systems of categories characteristic of 'primitive' relig- ti'ee itself
frorn these tbrnrs of thought?
It is no longer consiclercd a hurnan mincl in the
ions - for example, those embodied in the Australian totemic beliefs touched treated accordingly
f'ull sense of the word and is
on briefly above. Durkheirn's discussions of them in the Elementarv- Forms and ' ' ' This seems to be the origin of the exceptional
which is inherent in reasotr and whic-h authority
makes us accept its suggestio,s
in Primitive ClassiJicotiort, written.iointly with his nephew Marcel Mauss, rep- fidence' It is the very authority of with con-
society. trunsf'en'i'g irself to ä
resent one of the starting-points of Ldvi-Strauss's structural anthropology (see thought which is the indispensable cer-tain lnanner of
c.ndition of all common action.67
§ I L2 below). As we have seen, Durkheim and Mauss claim to have discovered
'a close link, and not an accidental relation, between the [Australian] social This rather ararrning passage, in imprying
that those who 6o not accept the
system and this logical system' of totemic classifrcation. But this is nrerely thc P.cvailin-e categories wiil be the object o, sociar
(',ltsLrilheln'si suggestion sanctions, ca[s to mind
starting-point of a much more ambitious thesis: that to normalize is to inrpose requirements
on an

(ri lhid.. pp. 451-4. 126.47(t. 4() t. tt]_l

lrr lbitl.. p. -l7ll.
144 Durkheim
often recalcitrant reality (see §6.1 above). It also implies that the compelling force whereby what we hold
true 'imposes itself on us'. The
force which leads us to accept certain arguments as valid and certairl sentences light of the foregoing discüssion. answer is, in the
a predictable one:
as true ultimately derives from the power of the collective consciousness to
overwhelm the individual. Durkheim makes out this claim nrost fully in lec- In the Iife of the human t,,"., it
is the collectivity which maintains
tures he gave in 1913-14. Here he sought to respond to an attack mounted on reprcsentations' and all collective ideas and
representations are by virtue
the classicalconception of truth as the conespondence of our representations to invested with a prestige which of their origin
means that they have the power
reality by Williarn Janres and other American pragmatist philosophers. James selves' They.have a greater to impose them_
psychologi.ul.n..!y *on ."o..rentations
argued that, instead of measuring our beliefs by what he claimed amounted to from the individual' rnat is wrry emanati,g
they settre *i;:;;.; force
That is where the very strength in our conscirrsness.
an unattainable ideal, we should appraise them in terms of their practical utility. of truth lies.70
This critique necessarily represented a challenge to Durkheim, who had in-
herited from Comte, and indeed tiom the rationalist tradition stemming fron'r so society makes sentences true.
This hardly seems like a convincing
to Jarnes and his co-thinkers' answer
Descartes, the conception of science as objective knowledge. He declares that A contemporary pragmatist such
might readily concecre rhe poinr, as Richard Rorty
'Io]ur whole French culture is basically an essentially rationalistic one . . . A
society itse-lf constantly changes. ü;;#;,
but thln .subverr it by pointing our
total negation of rationalism would thus constitute a danger, fbr it would over- that
what is wamantedly a.ssertible at
throw our whole national culture.' Durkheim nevertheless brings to the patri- time is thus undermined by srccessive ,redescriptions, one
social changes' Truth the, becomes bound up with rarger
otic task of def-ending rationalism a significant degree of sympathy with a protean concept, its content
changing along with the society constantry
pragmatism. Not only has it awakened philosophy from its dogmatic slumber, from wiich it oe.ires its power
it is' moreover' hard to resist the of imposition;
but 'it has, in common with sociology, a sense of lift and action. Both are susp,icion that too.upio a series
might weaken this power' The resulting of rcdescriptions
children of the same era.'''n climate of'uncertainty and scepticism
is indeed part of what Durkheim
James plays this sense off against the traditional conception of truth, thinks is ,.org *rth moder,iry _
or lack of moral its anomie,
counterposing to what he regards as an abstract conception of reason the vzu'y- His failur. ro...ogr?r. r,.,o,
his defence of rational-
ism is open to this'egulation.
ing contexts of action from which beliefi derive their actual rneaning. Sociol- kind of objection seems to reflect
society into an eternal"rr.n... a tendency to hypostatize
ogy goes part of the way with pragmatism here, satys Durkheirn, since it too As E. E."iura pul
nol the savage who made society it, .it was Durkheim
'introduces a relatit,i^rrl which rests on the relation between the physical en- into a god,.zr
vironment on the one hand and man on the other'. But, in the central role which This tendency is incleed the rnäin
sollrce of the wider difficulties
theory' Durkheim's preoccupation in his social
sociology (at least as practised by Durkheirn) gives to society and to collective with the *oy in which values and
contribr-rte to social beliets
lepresentations lies the means of trumping James's attempt to dernolish the 'stability has been rnnu.ntiar on twentieth-
concept of obiective truth. Durkheim focuses on what he calls 'the rnore or less
century social thought. Theorists "no.rouriy
fiom such aifferent backgrou'ds parsons
irnd Habe'mas bear his brand. as
physical impossibility of not admitting the truth. When our mind perceives a But Durkheim,s ,ro.rotiue functionalism,
l'crs from an evident flaw. sut_
true representation, we f'eel that we cannot but accept it as true. The true idea Anomie, as we have seen, is principaily
cconomic instabirity ancr sociar caused by
inrposes itselJ on us.'6" co,flict. yet, as Lockwoocr observes, , ..crass,,
Thus viewed. truth assumes a different aspect.: 'The problem is not to know
l'ld "econornic life".are concepts in Durkheini,s
ttttlst entirely unexplicatecl. They sociorogy which remain ar_
by what right we can say that a given proposition is true or f-alse. What is ac- refer to fbr-ces whose disordering
lrlways analysed by reference effects are
cepted as true today may quite well be held to be frilse tonlorrow. What is t; the normative structure; they are themserves
rl()[ conceived of as having
important is to know what has made men believe that a representation con- a structure which is worthy
of detailed considera_
littll''7r D,rkheim.offers ,ih.ory
tbrms to reality.' Durkheim seems ready to concede to the pragmatists that the of'the sources of sociar order.
tlrc lirrces undermining it. but not one of
sentences we hold true are at best warrantedly assertible - in other words, they From ihi, ,h..r. stems the pecuriar
it provided no pathos of his soci_
are simply what, given our existing beliefs. we are entitled to assert, rather than ',rgy: rneans of expraini,g the
.iirt worrd war, in which
representing the way the world actually is. His interest lies in identifying thc
l)r''khcirn's son an. many of
his pupirs perished, nor the
t'.rrllict which rhar war u.snered
era of heightened
ir. ffrr, iJ*'i;,ä;;;.rr.
hri R. Drrrkhr'irn tlt)-5-5\. Pnr,qtttttti,t'rtr tttrd,§or'lalo,g.r'. crl. I:. Ctrr,illit'r iuttl .1. B. Alli'rtk (('url " llrirl . pp li5 (r.
hritlrc. lt)fi.j). p. I. ' l, l, lrr,;rrrs l,«1, Ntr,.r. li,.li.t1i,,l (()rlirr.rl.
tt) llrirl . pp (l) lll.l \ l(J5(rt. P. I I l
I rx ks o<trl,,\'rtf 111111/I\.
lr /S
Weber 147

The honesty of a present-dpy scholar, and above all, a present-day philosopher,

can be measured by attitude to Nietzsche and Marx. Whoever does not admit
that considerable parts of his own work could not have been carried out in the
absence of the work of these two, only fools himself and others. The world in
which we spiritually and intellectually live today is a world substantially shaped
by Marx and Nietzsche.2

