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Human Nature In Politics by Graham Wallas

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I offer my thanks to several friends who have been kind enough to read
the proofs of this book, and to send me corrections and suggestions;
among whom I will mention Professors John Adams and J.H. Muirhead, Dr.
A. Wolf, and Messrs. W.H. Winch, Sidney Webb, L. Pearsall Smith, and
A.E. Zimmern. It is, for their sake, rather more necessary than usual
for me to add that some statements still remain in the text which one or
more of them would have desired to see omitted or differently expressed.

I have attempted in the footnotes to indicate those writers whose books
I have used. But I should like to record here my special obligation to
Professor William James's _Principles of Psychology_, which gave me, a
good many years ago, the conscious desire to think psychologically about
my work as politician and teacher.

I have been sometimes asked to recommend a list of books on the
psychology of politics. I believe that at the present stage of the
science, a politician will gain more from reading, in the light of his
own experience, those treatises on psychology which have been written
without special reference to politics, than by beginning with the
literature of applied political psychology. But readers who are not
politicians will find particular points dealt with in the works of the
late Monsieur G. Tarde, especially _L'Opinion et la Foule_ and _Les Lois
de l'Imitation_ and in the books quoted in the course of an interesting
article on 'Herd Instinct,' by Mr. W. Trotter in the _Sociological
Review_ for July 1908. The political psychology of the poorer
inhabitants of a great city is considered from an individual and
fascinating point of view by Miss Jane Addams (of Chicago) in her
_Democracy and Social Ethics_.



I have made hardly any changes in the book as it first appeared, beyond
the correction of a few verbal slips. The important political
developments which have occurred during the last eighteen months in the
English Parliament, in Turkey, Persia, and India, and in Germany, have
not altered my conclusions as to the psychological problems raised by
modern forms of government; and it would involve an impossible and
undesirable amount of rewriting to substitute 'up-to-date' illustrations
for those which I drew from the current events of 1907 and 1908. I
should desire to add to the books recommended above Mr. W. M'Dougall's
_Social Psychology_, with special reference to his analysis of Instinct.



_30th December 1909._


This edition is, like the second edition (1910), a reprint, with a few
verbal corrections, of the first edition (1908). I tried in 1908 to make
two main points clear. My first point was the danger, for all human
activities, but especially for the working of democracy, of the
'intellectualist' assumption, 'that every human action is the result of
an intellectual process, by which a man first thinks of some end which
he desires, and then calculates the means by which that end can be
attained' (p. 21). My second point was the need of substituting for that
assumption a conscious and systematic effort of thought. 'The whole
progress,' I argued, 'of human civilisation beyond its earliest stages,
has been made possible by the invention of methods of thought which
enable us to interpret and forecast the working of nature more
successfully than we could, if we merely followed the line of least
resistance in the use of our minds' (p. 114).

In 1920 insistence on my first point is not so necessary as it was in
1908. The assumption that men are automatically guided by 'enlightened
self-interest' has been discredited by the facts of the war and the
peace, the success of an anti-parliamentary and anti-intellectualist
revolution in Russia, the British election of 1918, the French election
of 1919, the confusion of politics in America, the breakdown of
political machinery in Central Europe, and the general unhappiness which
has resulted from four years of the most intense and heroic effort that
the human race has ever made. One only needs to compare the
disillusioned realism of our present war and post-war pictures and poems
with the nineteenth-century war pictures at Versailles and Berlin, and
the war poems of Campbell, and Berenger, and Tennyson, to realise how
far we now are from exaggerating human rationality.

It is my second point, which, in the world as the war has left it, is
most important. There is no longer much danger that we shall assume that
man always and automatically thinks of ends and calculates means. The
danger is that we may be too tired or too hopeless to undertake the
conscious effort by which alone we can think of ends and calculate

The great mechanical inventions of the nineteenth century have given us
an opportunity of choosing for ourselves our way of living such as men
have never had before. Up to our own time the vast majority of mankind
have had enough to do to keep themselves alive, and to satisfy the blind
instinct which impels them to hand on life to another generation. An
effective choice has only been given to a tiny class of hereditary
property owners, or a few organisers of other men's labour. Even when,
as in ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, nature offered whole populations
three hundred free days in the year if they would devote two months to
ploughing and harvest, all but a fraction still spent themselves in
unwilling toil, building tombs or palaces, or equipping armies, for a
native monarch or a foreign conqueror. The monarch could choose his
life, but his choice was poor enough. 'There is,' says Aristotle, 'a way
of living so brutish that it is only worth notice because many of those
who can live any life they like make no better choice than did

The Greek thinkers started modern civilisation, because they insisted
that the trading populations of their walled cities should force
themselves to think out an answer to the question, what kind of life is
good. 'The origin of the city-state,' says Aristotle, 'is that it
enables us to live; its justification is that it enables us to live

