Essay on individual and society.
Louis dumont essays on individualism - …
I owe many apologies both to the editor and to Mr. Hobson for the long delay which has taken place as regards this discussion. I can only hope they may both be willing to forgive me. And now to our business in hand. I tried in my last paper to show that while Mr. Hobson had written with much literary skill an interesting paper about socialism, he had left the great fortress untaken, even unbesieged, which stands in the way of the advance of socialism. He made a delightful excursus into the region of metaphor and literary imagination, but he never troubled himself to convince us that force was a weapon which the larger number are morally justified in using against the smaller number, or that, when used, is likely to produce the happiness which we all desire. But if Mr. Hobson did not raise this all-important question, but passed it by, as skillful leaders sometimes pass by strong positions, which threaten heavy loss for those who attack them, he tried to open out a new road toward his end with no little literary ingenuity. By the way of metaphor and abstract conception he sought to steal our senses from us, inspiring us with the socialistic temperament, and leading us along pleasant and flowery paths toward that new form of Catholic church, in which he invites us to find our rest. Some of his readers probably felt much the same influence gently stealing over them as they have felt in listening to some of the great Jesuit teachers. In both cases the real issues are passed by, and side issues, sentimentally and artistically tricked out, are skillfully put in their place. It is only natural it should be so. Our socialist friends and the Jesuits plead for their own causes in much the same spirit. They both believe absolutely in great external organizations; they each put their own external organization above and before everything else; conscience, judgment, and will are, on a fixed system, bent and bowed before it; and reason and individual judgment, who always demand to stand at the gate with erect head, become to both of them as the voice of the Evil One moving man to his ruin. If I remember rightly, even Luther spoke of reason as “the harlot”—I presume because reason requires that every claim put forward by authority should first pass before its own tribunal.
Louis dumont essays on individualism
And again, men see another evil, which arises where the use of force is admitted. So long as we remain in the region of discussion and persuasion, so long there is a sure guarantee that the truest view will gradually prevail. The truest view necessarily commands the best arguments, just as it gradually attracts to its side the higher class of minds; and therefore having the best arguments and the best fighters on its side must win in the free open field, sooner or later. But when we abandon the free open field, in which reason and persuasion, the appeal to reason and the appeal to conscience, are the only admitted weapons, and allow force to be recognized as an equally righteous method, then this certainty of ultimate victory for the truest view entirely disappears. Why? Because force enlarges and degrades the issues. It adds inducements of an effective, if of a very coarse kind, in order to win men over to its side. As long as we are only seeking to persuade, we can only offer the fruits of persuasion. We can promise men that they shall be better, happier, more prosperous, by certain changes in their conduct, but we cannot promise that they shall find tomorrow or the next day five shillings or five pounds, magically placed in their pocket, without any effort of their own. But this is exactly the kind of promise that force can make; indeed, not only can make, but must make. From the nature of things, force cannot fight a pure battle, or appeal simply to pure motives. There is nobody amongst us who can become possessed of force, unless he can first of all induce a very large number of persons to fight on his side. To be the possessor of force you must possess a force army; and your force army must be larger than the force army of any of your rivals. How are you to collect together and keep together such a force army? You cannot do it by appeals to reason and conscience, for that is a slow affair, which wins its way by influencing individuals, and these individuals, who are influenced, are influenced by the same appeal in very different degree and fashion. To obtain a force army, capable of defeating another highly organized force army, you must bring in the recruits in shoals and masses, you must bring them in on a given day, at a given spot, you must bring them in in such a state of discipline, that they will all keep step together and follow their leader like one man. But if appeals to reason and conscience, being, as I have said, essentially individualistic in their action, cannot produce disciplined masses on the given spot and at the given moment, force has a store of arguments exactly, suited for the purpose. Give me force enough, and I can promise you almost any material prize for which your heart lusts. If you are a poor man, I can promise you three acres and a cow, gratuitous education, state pensions, and state insurance, novels provided at the public expense, and taxes thrown upon your richer fellow citizen; or better still, all private wealth converted at a touch of my wand into public wealth; if you are a rich man, I can promise you bigger armies and fleets, more territory, more glory, and many noble opportunities of making a splash before the eyes of the world; and if you are nervous about the safety of your possessions in these socialistic days, I can turn the nation into an army for your convenience, and submit it to military discipline—an excellent way, as some persons think, of conjuring away, at all events for some twenty-four hours, all socialistic dangers. Give me force enough, and I can offer every kind of glittering ware for every class of customer. In this way, if I am only a skillful buyer of men, I can recruit my force army; and when I have recruited them, I can pay them out of the prize money which I employ them to win.