Weber Yet, if Weber oriented himself with respect to Marx and Nietzsche, he never-
theless hewed his own path. Reconstructing the precise content of the theories
which resulted is perhaps more ditficult than it is in the case of other major
social theorists. This is partly because, as Keith Tribe says, 'Weber's work is
fragmentary not only in the sense that his efTorts were spread over several fields,
any one of which was usually the defining province of a scholar; much of his
published work was radically incomplete, hastily written, unrevised, proof-ed at
speed. afier publication the manuscripts discarded.'3 Moreover. Weber, par-
7.1 Prussian agriculture and the German state ticularly in his methodological writings. often expressed himself obscurely and
elliptically. Recent scholarship helps to provide a better understanding of the
of modernity: the
Durkheirn and Marx offer two starkly counterposed images soLrrces and development of his thought, but offering an overview of the results
integration of
first is so preoccupied with the dangers posed to the normative is a particularly hazardous enterprise.
he believes to be sub-
society that he cannot offer an account of the processes Weber seerns to have regarded himself primarily as an economist. As late as
theory of the con-
versive of social stability; the second ofTers a comprehensive

1918. he spoke of 'we political economists'.4 [n his 1895 inaugural lecture at

yet predicts their

flicts and uncertainties endernic to modern bour-ueois society' Freiburg, Weber included himself among 'the disciples of the German Histori-
of his critics argue)
resolution in a future communist society without (so many cal School'.5 The Historical School represented the dominant version of econ-
which would
providing the conception of the nature and ends of human action omics studied in Germany during the nineteenth century. Its leading practitioners
be required to justifj this prediction. The particular
inteiest of Weber lies in the
conceived economics as primarily a historical and descriptive science concerned
signihcance of cap-
thct that he develops a distinctive account of the historical with understanding society as a concrete, evolving whole. Thus Karl Knies
a sense of the
italism as part of u toOy of thought which displays as strong wrote in 1853:
and Marx did' but
inherently conflictual character of social reality as Hegel
played by ineducibly dif-
combines this with an attempt to understand the role If . . . political economy genuinely bases itself on the real f'acts of people and

ferent, ald indeed antagonistic, values in governing human state, if it seeks to solve the problems arising in people and state, then it should
sumound most major social theorists: weber is no excep- not detach its dornain and task from that of life in its entirety, but must rather treat
tion to this rule. His tate has been to enrerge, in the American-led both as a living mernber of a living body . . . Since political economy has to
World War, as the patron saint of 'value-fiee' so- respect this context, and in its own concerns contributes to the solution of the
of sociology after the Second
interesting thinker moral-political problerns of the whole, it is therefbre enjoined to take its place
cial science (see § 10.2 below). Fortunately, he is a much more
points of reference were with the moral and politit:al .sciences.6
than this conventional portrait suggests. That Weber's
sought to envelop hinl
very diftbrent trom those of the postwar orthodoxy which
his death in 1920: Such a conception of political economy was plainly quite at odds with the
is suggested by a remark he made a few weeks before
vcrsion formulated by J. S. Mill, which became entrenched, especially in Brit-
r a prominent National Liberal menrber ol
Max weber (l tt64-1g20): born in Erfurt, the son of rrirr itnd Austria, as a result of the 'marginalist revolution' of the 1870s (see §3.1
the Gernrain Reichstag and Prussiltr Landtag: studied
law at the universities of Heidelberg' Berlirr'
at the University of Freiburg' I894-6; lnoved to the Urti
ancl Göttingen; Prof'essor of Economics ' Qtrotccl irr W. Hennis, Ma.rWeber (London. 1988), p. 162.
versity of Heidelberg to take over Karl Knies's chair in
Politicirl Science in 1 u96; suf'fbred a sevcr.('
' K 'l'rihc. 1l'lu)sllrl()r"s introductiorr. ibid.. p. 10.
r.nental breakdttwnin 1897,frorl1whichittookhirnseveral yearstorecover;resignedhischlrilirr
in 1904 took over. with EdgarJaffi ttncl wctttt'r ' Il ll. (it'r'tlr rrrrrl ('. Wriglrt Mills. crls. lintnr Mtr-r Wclttr (1.«rnrkrn. l()70).p. l2().
1903 but sufliciently recovcrecl to resumL'wtlrk: ' N'|. Wt'lrr'r.l'rtlitit'ttl llrilil.r3r. l'. l.rrssrrr:rrr rrrrrl ll . Sgrcir.s t'tl. (('lrrrrhlitlgc. l()()-1). 11. 19.
'' (.)ttrrlr'rl irr l lt'rrrris. Ä/rrr ll ,'l,t r .1, l.)ll
lit'ottolttics lrl lhe [ ]rtivt'r'sitv ol Mtrrric'h' l() l() l0'
Weber Weber 149
The presence of the Social Denlocratic Party (SPD), with a mass working-
above). Here economics was conceived as an abstract and deductive theory
con- class base and a substantial bloc of deputies, both created pressure for derno-
which artificially isolatecl one aspect of human behaviour for study. These
in the debate which developed cratic refbrms and suggested to the Gern-ran ruling class that sumendering to this
flicting conceptions of economics were at stake
pressure would be dangerous. Meanwhile. rivalries among the Great Powers be-
in the I ggOs known as the Methotlenstreit - the battle over methods - pitting
came increasingly threatening as the nineteenth century drew to a close, chiefly
Austrian marginalists, led by Carl Menger, against German historical econ-
because of the destabilizing consequences of Germany's emergence as a world
omists, headed by Gustav von Schmoller'
power. On the Continent, Germany and Austria-Hungary faced France and Rus-
Weber was eventually to adopt a methodological position that was, as we
closer to Menger than to sia; moreover, Germany's decision in 1898 to build a battle fleet unleashed an
see in the following section, in certain crucial respects
like the Historical School, to ex- arms race with Britain (which interpreted the move as a challenge to its naval and
Schmoller and Knies. Nevertheless, he sought,
colonial supremacy) that helped drive Europe into the First World War.
plore the wider social context of economic processes, and to relate them to the
In this context, the condition of Prussian agriculture - the economic base of
pu.rrit of moral and political objectives. This can be seen in his first writings to
a key section of the German ruling class - was more than a merely academic
hur. u general impact, published between 1894 and 1897, and devoted to the state
question. In l89l-2the Verein für Sozialpolitik (German Social Policy Associ-
of prussian agriculture. These were far from being works of disengaged scholar-
elite' ation) surveyed 4,000 landowners on the condition of rural labour east of the
ship, but insteacl resonated with the contemporary concerns of the German
greatest Elbe. The Verein had been set up in 1873. lt reflected mainly the influence of
The German Reich, unifiecl in 1871, was from its foundation the
Schmoller and other historical economists: it was critical of Mttnchestertum, or
military power in Europe. By the outbreak of war in l9l4' it had also surpassed
unrestrained free-market economics, and sought to devise state policies that
Britain and established itself as the second biggest indtrstrial economy. Rapid
would limit the attraction of the SPD for workers. Weber was asked to analyse
industrialization transformed German society - in the rapidly expanding cities.
Rut the the results of the survey on rural labour.
an affluent bourgeoisie and an industrial proletariat both took shape'
of the nineteenth century was a Weber's writings of the I 890s reflect both Marx's influence and the distance
modernity Germany had achieved by the end
between the two men. Weber's researches into ancient economic history, which
complex and troubled one. The Reich's constitution provided for a parliament.
extensive immediately preceded his study of Prussian agricr-rlture, already showed an an-
the Reichstag" electecl by universal male suffrage, but allowed such
head of state and king of Prussia alytical interest in distinguishing between types of economic structure - 'natu-
powers to the emperor in his role as German
and military hierarchy ral' or barter economy (a concept he owed to the historical economist J. K.
ihat ttre predominantly Prussian civilian bureaucracy
Rodbertus), the basis of feudalism; slave society. which permitted the limited
were able targely to evade political accountability. The Junkers, as the landed
developrnent of commerce; and modern capitalism with its roots in free wage-
nobility east of the Elbe were known, traditional base of the Prussian monar-
labour. Weber's explanation of the decline of classical antiquity was essen-
chy, benefited liom a variety of state subsidies. TarifTs introduced by Bismarck
tiallyan economic one: 'It is clear, therefore, that the disintegration of the Roman
in 1879 were widely seen as consummating a'marriage of iron and rye', bind-
Empire was the inevitable political consequence of a basic economic develop-
ing together the Junkers and the chiefs of increasingly cartellized heavy indus-
policy nlent: the gradual disappearance of comrnerce and the expansion of a barter
tries such as coal and steel. Weber hirlself described the outcome of this
as 'the t-eudalization of bourgeois capital"T
It is a sound generalization that when any European intellectual considers
By the end of the nineteenth century, Germany was undoubtedly a highly
pol- the decline of Rome, he is usually wondering whether his own civilization will
successful modern capitalist state. But any claims on its behalf as a liberal
National Liberals (of whom Weber's father succumb to a similar fate. In the Freiburg Address Weber. speaking on behalf
ity were much more dubious. The
ol'his own, younger generation of German bourgeois, conjures up the threat of
was a leading member) represented the wing of Prussian liberalism which
aftel' lristorical decadence: 'At our cradle stood the most frightful curse history can
abancloned their opposition to Bismarck's defence of absolute nronarchy
he had, through a succession of diplomatic manoeuvres and victorious wars. rivc any generation as a baptisrnal-gift: the hard fäte of the political epigone.")
'l'lris preoccr-rpation with decline is probably in part a response to Nietzsche's
secured German uniflcation. They played an important part in developing
approximating a genuine parliament, thott-[h its t'orrrprclrcnsive critique ol European nihilisrn. But it also arose fion"r more
the Reichstag into something
a subordinate one' rrrtcnl sociirl lrncl politiczrl concerns.
position in the state remained