Before the war, there were in London and New York, and Berlin, thousands
of rich men and women as free to choose their way of life as was
Sardanapalus, and as dissatisfied with their own choice. Many of the
sons and daughters of the owners of railways and coal mines and rubber
plantations were 'fed up' with motoring or bridge, or even with the
hunting and fishing which meant a frank resumption of palaeolithic life
without the spur of palaeolithic hunger. But my own work brought me into
contact with an unprivileged class, whose degree of freedom was the
special product of modern industrial civilisation, and on whose use of
their freedom the future of civilisation may depend. A clever young
mechanic, at the age when the Wanderjahre of the medieval craftsman used
to begin, would come home after tending a 'speeded up' machine from 8
A.M., with an hour's interval, till 5 P.M. At 6 P.M. he had finished his
tea in the crowded living-room of his mother's house, and was 'free' to
do what he liked. That evening, perhaps, his whole being tingled with
half-conscious desires for love, and adventure, and knowledge, and
achievement. On another day he might have gone to a billiard match at
his club, or have hung round the corner for a girl who smiled at him as
he left the factory, or might have sat on his bed and ground at a
chapter of Marx or Hobson. But this evening he saw his life as a whole.
The way of living that had been implied in the religious lessons at
school seemed strangely irrelevant; but still he felt humble, and kind,
and anxious for guidance. Should he aim at marriage, and if so should he
have children at once or at all? If he did not marry, could he avoid
self-contempt and disease? Should he face the life of a socialist
organiser, with its strain and uncertainty, and the continual
possibility of disillusionment? Should he fill up every evening with
technical classes, and postpone his ideals until he had become rich? And
if he became rich what should he do with his money? Meanwhile, there was
the urgent impulse to walk and think; but where should he walk to, and
with whom?

The young schoolmistress, in her bed-sitting-room a few streets off, was
in no better case. She and a friend sat late last night, agreeing that
the life they were living was no real life at all; but what was the
alternative? Had the 'home duties' to which her High Church sister
devoted herself with devastating self-sacrifice any more meaning? Ought
she, with her eyes open, and without much hope of spontaneous love, to
enter into the childless 'modern' marriage which alone seemed possible
for her? Ought she to spend herself in a reckless campaign for the
suffrage? Meanwhile, she had had her tea, her eyes were too tired to
read, and what on earth should she do till bedtime?

Such moments of clear self-questioning were of course rare, but the
nerve-fretting problems always existed. Industrial civilisation had
given the growing and working generation a certain amount of leisure,
and education enough to conceive of a choice in the use of that leisure;
but had offered them no guidance in making their choice.

We are faced, as I write, with the hideous danger that fighting may
blaze up again throughout the whole Eurasian continent, and that the
young men and girls of Europe may have no more choice in the way they
spend their time than they had from 1914 to 1918 or the serfs of Pharaoh
had in ancient Egypt. But if that immediate danger is avoided, I dream
that in Europe and in America a conscious and systematic discussion by
the young thinkers of our time of the conditions of a good life for an
unprivileged population may be one of the results of the new vision of
human nature and human possibilities which modern science and modern
industry have forced upon us.

Within each nation, industrial organisation may cease to be a confused
and wasteful struggle of interests, if it is consciously related to a
chosen way of life for which it offers to every worker the material
means. International relations may cease to consist of a constant
plotting of evil by each nation for its neighbours, if ever the youth of
all nations know that French, and British, and Germans, and Russians,
and Chinese, and Americans, are taking a conscious part in the great
adventure of discovering ways of living open to all, and which all can
believe to be good.


_August_ 1920.















_(Introduction, page 1)_

The study of politics is now in an unsatisfactory position. Throughout
Europe and America, representative democracy is generally accepted as
the best form of government; but those who have had most experience of
its actual working are often disappointed and apprehensive. Democracy
has not been extended to non-European races, and during the last few
years many democratic movements have failed.

This dissatisfaction has led to much study of political institutions;
but little attention has been recently given in works on politics to the
facts of human nature. Political science in the past was mainly based,
on conceptions of human nature, but the discredit of the dogmatic
political writers of the early nineteenth century has made modern
students of politics over-anxious to avoid anything which recalls their
methods. That advance therefore of psychology which has transformed
pedagogy and criminology has left politics largely unchanged.

The neglect of the study of human nature is likely, however, to prove
only a temporary phase of political thought, and there are already signs
that it, is coming to an end.

_(PART I.--Chapter I.--Impulse and Instinct in Politics, page 21)_

Any examination of human nature in politics must begin with an attempt
to overcome that 'intellectualism' which results both from the
traditions of political science and from the mental habits of ordinary

Political impulses are not mere intellectual inferences from
calculations of means and ends; but tendencies prior to, though modified
by, the thought and experience of individual human beings. This may be
seen if we watch the action in politics of such impulses as personal
affection, fear, ridicule, the desire of property, etc.

All our impulses and instincts are greatly increased in their immediate
effectiveness if they are 'pure,' and in their more permanent results if
they are 'first hand' and are connected with the earlier stages of our
evolution. In modern politics the emotional stimulus which reaches us
through the newspapers is generally 'pure,' but 'second hand,' and
therefore is both facile and transient.

The frequent repetition of an emotion or impulse is often distressing.
Politicians, like advertisers, must allow for this fact, which again is
connected with that combination of the need of privacy with intolerance
of solitude to which we have to adjust our social arrangements.

Political emotions are sometimes pathologically intensified when
experienced simultaneously by large numbers of human beings in physical
association, but the conditions of political life in England do not
often produce this phenomenon.

