When a man feels that he has discovered a social order different from the one that has come into being through the natural tendencies of mankind, he must, perforce, in order to have his invention accepted, paint in the most somber colors the results of the order he seeks to abolish. Therefore, the political theorists to whom I refer, while enthusiastically and perhaps exaggeratedly proclaiming the perfectibility of mankind, fall into the strange contradiction of saying that society is constantly deteriorating. According to them, men are today a thousand times more wretched than they were in ancient times, under the feudal system and the yoke of slavery; the world has become a hell. If it were possible to conjure up the Paris of the tenth century, I confidently believe that such a thesis would prove untenable.
Secondly, they are led to condemn even the basic motive power of human actions—I mean self-interest—since it has brought about such a state of affairs. Let us note that man is made in such a way that he seeks pleasure and shuns pain. From this source, I agree, come all the evils of society: war, slavery, monopoly, privilege; but from this source also come all the good things of life, since the satisfaction of wants and the avoidance of suffering are the motives of human action. The question, then, is to determine whether this motivating force which, though individual, is so universal that it becomes a social phenomenon, is not in itself a basic principle of progress.
In any case, do not the social planners realize that this principle, inherent in man's very nature, will follow them into their new orders, and that, once there, it will wreak more serious havoc than in our natural order, in which one individual's excessive claims and self-interest are at least held in bounds by the resistance of all the others? These writers always assume two inadmissible premises: that society, as they conceive it, will be led by infallible men completely immune to the motive of self-interest; and that the masses will allow such men to lead them.
Finally, our social planners do not seem in the least concerned about the implementation of their program. How will they gain acceptance for their systems? How will they persuade all other men simultaneously to give up the basic motive for all their actions: the impulse to satisfy their wants and to avoid suffering? To do so it would be necessary, as Rousseau said, to change the moral and physical nature of man.
To induce all men, simultaneously, to cast off, like an ill-fitting garment, the present social order in which mankind has evolved since its beginning and adopt, instead, a contrived system, becoming docile cogs in the new machine, only two means, it seems to me, are available: force or universal consent.
Either the social planner must have at his disposal force capable of crushing all resistance, so that human beings become mere wax between his fingers to be molded and fashioned to his whim; or he must gain by persuasion consent so complete, so exclusive, so blind even, that the use of force is made unnecessary.
I defy anyone to show me a third means of setting up and putting into operation a phalanstery or any other artificial social order.
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