r M. Wcbcr cd., Rttrtlitr,t Wclx'r (l'otttlort' l\l Wt'lrt'r. l'ltt',l,qr.tttitrrt .\'rtt ittlrt,t:t rtf ,\ttt it'trl ('ivili:.trlirttr.s (l,otttlott, 197(r). J0li.
( ltJ()7). '(icrnrlrny lrs llr Intltrstliul Stlrtc'. in K. Tribc, 1t.
' \\'r'lr,'t . l',,1111,,,1 ll rilirr,;r. p '.1
()l(() p. 2 I 5.
| 1.

150 Weber Weber 151

Weber's writings on East Elbian agriculture are concerned to draw attention necessary experience in exercising political power. As for the
working class,
to changes in what he calls 'the labour-organization lArbeitsverfassungl of the despite the organizationaT and electoral successes of the SpD, it
lacks the
large landed properties'. This had been 'a form of communal economy, dynamism or courage either to constitute a threat to the existilg order
or to
patriarchally ruled and directed'. based on a legally subordinated workfbrce of reinvigorate it: the SPD leader.s are 'infinitely more harmless than
they think
peasant smallholders required to provide the landowner with their families' they are, fbr there is not a spark of that Catilinarian energy to act in
them, nor
labour. The Junkers, however, in response to their political decline and under the slightest trace of that rnighty nationalisl passion' shown by the
competitive pressure from 'the wealthy commercial bourgeoisie', were trans- during the French
forming themselves into 'entrepreneurs working according to commerc:ial prin- Implicit in this diagnosis is a second theme: there is no necessary coffes-
ciples': 'world-wide conditions of production ... now began to rule the pondence between economic and political processes. Germany's
enterprises'.r0 This implied a move towards the intensive cultivation of cash- might is no guarantee that it will enjoy political leadership of the iequired qual-
crops such as sugar beet, and, as a consequence, the proletarianization of the ity. Thus Weber argues fbr the closure of Germany's eastern border with
rural workforce. The beet estates, in particular, were becoming increasingly Poland and a policy of systematic land purchases and colonization
by German
reliant on low-paid and unskilled Polish seasonal labourers. peasants east of the Elbe in order to preserve the 'national'
character of the
Weber's concern with the consequences of these developments is, in part, region even though these measures will produce economically sub-optimal
national and racial. Thus he warns of 'a Slavic invasion which could mean a sults: '[ do not believe that the colonization of the German East initially
cultural regression of major proportions'.rr His writings on East Elbian agri- least - will lead to an irnprovemenf in agricultural technique .
- at
. . but I regard it
culture contain odious racist remarks, fbr example. about 'Polish animals'.r2 as necessary and possible because the prevailing international
relations of com-
But he is also concerned with the negative impact which the decline of the petition render the land of the German East valueless from the point
of view of
traditional Prussian estate may have on the German polity. For '[t]he East production fbr the world market.'16 Where the national interest
commands it,
Elbian estates are not merely economic units, but local political centres of domin- the state must be willing to override the dictates of economic rationality.
tttion lHerrscha.ftscentrenl. Based upon Prussian traditions, they provided the This did not mean that Weber advocitted simply defying the logic of
material basis fbr a stratum of the population accustomed to possessing both market. He opposed proposals to make Gerrnany an autarki. ..onoÄy
political authority within the state, and the political and military forces of state grain supply would be provided by a highly protecred East Elbian
power.'13 Their decline implies that the Junkers can no longer play a leading Higher tariffs would transform Germany into an internationally uncompetitive
role in the state: 'the centre of gravity of the political intelligentsia is shifting 'rentier capitalism' and promote 'the proliferation of this.fe ttda-1izatio,
irresistibly into the cities. i"/zis shift is the decisive politicalfactor in the agrar- geois capitul' which under Bisrnarck had preventecl the bour_eeoisie
from cle-
ian development of eastern Germany.'ra veloping its political capacities. Moreover maximizing grain yieicts
would require
Four dimensions may be distinguished in the broader reflections which this the further capitalization of East Elbian agricultur", in. reiulting
increases in
analysis provokes in Weber. In the frrst place, the erosion of Junker power productivity would reduce the size of the rural workfbrce and theieby
represents a crisis tbr the German state, since there is no other class capable of the very process of depopulation Weber was seeking to prevent.
To prevent this
assurning the role of political leadership. Though he proclaims himself 'a mem- «rutcome, Germany must buy an increasing proportion of its foocl
supply abroad,
ber of the boLrrgeois [bürgerlicltl classes' and identifies with 'their views and rrnd finance tlrese imports by a corresponding growth in its
of -unr-
ideals', Weber denies that 'the German bourgeoisie has the maturity today «r lirctured goods. Weber acknowledges 'the enormous risk which "^po.i
the inevitable
be the leading political class of the German nation'. This is a consequence of its .utward economic expansion of Germany places upon us,, but regarcls it
lack of political education. It was not the bourgeoisie but Bismarck who unihed as 'unavoidable'.r7
Germany; his 'Caesarist' rule, moreover, denied it the opportunity to gain thc Thirdly, economic processes are not to be understood primarily as a means of
wclfare-maximization, but from a perspective of eternal struggle which
r0 M. Weber (1894), 'Developmental Tendencies in the Situtrtion of East Elbian Rural Labour- ,l'htlth Nietzsche and Social Darwinism: 'Our successors will hold us answer-
ers' , Economy ond Sot:iety, B ( 1979), pp. 177 , 179, I 80. ;thlc ttl history ntlt primarily fbr the kind of economic organization
rr lbid., p. 200.
we hand down
rr Quoted in K. Tribe, 'Prussian Agriculture - German Politics: Max Weber 1892 1' . in Trilrt'. '' llritl" PP' 2 t. l-5 (r. ('lrlilirlc wits thc lcrttlcr.l'an unsucccsst'ul insurrccti«rnary cor.rspiracy gncler
etl.. Rcutling Wcbt'r. p. I 14. tIrt' llorrlrn l{e prrblit. irr Ilrt. (.(,t)lut.,v u(,.
B Wchcr.'l)r:vckr;'lrtrcnlirl'l'crtrlcncics', p. l7li. " (.)rrolt.rl irr 'llllrt.. 'l,r'rrssi:rrr Artrit.ullrrn.'.
1t. I I5
\&'t'ht't'. l'ttlitit trl lli llia,{.,,r. p. I } ' \\'t'lrr'l . '( it'r rrr;ur\''. pp .) I L) I () ) )l)
Weber Weber 153
bequeath to them' In into newly independent states such äs Poland and Czechoslovakia, Weber vig-
to them, but for the amount of elbow-room we conquer and
pov)er struggles too''r8 orously supported the armed resistance mounted in their areas by the Freikorps,
the lrnal analysis. proceSSeS of economic development ate
on foreign trade is groups of extreme right-wing ex-oflicers many of whom later joined the Nazis.
Thus the risk involved in Gerrnany's increased reliance
He declared in December l9l8: 'He who is not willing to employ revolutionary
the same risk that all great trading industrial peoples of the
past' all leading peoples methods in regions where a German irredenta will emerge, and risk the scaffbld
in the past at the time of their greatness have taken upon and prison, will not deserve the name of nationalist in the future.'24
in cultural development
iiis my opinion that we are not pursuing a policy of national corn-
themselves, ancl
take this burden upon our shoulders if
.fort bürather of greatness, hence we must r')
we wish to have a national existence other than that of switzerland, fbr example' 7.2 Science and the warring gods
Finally. economics is not a neutral science: 'As an explanatory and Eternal conflict and struggle thus fbrm one of the main elements of Weber's
ical science, political economy is international,but as soon aS it
rnakes value-
thought. Yet his writings of the 1890s could, at a pinch, be treated as the work
judgemenrs ii is tied to the particular strain of mankin d (Menschentunt) we of an especially talented historical economist strongly influenced by Social
'[t1he science of pcllitical economy is a
within our own nature.' Accordingly, Darwinism. Thus he argues that 'it is not the alleged export policy, but rather
of the enduring power-political interests of
potiticalscience. It is a servant . . .
the increase in population - whatever may be the economic organization of
theorist' can
the nation', and'the criterion of value of a German economic the earth - which will in future intensify the struggle fbr existence, the struggle
policy or criterion''r0 Weber here echoes long-
therefore only be a German of man against man'.25 There is no evidence that Weber ever abandoned this
Historical School. Thus Friedrich List
standing formulations of the German essentially Malthusian prognosis. Nevertheless, his writings from 1903
had accused Adam Smith of seekilg 'to prove that "political" ot national
onwards, after he had recovered from his mental breakdown, rnake it clear that
economy must be replaced by "cosmopolitical" or world-wide
Weber was strongly opposed to the attempt to assimilate physical and social
of weber's writings, however. strikes a new note'
The strident nationalist tone processes characteristic of evolutionists such as Spencer (see ch. 5). Thus he
the 'eudaimonism' of those economists who, influ-
He dismisses what he calls rejected the idea of an evolutionary process of progressive differentiation
Bentham, see the maximization of human welfäre as the goal of their
enced by irnplicit in 'the familiar value-free concept of the biologists: "higher" = "more
science: 'We do not have peace and human happiness to hand
down to our suc-
differentiated". or more simply, "more complicated". As if the embryo and
struggle to preserve and raise the quality of our
cessors, but rather the eternal placenta. etc., were not the most complicated things known to biology.'2r'
a world away from the cosmopolitanism
national species.'22 Such statelnents Seem In doing so, Weber was participating in a widespread trend in European
his theoretical
of the Enlightenment. Weber was by no means alone in relating thought at the start of the twentieth century. Anti-naturalism - the denial that
of national interests. Durkheirn, as we saw
preoccupations to the construction human beings and the social world they created could be understood using
to defencl French rationalism against American
iSO.: above), invokecl sociology the same methods and concepts as those of the physical sciences - represented
pamphlets during the First World War'
piagmatism: he also wrote anti-Gernian a powerful reaction to the evolutionism and empiricisnr which had become
major theorist whose thought most profoundly inter-
Weber is, however, the cntrenched in Western intellectual culture, particularly as a result of the
the end of the
nalizes the world of Great Power rivalries that took shape at in-rpact of Darwin. This reaction took diverse, and often rnutually incompati-
German nationalism rutls through all his writ-
nineteenth century. An assertive ble, forms. The most important version of anti-naturalism in Germany was
ings. He respondld to the outbreak of war in August 1914 with enthusiasm'
rrco-Kantianism, represented by various schools which developed Kant's dis-
offbring his iister, who had just lost her husband i. the battle of
linction between a realm of appearances governed by the laws of nature and
e, this war is great and wort'
the rather doubtful comfbrt: 'Whatever the outcom
of her territory
l 'rloumenal' realm in which the subject could give itself moral laws into an
derfttl.'23 After Germany's defeat, and the incorporation of parts
olrposition between the worlds of external nature and human culture.
rs Weber. Political Writings,p. 16. 'fhe 'htrman' or 'cultural' sciences (Geisteswissenschaften, an expression
re Weber. 'Germany', P.213. r'oirrcd irr the Germitn translation of J. S. Mill's S1'stem o.f Logic to designate
r0 Weber'. PoliticulWritin,qs,pp' 15, 16.
rr Quoted in Hennis, Mux Weber, p. I ltt. '| (.)rrott'rl in ihirl.. pp. ll2 l-1.
rr Wcber. Polirit'ul Writirr,qs. p. l6' ' Wt'lrr'r. '( it'r rtr;rtt,v',
rr l,cttcr.t0 Lili schlil'lcr, ltl Aug. 1914, tlrrotctl in w..1. Morttlttsctt' Mtr.t \lt'ltct'ttntl 1l ")lli
'' l.r'llt't ltr l{lt l.t'r1. .) Nor l()O7. rlrrolr'rl irr llt'rrrris. Lltrt \l:r'l,t't. p 2JJ rr. 25.
l,t,litit..s. l,\t)O l())() (('lric1go. l()fi.l). l)l). l(X) l.
Weber 155
154 Weber