The future of international politics largely depends on the question
whether we have a specific instinct of hatred for human beings of a
different racial type from ourselves. The point is not yet settled, but
many facts which are often explained as the result of such an instinct
seem to be due to other and more general instincts modified by

_(Chapter II.--Political Entities, page: 59)_

Political acts and impulses are the result of the contact between human
nature and its environment. During the period studied by the politician,
human nature has changed very little, but political environment has
changed with ever-increasing rapidity.

Those facts of our environment which stimulate impulse and action reach
us through our senses, and are selected from the mass of our sensations
and memories by our instinctive or acquired knowledge of their
significance. In politics the things recognised are, for the most part,
made by man himself, and our knowledge of their significance is not
instinctive but acquired.

Recognition tends to attach itself to symbols, which take the place of
more complex sensations and memories. Some of the most difficult
problems in politics result from the relation between the conscious use
in reasoning of the symbols called words, and their more or less
automatic and unconscious effect in stimulating emotion and action. A
political symbol whose significance has once been established by
association, may go through a psychological development of its own,
apart from the history of the facts which were originally symbolised by
it. This may be seen in the case of the names and emblems of nations and
parties; and still more clearly in the history of those commercial
entities--'teas' or 'soaps'--which are already made current by
advertisement before any objects to be symbolised by them have been made
or chosen. Ethical difficulties are often created by the relation
between the quickly changing opinions of any individual politician and
such slowly changing entities as his reputation, his party name, or the
traditional personality of a newspaper which he may control.

_(Chapter III.--Non-Rational Inference in Politics, page 98)_

Intellectualist political thinkers often assume, not only that political
action is necessarily the result of inferences as to means and ends, but
that all inferences are of the same 'rational' type.

It is difficult to distinguish sharply between rational and non-rational
inferences in the stream of mental experience, but it is clear that many
of the half-conscious processes by which men form their political
opinions are non-rational. We can generally trust non-rational
inferences in ordinary life because they do not give rise to conscious
opinions until they have been strengthened by a large number of
undesigned coincidences. But conjurers and others who study our
non-rational mental processes can so play upon them as to make us form
absurd beliefs. The empirical art of politics consists largely in the
creation of opinion by the deliberate exploitation of subconscious
non-rational inference. The process of inference may go on beyond the
point desired by the politician who started it, and is as likely to take
place in the mind of a passive newspaper-reader as among the members of
the most excited crowd.

_(Chapter IV.--The Material of Political Reasoning, page 114)_

But men can and do reason, though reasoning is only one of their mental
processes. The rules for valid reasoning laid down by the Greeks were
intended primarily for use in politics, but in politics reasoning has in
fact proved to be more difficult and less successful than in the
physical sciences. The chief cause of this is to be found in the
character of its material. We have to select or create entities to
reason about, just as we select or create entities to stimulate our
impulses and non-rational inferences. In the physical sciences these
selected entities are of two types, either concrete things made exactly
alike, or abstracted qualities in respect of which things otherwise
unlike can be exactly compared. In politics, entities of the first type
cannot be created, and political philosophers have constantly sought for
some simple entity of the second type, some fact or quality, which may
serve as an exact 'standard' for political calculation. This search has
hitherto been unsuccessful, and the analogy of the biological sciences
suggests that politicians are most likely to acquire the power of valid
reasoning when they, like doctors, avoid the over-simplification of
their material, and aim at using in their reasoning as many facts as
possible about the human type, its individual variations, and its
environment. Biologists have shown that large numbers of facts as to
individual variations within any type can be remembered if they are
arranged as continuous curves rather than as uniform rules or arbitrary
exceptions. On the other hand, any attempt to arrange the facts of
environment with the same approach to continuity as is possible with the
facts of human nature is likely to result in error. The study of history
cannot be assimilated to that of biology.

_(Chapter V.--The Method of Political Reasoning, page 138)_

The method of political reasoning has shared the traditional
over-simplification of its subject-matter.

In Economics, where both method and subject-matter were originally
still more completely simplified, 'quantitative' methods have since
Jevons's time tended to take the place of 'qualitative'. How far is a
similar change possible in politics?

Some political questions can obviously be argued quantitatively. Others
are less obviously quantitative. But even on the most complex political
issues experienced and responsible statesmen do in fact think
quantitatively, although the methods by which they reach their results
are often unconscious.

When, however, all politicians start with intellectualist assumptions,
though some half-consciously acquire quantitative habits of thought,
many desert politics altogether from disillusionment and disgust. What
is wanted in the training of a statesman is the fully conscious
formulation and acceptance of those methods which will not have to be

Such a conscious change is already taking place in the work of Royal
Commissions, International Congresses, and other bodies and persons who
have to arrange and draw conclusions from large masses of specially
collected evidence. Their methods and vocabulary, even when not
numerical, are nowadays in large part quantitative.

In parliamentary oratory, however, the old tradition of
over-simplification is apt to persist.

_(PART II.--Chapter I.--Political Morality, page 167)_

But in what ways can such changes in political science affect the actual
trend of political forces?