,moral sciences'27) therefore required a different method tion'. Here he presents value-pluralism as a consequence of a historical pro-
what he calred the
this method cess. The 'disenchantment' of the world - in other words, the collapse of tran-
from that of the physical sciences. ForWilhelm Dilthey, for example'
identifi- scendent religious interpretations of reality (see §7.3 below) - has produced a
is essentially interpretive, consisting in understanding: the empathetic
actions he seeks to state of affairs resembling that of classical antiquity, in which different gods -
cation of, for example, the historian with the subjects whose
is not Aphrodite, Apollo, and the like - made competing, and equally valid, claims to
reconstruct: 'The basis of the human studies lGeisteswissenschaftenl
veneration: 'Many old gods ascend from their graves; they are disenchanted
conceptualization but total awareness of a mental state and its reconstruction
and hence take the form of impersonal forces. They strive to gain power over
based on empathy. Here life grasps lif'e''28
the var- our lives and again they resume their eternal struggle with one another.' Since
Weber was undoubtedly influenced by neo-Kantianism, particularly
iety developed by Heinrich Rickert. Like Rickert, he conceived cultures
as sys- we no longer believe in a single transcendent deity who is the source of all
Hennis has meaning, we are confronted with 'an unceasing struggle of these gods with one
tems of values irreducible to physical processes' But, as Wilhelm
pointecl out, 'for weber's generation. Nietzsche was the decisive
intellectual another. Or speaking directly, the ultimate possible attitudes toward life are
The Nietzsche on whom Weber drew was not the biologist of irreconcilable and hence their struggle can never be brought to a final con-
"*p"rience'.2e partic- clusion.'33
power he was frequently construed as being by his German readers,
a result oi tt publication of his notebooks under the
title The Will to Where does value-pluralisrn leave the status of science itself? Values operate
utarty as
" in scientific research at a number of different levels. In the first place, they
Pov,erin 1906. Weber dismissed what he called 'theweake,.t/ part of Nietzsche'
moral- govern the selection of those phenomena which are considered worthy of study
the biological embellishments which are heaped around his thoroughly
in the lirst place:
istic teaching'.tt'
derives fiom
Nietzsche is of importance fbr weber for two reasons. First, he
the significance of cultural events presupposes a y,alue-orientation towards those
Nietzsche a belief in the primacy of power in social life. Thus:
events. The concept of culture is a value-conc'ept. Ernpirical reality becomes 'cul-
most inlportant ture' because and insofar as we relate it to value ideas. It includes those segments
Domination fHerrscha.ffl in the most general sense is one of the and only those segments of reality which have become significant to us because
of dominancy and its unfblding is of
elements of social action . . . The structure
the fbrm of social action and its orientation of this value-relevance. Only a small portion of existin-q concrete reality is col-
decisive importance in determining
decisive role particularly in the oured by our value-conditioned interest and it alone is signilicant to us. It is sig-
toward a 'goal'. Indeed, domination has played a
viz" the manor on the nificant because it reveals relationships which are important to us due to their
most important social structures of the past and present,
connection with our values. Only because and to the extent that this is the case is
one hand, ancl the large-scale capitalist enterprise on the
it worthwhile for us to know it in its individual t'eatures.ra

Secondly, however, Nietzsche is important to Weber as a

moralist' For
creative process of impos- We ascribe meaning to social events rather than finding it there: 'the meon-
Nietzsche, the will to power consists prirnarily in the
ing a new pattern, new values, on an inherently chaotic reality (see §5'3 above)' ing we ascribe to the phenomena - that is, the relations which we establish
in domination between these phenomena and "values" - is a logically incongruous and het-
while. as the passage just quoted indicates, weber is interested
are for him ulti- erogeneous factor which cannot be deduced tiom the "constitutive" elements
as a mundun", ,o.i,o-political phenomenon, power-struggles
pluralism and perspectivism' of the event in question'. Furthermore, ' "[m]eaningfully" interpretable human
mately conflicts of value. He takes over Nietzsche's
way of adjudicating be- action ("action") is identifiable only by reference to "valuations" and "mean-
and in particular his denial that there is any objective
of the world stand irl ings".' Weber therefbre agrees with Dilthey that the Geisteswissenschaften are
tween rival systems of values: 'the various value-spheres
interpretive sciences. Nevertheless, research in them, just as in the physical
ir-reconcilable conflict with one another''32 sciences. consists in discovering the causal relationships in which the events
a Vocit-
Weber makes this assertion in his famous 1918lecture 'science as sclected for their 'value-relevance' are involved. Furthermore, the knowledge
21H.-G.Gadanrcr,Trtü|tandMethtltl(London.1975.)'pp.5and.500n.l. gained through scientilic research is logically independent of our evaluations:
selected writings.eit. H. P. Rickman (cambridge. 1916),
28 W. Dilthey, p' l8l' "l'here is simply no bridge which can span the gap from the exclusively
2e Hennis, MoxWeber, P. 148'
r0 l-etter to Jatfb' l3 Sep. 1907, quoted in ibid" p' 150'
rr Wittick (2 vols' Berkelcy' l()7li " hit l., pp l -1(). 1 52.
M. Weber (1922). Et'ontttnv- ttrttl So(iett', ecl. G. Roth and C'
t l

II, p. 941.
" M. Wr'ht'r', Iltt' lllt'tltrttlolo.g.t' ttl llrr' ,\rtt itrl ,tllr'rtr'r',r
\r (icltlt rrrrtl Mills, ctls. l"rrrrrt Mttt Wt'l>r't'';l' l'17' Yrrrk. |().1()). p. 7(r.
156 Weber Weber 157
"empirical" analysis of given reality with the tools of causal explanation to the effofts to establish the distinctive properties of the Geistesw,issenschaften. phys-
confirmation or refutation of the "validity" of our value-judgements.'35 ics is an example of what Rickert called 'nomological science'. It employs, in
Weber seems to think that these 'tools of causal explanation' are, in principle other words, the tbrm of explanation most f-ully analysed by Carl Hempel as the
at least, capable of providing objective knowledge of the world: 'All scientifrc 'covering-law' model (nomos is the Greek word for law). Here events
are ex-
work presupposes that the rules of logic and metirod are valid; these are the plained by being deduced from a universal law of nature. This model is not
general foundations of our orientation on the world and, at least for our special relevant to the study of the social world: 'The logical ideal of such a
question, these presuppositions are the least problematic aspect of science.'36 call science would be a system of fornrulae of absolutely general validity . . .It
What is problematic is the value of science itself: 'The objective validity of all is obvious that historical reality, including those "world-historical" events and
empirical knowledge rests exclusively upon the ordering of the given reality phenomena which we find so significant, could never be deduced fiom these
according to categories which are subjective in a specilic sense, namely, in that .formulae.'ao
the presuppositions of our knowledge are based on the presupposition of the The covering-law model of explanation cannot therefbre capture the indiv-
value of those truths which empirical knowledge alone is able to give.'37 But iduality of the historical processes which our value-judgements pick out as be-
the validity of this presupposition, as that of all value-judgements, cannot itself ing of cultural significance. This argument suggests that the study of social
be established by scientific means: 'It can only be interpreted with reference to phenomena must take the form of accounts of specific historical episodes. This
its ultimate meaning, which we must reject or accept according to our ultimate would, however, rule out the possibility of any general social theory. But
position towards life.' 38 Weber does not take this course. Instead, he argues that, while seeking to dis-
The methods of scienti{ic research may thus be objective, but they operate cover social-scientific 'laws' is futile, another form of conceptualizationplays
within an inherently subjective framework, since the objects of study, the pur- an indispensable role in the study of the social world. This is the construction of
poses for which specific researches are pursued, and the overall cultural role of ideal types which portray in heightened, indeed sornetimes caricatured, fbrm
science itself all derive fiom value-ascriptions which are subject to no rational characteristic social relationships, and thereby serve to illurninate the workin_us
adjudication. The famous 'value-neutrality' of social science comes down to of actual processes and institutions:
the requirement that scholars should sharply distinguish between the objective
nleans they employ and the subjective goals they pursue. Weber was disgustecl The ideal typical concept will help to develop our skill in imputatio n in re,sectrch:
by the tendency of nationalist scholars such as the historian Heinrich von it is no 'hypothesis' br-rt it offers guidance to the constmction of hypotheses. It is
Treitschke to use their intellectual authority to Iegitirnize their political views: not a description of reality but it airns to give unambiguous means of expression
to such a description . . . An ideal type is formed by the one-sided ctccentuatirtn of
One cannot demonstrate scientilically what the duty of zrn academic teacher is. one or more points of view and by the synthesis of a great many diffirse, discrete,
One can only demand of the teacher that he have the intellectual integrity to see more or less present and occasionally absent concrete intlividual phenomena,
that it is one thing to state facts, to determine mathematical or logical relations or which are alranged according to those one-sideclly emphasized viewpoints into a
the internal structllres of culture values, while it is änother thing to answer quest- unified analytical construct (Gedankenbild).lnits mental purity, this mental con_
ions of the value of culture and its individual contents and the question of how struct (Gedankenbild) cannot be found empirically anywhere in reality. It is a
one should act in the cultural community and in political associations. These are utopia. Historical research faces the task of determining in each individual case,
quite heterogeneous problems. If he asks further why he should not deal with the extent to which this ideal construct approximates to or diverges from
both types of problem in the lecture room, the answer is because the prophet and
the demagogue do not belong on the academic platfbrm.r" ldeal types play an important role in Weber's historical sociology. Thus he
llrltttlusly distinguishes between 'three pure types of legitimate domination'
This rather tortuous attempt to square Nietzschean perspectivism with rr rrttitlnall-legal domination, 'resting on a belief in the legality of enacted rules',
conditional commitment to scientilic rationality is closely related to Webcr's ;rrlcl finding its purest fbrm in bureaucratic administration; traclitional domin-
;tliott. 'resting oll iltt cstablished belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions';
3s M. Weber (1903-6). Rctscher and Knies (New York. 1975). pp. 10t3. ltt5. ;ttttl cltltristttittic tltllttiltation, 'resting on clevotion to the exceptional sanctity,
I 17.
16 Gerth and Mills, eds, From lVlct,r Welter. p. I43. Itt't'oisltl ot' cxctttPlitt'y cluu'itclcr ol'irrr inrliviclrrll pcrsolr. anc'l of the normative
37 Weber. Merhodology, p. I I0.
'1r1 Cicrtlr and Mills, ctls. I;ntnr Mtu W't'ltrr, p. l-13. Wt'lrt.t. lir,tr ltr't rtttrl lltttt'.t. lt (tl
'" lbitl.. p. l-1(r " Wt'lrrr , Al,llt,trl,,l,,r;t. P (l( )
Weber Weber 159
Consequently, as Lionel Robbins puts it, '[t]he phenomena of the exchange
patterns revealed or ordained by him'.a2 These ideal types are often exemplified
economy itself can only be explained by going behind such relationships and
ty historically variable concrete combinations: thus modern 'plebiscitary de- invoking those laws of choice which are best seen when contemplating the
mocracy' involves a form of charismatic authority grafted onto bureaucratic-
behaviour of the isolated individual.'46
legal structures of domination (see §7.4 below).
Weber in effect makes the procedures of marginalist economics the para-
But the most important use to Weber of the concept of ideal types is that it
digm case of social explanation. Sociology, he says, is 'a science concerning
allows him to situate his sociology with respect to marginalist economics.
itself with the intepretive understanding of social explanation and thereby with
Durkheim, writing tiom a standpoint sympathetic to the German Historical
a causal explanation of its course and consequences'. Interpretive understand-
School, conceived his sociology as a theory of collective representations irre-
ing primarily involves identifying the subjective meaning of the action for the
ducible to the self-interested actions of individual market actors (see §6.1 above).
person performing it - the beliefs and desires from which it arose. 'Action in
Weber, however, attacks the Historical School for its tendency to hypostatize
the sense of subjectively understandable orientation of behaviour exists only as
abstract concepts, which he regards as 'a consequence of the bioanthropological
the behaviour of one or more individual human beings.' This implies a commit-
aspects of the various influences which the atrophied remains of the great
ment to methodological individualism, the doctrine that social phenomena are
Hegelial ideas exercised upon the philosophy of history, language, and cul-
the unintended consequences of individual actions: 'When reference is made in
ture'.0, A proper understanding of political economy requires resort to the con-
a sociological context to a state, a nation, a corporation, a family, or an army
cept of ideal types:
co{ps, or to similar collectivities, what is meant is only a certain kind of devel-
pure economic theory, in its analysis of past and present society, utilizes ideal- opment of actual or possible actions of individual persons.'47 Thus, while
typical concepts exclusively. Economic theory makes certain assumptions which
Durkheim counterposed his science of 'social fäcts' to methodological indi-
scarcely correspond completely with reality but which approximate it in various vidualism, 'Weber's interpretive sociology', as Göran Therborn points out, 'is
degrees and asks: how would men act under these assumed conditions" if their a generali zation of marginalist economics.'48