In the first place, the abandonment by political thinkers and writers of
the intellectualist conception of politics will sooner or later
influence the moral judgments of the working politician. A young
candidate will begin with a new conception of his moral relation to
those whose will and opinions he is attempting to influence. He will
start, in that respect, from a position hitherto confined to statesmen
who have been made cynical by experience.

If that were the only result of our new knowledge, political morality
might be changed for the worse. But the change will go deeper. When men
become conscious of psychological processes of which they have been
unconscious or half-conscious, not only are they put on their guard
against the exploitation of those processes in themselves by others, but
they become better able to control them from within.

If, however, a conscious moral purpose is to be strong enough to
overcome, as a political force, the advancing art of political
exploitation, the conception of control from within must be formed into
an ideal entity which, like 'Science,' can appeal to popular
imagination, and be spread by an organised system of education. The
difficulties in this are great (owing in part to our ignorance of the
varied reactions of self-consciousness on instinct), but a wide
extension of the idea of causation is not inconsistent with an increased
intensity of moral passion.

_(Chapter II.--Representative Government, page 199)_

The changes now going on in our conception of the psychological basis of
politics will also re-open the discussion of representative democracy.

Some of the old arguments in that discussion will no longer be accepted
as valid, and it is probable that many political thinkers (especially
among those who have been educated in the natural sciences) will return
to Plato's proposal of a despotic government carried on by a selected
and trained class, who live apart from the 'ostensible world'; though
English experience in India indicates that even the most carefully
selected official must still live in the 'ostensible world,' and that
the argument that good government requires the consent of the governed
does not depend for its validity upon its original intellectualist

Our new way of thinking about politics will, however, certainly change
the form, not only of the argument for consent, but also of the
institutions by which consent is expressed. An election (like a
jury-trial) will be, and is already beginning to be, looked upon rather
as a process by which right decisions are formed under right conditions,
than as a mechanical expedient by which decisions already formed are

Proposals for electoral reform which seem to continue the old
intellectualist tradition are still brought forward, and new
difficulties in the working of representative government will arise from
the wider extension of political power. But that conception of
representation may spread which desires both to increase the knowledge
and public spirit of the voter and to provide that no strain is put upon
him greater than he can bear.

_(Chapter III.--Official Thought, page 241)_

A quantitative examination of the political force created by popular
election shows the importance of the work of non-elected officials in
any effective scheme of democracy.

What should be the relation between these officials and the elected
representatives? On this point English opinion already shows a marked
reaction from the intellectualist conception of representative
government. We accept the fact that most state officials are appointed
by a system uncontrolled either by individual members of parliament or
by parliament as a whole, that they hold office during good behaviour,
and that they are our main source of information as to some of the most
difficult points on which we form political judgments. It is largely an
accident that the same system has not been introduced into our local

But such a half-conscious acceptance of a partially independent Civil
Service as an existing fact is not enough. We must set ourselves to
realise clearly what we intend our officials to do, and to consider how
far our present modes of appointment, and especially our present methods
of organising official work, provide the most effective means for
carrying out that intention.

_(Chapter IV.--Nationality and Humanity, page 269)_

What influence will the new tendencies in political thought have on the
emotional and intellectual conditions of political solidarity?

In the old city-states, where the area of government corresponded to the
actual range of human vision and memory, a kind of local emotion could
be developed which is now impossible in a 'delocalised' population. The
solidarity of a modern state must therefore depend on facts not of
observation but of imagination.

The makers of the existing European national states, Mazzini and
Bismarck, held that the possible extent of a state depended on national
homogeneity, _i.e._ on the possibility that every individual member of a
state should believe that all the others were like himself. Bismarck
thought that the degree of actual homogeneity which was a necessary
basis for this belief could be made by 'blood and iron'; Mazzini thought
that mankind was already divided into homogeneous groups whose limits
should be followed in the reconstruction of Europe. Both were convinced
that the emotion of political solidarity was impossible between
individuals of consciously different national types.

During the last quarter of a century this conception of the world as
composed of a mosaic of homogeneous nations has been made more difficult
(a) by the continued existence and even growth of separate national
feelings within modern states, and (b) by the fact that the European and
non-European races have entered into closer political relationships. The
attempt, therefore, to transfer the traditions of national homogeneity
and solidarity either to the inhabitants of a modern world-empire as a
whole, or to the members of the dominant race in it, disguises the real
facts and adds to the danger of war.

Can we, however, acquire a political emotion based, not upon a belief in
the likeness of individual human beings, but upon the recognition of
their unlikeness? Darwin's proof of the relation between individual and
racial variation might have produced such an emotion if it had not been
accompanied by the conception of the 'struggle for life' as a moral
duty. As it is, inter-racial and even inter-imperial wars can be
represented as necessary stages in the progress of the species. But
present-day biologists tell us that the improvement of any one race will
come most effectively from the conscious co-operation, and not from the
blind conflict of individuals; and it may be found that the improvement
of the whole species will also come rather from a conscious
world-purpose based upon a recognition of the value of racial as well as
individual variety, than from mere fighting.