actiorls were entirely rational? [t assumes the dominance of pr'rrely economic in-
terests and precludes the operation of political or other non-economic consider-
ations.aa 7.3 History and rationalization
This folnulatiol is very similar to that used by Carl Menger during the Weber does not simply take marginalist economics as a model: he offers a
Methotlenstreit when he argues that 'exact economics' (as opposed to those historical account of the circumstances in which its assumptions come to seem
aspects of the science clevoted to historical research or policy-oriented research) valid. Not long before his death in 1920, he wrote:
studies 'the formations of social life . . . fiom the point of view of the free play
of human self-interest uninfluenced by secondary considerations, by error, or A product of modern European civilization, studying any problem of universal
ignorance'.a-5 The marginalist revolution, crucially, involved a redeflnition ol' history, is bound to ask hirnself to what combination of circumstances should be
the concept of value. The remnants of the Ricardo-Marx labour theory of valuc. attributed the fact that in Western civilization, and in Western civilization only,
cultural phenomena have appeared which (as we like to think) lie in a line of
according to which commodities are exchanged in proportion to the socially
development having universal significance and value.a!)
necessary labour-time required to produce them, were removed. Henceforth.
value was understood subjectively and from the standpoint, not of production. This 'line of development' consists in 'the specilic and peculiar rationalism
but of consumption. A theory of the market economy was constructed startinu of Western culture', which is manifested in a variety of spheres - law, art,
from the preferences of the individual consumer, on the assumption that thc rtrusic, architecture, education, politics, and economic life.s0 This characteiza-
consumer can arrange his or her preferences in an order representing the relat
ive intensity of the wants they express, and acts rationally in the sense of choos "' [,. Robhirts, Arr /].s.rrt.y on thc Nature untl Significance of Ecrtnomic Science (London, 1932),p.20.
in_e the means best suited to achieve the ends specified by these preferenccs. " Wcbcr, lit ottortr.\, tttttl Srtcict.t',I, pp. 4, 3, 14. 1

r' (i.'l''ir,rrcr,, ('1rr.r'.r tttrtl ,Srx'it'l.t' (1,«rndrln. lc)16\,p.293.

12 ''' M.Wt'lrt'r'(l(X)-1 .5).'l'lrt'l'nttr.tttttrtl'.'tlti< rrtrtl tltt,\ltiritttf'Cultituli.sttr (l-ondon, 1r976),p. l3:the
Weber, Econonty and Societv, l, p. 21 5 .
rrrlrrrtlrrt'IiorrPrrlrlislrrtl irrtlrcl:rrglislrlllrrrsllrliorr(PP ll.]l,)',virsirrltrcl writtcnlor'(it.strttrtrrclttAu.fsiit:c
'13 Weber, Roscher untl Knies, p- 207 .
!4 Weber, Metfuxktlogv, PP.43-4. .trr lit'ligi,,trt.trt ittltt.r:it' (l().)0). lt tollt'tliott ol Wt'lrct'sr.vritirtysptt(ltt'sot'igl69yrrl religirrrr.
'" llrtrl.. p .'(,
.1.5 1, P. lili
C. Mengc.r(ltttt3), Pntltltrtr.tof l'.'t'ottttrnit'.ttttrtl ,\tttittlo,qt'(llt'hlttt:r' l()(r.l
160 Weber Weber 161

tion of the historical trajectory of the West naturally poses the question of what is nothing less than identical with the development and continual spread of
Weber means here by 'rationalism'. He argues that action can be rational in one bureaucratic administration.' s-5
of two ways. It may be'instrumentally rational (zweckrational), that is, deter- Weber's most famous work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capital-
mined by expectations as to the behaviour of objects in the environment and of ism (1904-5), represents his first major study of this process of rationalization.
other human beings; these expectations were used as "conditions" or "means" Rather like Marx in his theory of capital accumulation (see §4.2 above), Weber
for the attainment of the actor's own rationally calculated ends'. Alternatively, identifies the spirit of capitalism with 'the earning of more and more money,
action may be 'value-rational (wertrational);thatis, determined by a conscious combined with the strict avoidance of all spontaneous enjoyment of life . . .
belief in the value for its own sake of some ethical, aesthetic, religious, or other Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate pur-
form of behaviour, independently of the prospects of success'.5r pose of life.'s6 Marx explains the priority given to the self-expansion of capital
Value-rationality is concerned with the ends of action, instrumental rational- by the pressure of competition on individual lirms. In speaking rather of the
ity with the means: capitalist spirit, Weber is expressing his interest in 'acquisition as the ultimate
purpose of life' as an ethic, as a way of organizing one's life, as Lebensfiihrung
Choice between alternative and conflicting ends and results may well be deter- - conduct of life.
mined in a value-rational manner. In that case, action is instrumentaily rational Viewed in this light, the capitalist spirit is a form of asceticism, in that it
only in respect to the choice of means. On the other hand, the actor may, instead requires us to subordinate our satisfäctions in the pursuit of ever more wealth. It
of deciding between alternative and conflicting ends in terms of a rational orient- differs radically, however, from the best-known form of Western asceticism,
ation to a system of values, simply take them as given subjective wants and ar- that of the monasteries of medieval Catholicism, where the flesh was denied as
range them on a scale of consciously assessed relative urgency. He may then part of an attempt to escape the world for the contemplation of the goodness of
orient his action to this scale in such a way that they are satisfied as far as possible a transcendent God. The capitalist spirit is a fbrm of what Weber calls 'inner-
in order of urgency, as formulated in the principle of 'marginal utility'.52
worldly asceticism': self-denial is part of a process through which we shape
and control this world. As such it bears a resemblance to the Protestant concept
As this reference to 'marginal utility' suggests, the assumption made by neo-
of a 'calling' (BeruJ), according to which '[t]he only way of living acceptably
classical economists that actors optimize - that is, select the best means to real-
to God is not to surpass worldly morality in monastic asceticism but solely
ize their wants * is an important source of Weber's concept of instrumental
through the fulfilment of the obligations imposed upon the individual by his
rationality. 'Why the human animal attaches particular values . . . to particular
position in the world.'s7
things is a question we do not discuss', Lionel Robbins says.'53 The wants ex-
Weber argues that the origins of the capitalist spirit are to be found in the
pressed in agents' preferences are simply taken as given. Instrumental rational-
form of inner-wordly asceticism which developed from the Protestant Refbrma-
ity is therefore not concerned with choosing the ends of action: it pertains only
tion of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Calvinism, the most radical ver-
to the selection of the means best suited to achieving these ends.
sion of Refbrmed Christianity, accepted the dogma of predestination. This held
It is this form of rationality - instrumental rationality - which, Weber be- that all humans were inherently sinful, but that, by virtue of divine grace and
lieves, comes increasingly to prevail in the different culture-spheres in the modern
that alone, some had been chosen for salvation. Humankind was thus divided
West. Thus what characterizes modern capitalism is 'the rationalistic organiz-
between the elect and the damned. How could the believer expect that
ation of (formally) tree labour'.sa Similarly, bureaucracy - in other words,
Ite or she was among the flrst rather than the second group? By resolutely
hierarchically organized systems of administration based on a clear division of
helieving that one has been chosen, 'since lack of self-confidence is the result of
labour and stafl'ed by technically qualified officials who are paid a salary and
insuflicient faith, hence of imperfect grace . . . In order to attain that self-
appointed and promoted on the basis of merit - is, 'from a technical point ol'
confidence intensely worldly activity is recommended as the most suitable means.
view, capable of attaining the highest degree of efflciency and is in this sense
It and it alone disperses religious doubts and gives the certainty of grace.'58
formally the most rational known means of exercising authority over human
The Calvinist's self-assurance in being one of the elect fbund expression
beings'. Indeed, '[t]he development of modern fbrms of organization in all fields
in lhe systematic effort to control both his or her own life and that of the
sr Weber, Econorny and Societv,l, pp.24-5. " Wt'lrt'r'. l')'ttttottt.t' tuttl ,\rtt'it'l.t'.1, p. 223.
5r Ibid., I, p. 26. ''' Wt'lrt't. l'ttttr'sltrtrl l'.tlri,',p. 5\.
5r Robbins. Nuttrrc und .\igtti.licrtrtct', 1t. ll(r. ' lhrrl.. p, SO
' llrirl .pp lll l)
'r We hcr, l)t'olr'.tlrrtrl litlrit'. p. )l
162 Weber Weber 163

surrounding natural world. The purpose of this eflbrt was not, however, prlma- historically variable interactions between dif-ferent, relatively autonomous
rily the grati{ication of material needs, but rather to provide confirrnation of aspects of social life:
salvation. Thus: 'The Reformation took rational Christian asceticism and its
methodical habits out of the monasteries and placed them in the service of ac- For the forms of social action follow 'laws of their own' . . . and even apart from
tive life in the world.' In doing so, it provided 'the most powerful conceivable this fact, they may in a given case always be codetermined by other than economic
lever for the expansion' of the capitalist spirit: 'When the limitation of con- causes. However, at some point economic conditions tend to be causally impor-
tant, and often decisive, for almost all social grolrps, at least those which have
sumption is combined with this release of acquisitive activity, the inevitable
majorcultural significance: conversely, the economy is usually also influenced by
practical result is obvious: accumulation of capital through ascetic compulsion
the autonomous structures of social action within which it exists. No signilicant
to save.'5e generalization can be made as to when and how this will occur. However, we can
The Protestant Ethic provoked an enormous, and far from resolved, histor- generalize about the degree of elective afflnity between concrete structures of
ical debate about the relationship between the Reformation and the rise of mod- social action and concrete forms of economic organization; that means, we can
ern capitalism. Our interest here is less in the validity of Weber's historical state in general terms whetherornot they furtheror impede orexclude one another
interpretation than in the light it casts on his broader social theory. One issue - whether they are 'adequate' or 'inadequate' in relation to one another.6l
concerns how he situates his argument relative to Marxist accounts of the de-
velopment of capitalism, which tend to deny religious ideologies an auton- The concept of 'elective affinity' (Wohlverwandtschaft) is one of Weber's
omous role in the process. Kautsky, for example, argues that 'the Puritan ethic main tools of historical interpretation. Michael Löwy writes: 'For Weber it
arises out of the class struggle of the self-confident and defiant bourgeoisie, designates the kind of active relationship (based on a certain structural
especially of the craftsman against the feudal nobility, hence out of an eco- analogy) between two social or cultural configurations, leading to mutual
nomic basis'.60 In the flnal lines of his essay, Weber denies that he is offering an attraction, mutual influence, and mutual reinfbrcement.'64 Thus there is an
idealist theory of history in which capitalism is simply a consequence of the elective atfinity between the Protestant ethic and the capitalist spirit, both of
Reformation: 'it is, of course, not my aim to substitute for a one-sided material- which are fbrms of inner-wordly asceticisrn. Similarly, capitalisrn and bureau-
istic an equally one-sided spiritualistic causal interpretation of culture and of cracy, two types of instrumentally rational social organization, are bound
history'.6r together by an elective affinity for one another:
Weber is at his most elliptical when discussing the role played by economic
forces in history. Thus he distinguishes between 'the so-called "materialistic On the one hand, capitalism in its modern stage of development requires the
conception of history"', which he says 'is to be rejected most emphatically', bureaucracy, though both have arisen from dilterent historical sources. Con-
and 'the economic interpretation of history', which he advocates. The first versely, capitalism is the most rational economic base fbr bureaucratic admin-
depends on 'the antiquated notion that all cultural phenomena can be deduced istration and enables it to develop in the most rational fbrm, especially because,
as a product or function of the constellation of material interests'; the second from a fiscal point of view, it supplies the necessary money resources.t''t
involves 'the analysis of cultural and economic phenomena with special refer-
ence to their economic conditioning'.u' The distinction is ultimately a conse- An elective affinity is a relationship of functional compatibility between two
quence of Weber's epistemology. Reality is infinitely diverse; our theories simply social forms; to posit the existence of such a relationship is therefore to make no
pick out those aspects whose study is relevant to our values. A theory of history claim about the causal primacy of one form over another. Weber thus regards
which, like Marx's, claims to have discovered the underlying structure of social explanation as inherently pluralistic: while one form of social power may
social reality, seeks to impose an inappropriate 'nomological' conception o1' prurvide the focus of study in a particular case and relative to certain valueinter-
scientilic explanation on the inhnite variety of cultural phenomena. Rather csts, in general none can claim explanatory priority over the others. This
than seek a one-way causal chain linking the economic base to the ideologico- cxplanatory pluralism is reflected in his treatment of social stratiflcation, where
political superstructure, the Geisteswissenschaften must seek to capture the lrc clistinguishes class, conceived primarily in terms of shared economic situa-
liott. plrticularly in the market, from status, that is, 'an effective claim to social
5e lbid., pp. 235 n.19, 172. t'slccttt irt lcrtns of positive or negative privileges'. Thus: 'Classes are stratified
60 K. Kautsky (1921),The Materiolist Conception cf Histotp,, abr. edn., ed. J. H. Kautsky (Ncw
Haven. t9B8), p. 369.
"1 Weber, [)rutlc.tlunl 1rtlrlr', p. lll3. Wt'llt't , l'.t t,n(,ntv ttntl ,\'ttr'ir'tr', l. 1l l.ll
{r) Wcl-rcr, Mrtltrxlolo,q.r', p. (tll.
M l.iiuy. ()rr ('lrrrtrr:trrrl tlt,'ll ,'rl,l 1,,\tl;rrrtir'lli1'lrlltrrtls. N.l. l(X)i). p.,l(r
Wr'lrr't lt t'tt('ttt\ itttrl \ttr tr'tt I l' " l
164 Weber Weber 165