The study of politics is just now (1908) in a curiously unsatisfactory

At first sight the main controversy as to the best form of government
appears to have been finally settled in favour of representative
democracy. Forty years ago it could still be argued that to base the
sovereignty of a great modern nation upon a widely extended popular vote
was, in Europe at least, an experiment which had never been successfully
tried. England, indeed, by the 'leap in the dark' of 1867, became for
the moment the only large European State whose government was democratic
and representative. But to-day a parliamentary republic based upon
universal suffrage exists in France without serious opposition or
protest. Italy enjoys an apparently stable constitutional monarchy.
Universal suffrage has just been enacted in Austria. Even the German
Emperor after the election of 1907 spoke of himself rather as the
successful leader of a popular electoral campaign than as the inheritor
of a divine right. The vast majority of the Russian nation passionately
desires a sovereign parliament, and a reactionary Duma finds itself
steadily pushed by circumstances towards that position. The most
ultramontane Roman Catholics demand temporal power for the Pope, no
longer as an ideal system of world government, but as an expedient for
securing in a few square miles of Italian territory liberty of action
for the directors of a church almost all of whose members will remain
voting citizens of constitutional States. None of the proposals for a
non-representative democracy which were associated with the communist
and anarchist movements of the nineteenth century have been at all
widely accepted, or have presented themselves as a definite constructive
scheme; and almost all those who now hope for a social change by which
the results of modern scientific industry shall be more evenly
distributed put their trust in the electoral activity of the working

And yet, in the very nations which have most whole-heartedly accepted
representative democracy, politicians and political students seem
puzzled and disappointed by their experience of it. The United States of
America have made in this respect by far the longest and most continuous
experiment. Their constitution has lasted for a century and a quarter,
and, in spite of controversy and even war arising from opposing
interpretations of its details, its principles have been, and still are,
practically unchallenged. But, as far as an English visitor can judge,
no American thinks with satisfaction of the electoral 'machine' whose
power alike in Federal, State, and Municipal politics is still

In England not only has our experience of representative democracy been
much shorter than that of America, but our political traditions have
tended to delay the full acceptance of the democratic idea even in the
working of democratic institutions. Yet, allowing for differences of
degree and circumstance, one finds in England among the most loyal
democrats, if they have been brought into close contact with the details
of electoral organisation, something of the same disappointment which
has become more articulate in America. I have helped to fight a good
many parliamentary contests, and have myself been a candidate in a
series of five London municipal elections. In my last election I noticed
that two of my canvassers, when talking over the day's work, used
independently the phrase, 'It is a queer business.' I have heard much
the same words used in England by those professional political agents
whose efficiency depends on their seeing electoral facts without
illusion. I have no first-hand knowledge of German or Italian
electioneering, but when a year ago I talked with my hosts of the Paris
Municipal Council, I seemed to detect in some of them indications of
good-humoured disillusionment with regard to the working of a democratic
electoral system.

In England and America one has, further, the feeling that it is the
growing, and not the decaying, forces of society which create the most
disquieting problems. In America the 'machine' takes its worst form in
those great new cities whose population and wealth and energy represent
the goal towards which the rest of American civilisation is apparently
tending. In England, to any one who looks forward, the rampant bribery
of the old fishing-ports, or the traditional and respectable corruption
of the cathedral cities, seem comparatively small and manageable evils.
The more serious grounds for apprehension come from the newest
inventions of wealth and enterprise, the up-to-date newspapers, the
power and skill of the men who direct huge aggregations of industrial
capital, the organised political passions of working men who have passed
through the standards of the elementary schools, and who live in
hundreds of square miles of new, healthy, indistinguishable suburban
streets. Every few years some invention in political method is made, and
if it succeeds both parties adopt it. In politics, as in football, the
tactics which prevail are not those which the makers of the rules
intended, but those by which the players find that they can win, and men
feel vaguely that the expedients by which their party is most likely to
win may turn out not to be those by which a State is best governed.

More significant still is the fear, often expressed as new questions
force themselves into politics, that the existing electoral system will
not bear the strain of an intensified social conflict. Many of the
arguments used in the discussion of the tariff question in England, or
of the concentration of capital in America, or of social--democracy in
Germany, imply this. Popular election, it is said, may work fairly well
as long as those questions are not raised which cause the holders of
wealth and industrial power to make full use of their opportunities. But
if the rich people in any modern state thought it worth their while, in
order to secure a tariff, or legalise a trust, or oppose a confiscatory
tax, to subscribe a third of their income to a political fund, no
Corrupt Practices Act yet invented would prevent them from spending it.
If they did so, there is so much skill to be bought, and the art of
using skill for the production of emotion and opinion has so advanced,
that the whole condition of political contests would be changed for the
future. No existing party, unless it enormously increased its own fund
or discovered some other new source of political strength, would have
any chance of permanent success.

The appeal, however, in the name of electoral purity, to protectionists,
trust-promoters, and socialists that they should drop their various
movements and so confine politics to less exciting questions, falls,
naturally enough, on deaf ears.

The proposal, again, to extend the franchise to women is met by that
sort of hesitation and evasion which is characteristic of politicians
who are not sure of their intellectual ground. A candidate who has just
been speaking on the principles of democracy finds it, when he is
heckled, very difficult to frame an answer which would justify the
continued exclusion of women from the franchise. Accordingly a large
majority of the successful candidates from both the main parties at the
general election of 1906 pledged themselves to support female suffrage.
But, as I write, many, perhaps the majority, of those who gave that
pledge seem to be trying to avoid the necessity of carrying it out.
There is no reason to suppose that they are men of exceptionally
dishonest character, and their fear of the possible effect of a final
decision is apparently genuine. They are aware that certain differences
exist between men and women, though they do not know what those
differences are, nor in what way they are relevant to the question of
the franchise. But they are even less steadfast in their doubts than in
their pledges, and the question will, in the comparatively near future,
probably be settled by importunity on the one side and mere drifting on
the other.