according to their relations to the production and acquisition of goods; whereas stylization of life, with the organization of one's appetites, dispositions. and
status groups are stratified according to the principles of their consumption of capacities according to a particular set of values. The world religions represent
goods as represented by special styles of lil-e.'66 'different fbrms of "rationalization" of life-condtct (Leben,sfiihrung)'. More
Weber treats class and status as potentially rival principles o1 social organ- specifically, they constitute particular answers to what theologians call the prob-
ization, arguing that 'the principle of status stratification', which fbrrns the lem of evil, that is, to the essentially metaphysical question of why so many
basis of caste societies, tbr example, is opposed to 'a distribution of power suffer, in particular as a result of occupying an inferior social position, without
which is regulated exclusively by the market'. But both are specific instances apparently having done anything to rnerit this fate. At the core of every major
of the unremitting struggle fbr power among rival groups. Thus, as Weber religion is a'theodicy of suff-ering' which offers 'an ethical interpretation of the
fämously puts it, "'[c]lasses", "status groups", and "parties" are phenomena of "meaning" of the distribution of fortunes among nlen'.70
the distribution of power within a conlmunity.' One characteristic pattern of Weber believes that only three theodicies provide coherent answers to the
this struggle is the striving to create socially closed relationships: 'Usually one problem of evil. Hinduisrn does so through the doctrine of karma, according
group of competitors takes some externally identiliable characteristic of an- to which every living being's present lot is a consequence of the good and evil
other group of (actual or potential) - race, language, religion, local or social it has committed not simply in its present but also in its past lives; the transmi-
origin, descent, residence, etc. - as a pretext fbr attenlpting their exclusion . . . gration of souls, through which an individual soul may pass in successive
Such group action nlay provoke a corespclnding reaction on the part of those lives through different kinds of existence - animal, vegetable, and rnineral -
against which it is direct.,l.r67 On this view, the sources of social division are as well as different social statuses, provides the mechanism through which
diverse, and therefbre do not admit of explanation on the basis of any single rewards and punishments are allocated, a cycle from which the individual
factor, whether material or ideal. may escape through the pursuit of salvation by contemplation and the renun-
There is, however, one famous, but characteristically obscure, passage where ciation of wordly existence. Zoroastrianism posits a dualistic universe divided
Weber seems to assign historical primacy to ideologies: 'Not ideas. but mat- between two separate and opposed orders of being representing respectively
erial and ideal interests, directly ,eovern rnen's conduct. Yet very frequently the the forces of light and dark, good and evil, spirit and matter: suffering is a
"world images" that have been created by "ideas" have, like switchmen, deter- conseqllelrce of the fact that good does not always triumph over evil in the
rnined the tracks along which action has been pushed by the dynamic of inter- eternal struggle between these two equal powers. Finally, the Christian doc-
est.'68 He makes this remark in the introduction to a series of essays with the trine of predestination, formulated by St Augustine and taken over by Calvin-
collective title Die Wirtschaftsethik der Weltreligionen (The Economic Ethics ism, af{irms the omnipotence of a single, transcendent God. Evil is a
of the World Religions) - which were published between 1915 and 1919. Em- consequence of man's fieely chosen rebellion against divine iaw, arnd sutTer-
bracing detailed studies of Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism ing is its just punishment: the salvation for which we must hope arises fi'orn
(one on Islam was planned but never written), these essays broadened out the the inscrutable, and therefore from a human viewpoint apparently arbitrary,
analysis of rationalization which Weber had broached in the Protestant Ethic operation of God's grace.
into what Friedrich Tenbruck calls 'a general inquiry into the role of rationality Weber thus attaches great importance to the theoretical content of the vari-
in history'.6e ous systems of religious beliefs: 'We are interested in . . . the influence of those
How does Weber view religion? He denies that 'the specific nature of a rel- psychological sanctions which, originating in religious belief and the practice
igion is a simple "function" of the social situation of the stratum which appears of religion, gave a direction to practical conduct and held the individual to it.
as its characteristic bearer'. In doing so he seems to have in mind less the Marx- Now these sanctions were to a large extent derived from the peculiarities of the
ist theory of ideology, than Nietzsche's interpretation of Christianity as the rcligious ideas behind them.'7r The relative autonomy of these ideas, and their
product of lower-class r"essentiment, of 'a slave revolt in morality' (see §5.3 ability to act as 'switchmen', setting the direction in which the 'dynarnic of
above). Nevertheless, his interest in the great religions reflects a Nietzschearr iltterest' nloves derives from the intrinsic logic they develop as particular sol-
preoccupation (seen also in his definition of status in terms of lif.estyle) with thc tttions to the problem of suffering and injustice. Weber writes in the passage
irtrrrccliatcly preceding that in which he uses the metaphor of 'world images' as
66 Ibid., I, p. 305; II, p. 937.
67 lbid.. 1I, pp. 936, 927: l. pp. 341-2.
()s Gertlr and Mills. eds. I;ntttr klttr Welter, p. 21t0.
6r F. H. Tcnhruck, "I'hc Prohlcnr ol''lhcurir(ic Unity in (he Works of Mlrr Wchcr'. rrt'l'r'ibc. ,',1.. '" ( it'rtlr;rrrtl Mills. r'rls. / r orrt Al,tr lli'/rr'r. PP .r75. l()(). 170.
llt't r tI i tr,q Wt' l»t' t', 1t. 51).
'r W'('lX'l . l'trtlq'1111111 I tlttr .1r1t t) I 5
166 Weber Weber 167

In the past, it was the work of intellectuals to sublimate the possession of sacred absolute monarchies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, helped lay the
values into a belief in redemption. The conception of the idea of redemption, as basis of modern bureaucracy. The interests of these proto-bureaucratic states in
such, is very old, if one understands by it a liberation fiom distress, hunger, drought,
turn interwove with those of the emerging bourgeoisie in the cities of early
sickness, and ultimately suffering and death. Yet redemption attained a specific
modern Europe:
significance where it expressed a systematic and rationalized'image of the world'
and represented a stand in the face of the world. For the meaning as well as the
intended and actual psychological quality of redemption has depended upon such
This competitive struggle [among states] created the largest opportunities for
a world image and such a stand.72
modern western capitalism. The separate states had to compete for mobile capi-
tal, which dictated to them the conditions under which it would assist them to
power. Out of this alliance of the state with capital, dictated by capital, arose the
The dynamic of rationalization thus depends crucially on the work of intel-
national citizenship class, the bourgeoisie in the modern sense of the word. Hence
lectuals in developing religious ideologies into rationally articulated theoreti- it is the closed national state which afforded to capitalism its chance for develop-
cal systems, and thereby drawing out the logical consequences of the particular ment.76
theodicies they embody. This does not, however, mean that Weber treats the
history of religions as essentially the autonomous development of different sets Weber's analysis of charisma is closely related to his sociology of religion.
of beliefs. On the contrary, he argues that 'the nature of the desired sacred The paradigm case of the charismatic leader is the founder of a new religion -
values has been strongly influenced by the nature of the external interest- the teacher (Buddha), saviour (Christ), or prophet (Muhammed). Charismatic
situation and the corresponding way of life of the ruling strata and thus by the authority is sharply counterposed to traditional and legal domination. The lat-
social stratification itself', though he characteristically goes on immediately to ter's most typical forms, respectively patriarchalism, where obedience takes
add that the influence goes the other way as well.73 the form of personal loyalty to a ruler whose customary authority is modelled
More generally, Weber's sociology involves what Michael Mann calls "'or- on that of a master over his household, and bureaucracy, 'are antagonistic in
ganizational materialism": Ideologies are attempts to grapple with real social many respects, but they share continuity as one of their most important charac-
problems, but they are diffused through specific media of communication and teristics.In this sense, both are structures of everyday life'. Charismatic author-
their characteristics may transform ideological messages, so conferring ideo- ity, by contrast, responds to 'needs . . . which transcend the sphere of everyday
logical power autonomy.'14 Or, to put it in another way, the relative autonomy economic routine'. Its bearer represents the irruption of the exceptional into the
of religious systems derives not simply from their intrinsic content but also everyday. His authority derives from the recognition that he is 'extraordinary
from the power-dynamics of the organizations through which they are trans- and . . . endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically excep-
mitted and preserved. Every form of authority - including religious authority - tional powers'. Indeed:
requires 'the existence and functioning of an administrative staff . . . For the
habit of obedience cannot be maintained without organized activity directed to charisma in its most potent forms disrupts rational rule as well as tradition alto-
application and enforcement of the order.' But every administrative organ- gethe