This half conscious feeling of unsettlement on matters which in our
explicit political arguments we treat as settled, is increased by the
growing urgency of the problem of race. The fight for democracy in
Europe and America during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries
was carried on by men who were thinking only of the European races. But,
during the extension of democracy after 1870, almost all the Great
Powers were engaged in acquiring tropical dependencies, and improvements
in the means of communication were bringing all the races of the world
into close contact. The ordinary man now finds that the sovereign vote
has (with exceptions numerically insignificant) been in fact confined to
nations of European origin. But there is nothing in the form or history
of the representative principle which seems to justify this, or to
suggest any alternative for the vote as a basis of government. Nor can
he draw any intelligible and consistent conclusion from the practice of
democratic States in giving or refusing the vote to their non-European
subjects. The United States, for instance, have silently and almost
unanimously dropped the experiment of negro suffrage. In that case,
owing to the wide intellectual gulf between the West African negro and
the white man from North-West Europe, the problem was comparatively
simple; but no serious attempt has yet been made at a new solution of
it, and the Americans have been obviously puzzled in dealing with the
more subtle racial questions created by the immigration of Chinese and
Japanese and Slavs, or by the government of the mixed populations in the

England and her colonies show a like uncertainty in the presence of the
political questions raised both by the migration of non-white races and
by the acquisition of tropical dependencies. Even when we discuss the
political future of independent Asiatic States we are not clear whether
the principle, for instance, of 'no taxation without representation'
should be treated as applicable to them. Our own position as an Asiatic
power depends very largely on the development of China and Persia, which
are inhabited by races who may claim, in some respects, to be our
intellectual superiors. When they adopt our systems of engineering,
mechanics, or armament we have no doubt that they are doing a good thing
for themselves, even though we may fear their commercial or military
rivalry. But no follower of Bentham is now eager to export for general
Asiatic use our latest inventions in political machinery. We hear that
the Persians have established a parliament, and watch the development of
their experiment with a complete suspension of judgment as to its
probable result. We have helped the Japanese to preserve their
independence as a constitutional nation, and most Englishmen vaguely
sympathise with the desire of the Chinese progressives both for national
independence and internal reform. Few of us, however, would be willing
to give any definite advice to an individual Chinaman who asked whether
he ought to throw himself into a movement for a representative
parliament on European lines.

Within our own Empire this uncertainty as to the limitations of our
political principles may at any moment produce actual disaster. In
Africa, for instance, the political relationship between the European
inhabitants of our territories and the non-European majority of Kaffirs,
Negroes, Hindoos, Copts, or Arabs is regulated on entirely different
lines in Natal, Basutoland, Egypt, or East Africa. In each case the
constitutional difference is due not so much to the character of the
local problem as to historical accident, and trouble may break out
anywhere and at any time, either from the aggression of the Europeans
upon the rights reserved by the Home Government to the non-Europeans, or
from a revolt of the non-Europeans themselves. Blacks and whites are
equally irritated by the knowledge that there is one law in Nairobi and
another in Durban.

This position is, of course, most dangerous in the case of India. For
two or three generations the ordinary English Liberal postponed any
decision on Indian politics, because he believed that we were educating
the inhabitants for self-government, and that in due time they would all
have a vote for an Indian parliament. Now he is becoming aware that
there are many races in India, and that some of the most important
differences between those races among themselves, and between any of
them and ourselves, are not such as can be obliterated by education. He
is told by men whom he respects that this fact makes it certain that
the representative system which is suitable for England will never be
suitable for India, and therefore he remains uneasily responsible for
the permanent autocratic government of three hundred million people,
remembering from time to time that some of those people or their
neighbours may have much more definite political ideas than his own, and
that he ultimately may have to fight for a power which he hardly desires
to retain.

Meanwhile, the existence of the Indian problem loosens half-consciously
his grip upon democratic principle in matters nearer home. Newspapers
and magazines and steamships are constantly making India more real to
him, and the conviction of a Liberal that Polish immigrants or London
'latch-key' lodgers ought to have a vote is less decided than it would
have been if he had not acquiesced in the decision that Rajputs, and
Bengalis, and Parsees should be refused it.

Practical politicians cannot, it is true, be expected to stop in the
middle of a campaign merely because they have an uncomfortable feeling
that the rules of the game require re-stating and possibly re-casting.
But the winning or losing of elections does not exhaust the whole
political duty of a nation, and perhaps there never has been a time in
which the disinterested examination of political principles has been
more urgently required. Hitherto the main stimulus to political
speculation has been provided by wars and revolutions, by the fight of
the Greek States against the Persians, and their disastrous struggle for
supremacy among themselves, or by the wars of religion in the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, and the American and French Revolutions in
the eighteenth century. The outstanding social events in Europe in our
own time have, however, been so far the failures rather than the
successes of great movements; the apparent wasting of devotion and
courage in Russia, owing to the deep-seated intellectual divisions among
the reformers, and the military advantage which modern weapons and means
of communication give to any government however tyrannous and corrupt;
the baffling of the German social-democrats by the forces of religion
and patriotism and by the infertility of their own creed; the weakness
of the successive waves of American Democracy when faced by the
political power of capital.

But failure and bewilderment may present as stern a demand for thought
as the most successful revolution, and, in many respects, that demand is
now being well answered. Political experience is recorded and examined
with a thoroughness hitherto unknown. The history of political action in
the past, instead of being left to isolated scholars, has become the
subject of organised and minutely subdivided labour. The new political
developments of the present, Australian Federation, the Referendum in
Switzerland, German Public Finance, the Party system in England and
America, and innumerable others, are constantly recorded, discussed and
compared in the monographs and technical magazines which circulate
through all the universities of the globe.

The only form of study which a political thinker of one or two hundred
years ago would now note as missing is any attempt to deal with politics
in its relation to the nature of man. The thinkers of the past, from
Plato to Bentham and Mill, had each his own view of human nature, and
they made those views the basis of their speculations on government. But
no modern treatise on political science, whether dealing with
institutions or finance, now begins with anything corresponding to the
opening words of Bentham's _Principles of Morals and
Legislation_--'Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two
sovereign masters, pain and pleasure'; or to the 'first general
proposition' of Nassau Senior's _Political Economy,_ 'Every man desires
to obtain additional wealth with as little sacrifice as possible.'[1] In
most cases one cannot even discover whether the writer is conscious of
possessing any conception of human nature at all.

[1] _Political, Economy_ (in the _Encyclopedia Metropolitana_), 2nd
edition (1850), p. 26.

It is easy to understand how this has come about. Political science is
just beginning to regain some measure of authority after the
acknowledged failure of its confident professions during the first half
of the nineteenth century. Bentham's Utilitarianism, after superseding
both Natural Right and the blind tradition of the lawyers, and serving
as the basis of innumerable legal and constitutional reforms throughout
Europe, was killed by the unanswerable refusal of the plain man to
believe that ideas of pleasure and pain are the only sources of human
motive. The 'classical' political economy of the universities and the
newspapers, the political economy of MacCulloch and Senior and
Archbishop Whately, was even more unfortunate in its attempt to deduce a
whole industrial polity from a 'few simple principles' of human nature.
It became identified with the shallow dogmatism by which well-to-do
people in the first half of Queen Victoria's reign tried to convince
working men that any change in the distribution of the good things of
life was 'scientifically impossible.' Marx and Buskin and Carlyle were
masters of sarcasm, and the process is not yet forgotten by which they
slowly compelled even the newspapers to abandon the 'laws of political
economy' which from 1815 to 1870 stood, like gigantic stuffed policemen,
on guard over rent and profits.

When the struggle against 'Political Economy' was at its height,
Darwin's _Origin of Species_ revealed a universe in which the 'few
simple principles' seemed a little absurd, and nothing has hitherto
taken their place. Mr. Herbert Spencer, indeed, attempted to turn a
single hasty generalisation from the history of biological evolution
into a complete social philosophy of his own, and preached a 'beneficent
private war'[2] which he conceived as exactly equivalent to that degree
of trade competition which prevailed among English provincial
shopkeepers about the year 1884. Mr. Spencer failed to secure even the
whole-hearted support of the newspapers; but in so far as his system
gained currency it helped further to discredit any attempt to connect
political science with the study of human nature.

[2] _Man versus the State_, p. 69. 'The beneficent private war which
makes one man strive to climb over the shoulders of another man.'

For the moment, therefore, nearly all students of politics analyse
institutions and avoid the analysis of man. The study of human nature by
the psychologists has, it is true, advanced enormously since the
discovery of human evolution, but it has advanced without affecting or
being affected by the study of politics. Modern text-books of psychology
are illustrated with innumerable facts from the home, the school, the
hospital, and the psychological laboratory; but in them politics are
hardly ever mentioned. The professors of the new science of sociology
are beginning, it is true, to deal with human nature in its relation
not only to the family and to religion and industry, but also to
certain political institutions. Sociology, however, has had, as yet,
little influence on political science.

I believe myself that this tendency to separate the study of politics
from that of human nature will prove to be only a momentary phase of
thought, that while it lasts its effects, both on the science and the
conduct of politics, are likely to be harmful, and that there are
already signs that it is coming to an end.

It is sometimes pleaded that, if thorough work is to be done, there
must, in the moral as in the physical sciences, be division of labour.
But this particular division cannot, in fact, be kept up. The student of
politics must, consciously or unconsciously, form a conception of human
nature, and the less conscious he is of his conception the more likely
he is to be dominated by it. If he has had wide personal experience of
political life his unconscious assumptions may be helpful; if he has not
they are certain to be misleading. Mr. Roosevelt's little book of essays
on _American Ideals_ is, for instance, useful, because when he thinks
about mankind in politics, he thinks about the politicians whom he has
known. After reading it one feels that many of the more systematic books
on politics by American university professors are useless, just because
the writers dealt with abstract men, formed on assumptions of which they
were unaware and which they had never tested either by experience or by

In the other sciences which deal with human actions, this division
between the study of the thing done and the study of the being who does
it is not found. In criminology Beccaria and Bentham long ago showed how
dangerous that jurisprudence was which separated the classification of
crimes from the study of the criminal. The conceptions of human nature
which they held have been superseded by evolutionary psychology, but
modern thinkers like Lombroso have brought the new psychology into the
service of a new and fruitful criminology.

In pedagogy also, Locke, and Rousseau, and Herbart, and the many-sided
Bentham, based their theories of education upon their conceptions of
human nature. Those conceptions were the same as those which underlay
their political theories, and have been affected in the same way by
modern knowledge. For a short time it even looked, as if the lecturers
in the English training colleges would make the same separation between
the study of human institutions and human nature as has been made in
politics. Lectures on School Method were distinguished during this
period from those on the Theory of Education. The first became mere
descriptions and comparisons of the organisation and teaching in the
best schools. The second consisted of expositions, with occasional
comment and criticism of such classical writers as Comenius, or Locke,
or Rousseau; and were curiously like those informal talks on Aristotle,
Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, which, under the name of the Theory of
Politics, formed in my time such a pleasant interlude in the Oxford
course of Humaner Letters. But while the Oxford lecture-courses still, I
believe, survive almost unchanged, the Training College lectures on the
Theory of Education are beginning to show signs of a change as great as
that which took place in the training of medical students, when the
lecturers on anatomy, instead of expounding the classical authorities,
began to give, on their own responsibility, the best account of the
facts of human structure of which they were capable.

The reason for this difference is, apparently, the fact that while
Oxford lecturers on the Theory of Politics are not often politicians,
the Training College lecturers on the Theory of Teaching have always
been teachers, to whom the question whether any new knowledge could be
made useful in their art was one of living and urgent importance. One
finds accordingly that under the leadership of men like Professors
William James, Lloyd Morgan, and Stanley Hall, a progressive science of
teaching is being developed, which combines the study of types of school
organisation and method with a determined attempt to learn from special
experiments, from introspection, and from other sciences, what manner
of thing a child is.

Modern pedagogy, based on modern psychology, is already influencing the
schools whose teachers are trained for their profession. Its body of
facts is being yearly added to; it has already caused the abandonment of
much dreary waste of time; has given many thousands of teachers a new
outlook on their work, and has increased the learning and happiness of
many tens of thousands of children.

This essay of mine is offered as a plea that a corresponding change in
the conditions of political science is possible. In the great University
whose constituent colleges are the universities of the world, there is a
steadily growing body of professors and students of politics who give
the whole day to their work. I cannot but think that as years go on,
more of them will call to their aid that study of mankind which is the
ancient ally of the moral sciences. Within every great city there are
groups of men and women who are brought together in the evenings by the
desire to find something more satisfying than current political
controversy. They have their own unofficial leaders and teachers, and
among these one can already detect an impatience with the alternative
offered, either of working by the bare comparison of existing
institutions, or of discussing the fitness of socialism or
individualism, of democracy or aristocracy for human beings whose
nature is taken for granted.

If my book is read by any of those official or unofficial thinkers, I
would urge that the study of human nature in politics, if ever it comes
to be undertaken by the united and organised efforts of hundreds of
learned men, may not only deepen and widen our knowledge of political
institutions, but open an unworked mine of political invention.


_The Conditions of the Problem_



Whoever sets himself to base his political thinking on a re-examination
of the working of human nature, must begin by trying to overcome his own
tendency to exaggerate the intellectuality of mankind.

We are apt to assume that every human action is the result of an
intellectual process, by which a man first thinks of some end which he
desires, and then calculates the means by which that end can be
attained. An investor, for instance, desires good security combined with
five per cent interest. He spends an hour in studying with an open mind
the price-list of stocks, and finally infers that the purchase of
Brewery Debentures will enable him most completely to realise his
desire. Given the original desire for good security, his act in
purchasing the Debentures appears to be the inevitable result of his
inference. The desire for good security itself may further appear to be
merely an intellectual inference as to the means of satisfying some more
general desire, shared by all mankind, for 'happiness,' our own
'interest,' or the like. The satisfaction of this general desire can
then be treated as the supreme 'end' of life, from which all our acts
and impulses, great and small, are derived by the same intellectual
process as that by which the conclusion is derived from the premises of
an argument.

This way of thinking is sometimes called 'common sense.' A good example
of its application to politics may be found in a sentence from
Macaulay's celebrated attack on the Utilitarian followers of Bentham in
the _Edinburgh Review_ of March 1829. This extreme instance of the
foundation of politics upon dogmatic psychology is, curiously enough,
part of an argument intended to show that 'it is utterly impossible to
deduce the science of government from the principles of human nature.'
'What proposition,' Macaulay asks, 'is there respecting human nature
which is absolutely and universally true? We know of only one: and that
is not only true, but identical; that men always act from
self-interest.... _When we see the actions of a man, we know with
certainty what he thinks his interest to be_.'[3] Macaulay believes
himself to be opposing Benthamism root and branch, but is unconsciously
adopting and exaggerating the assumption which Bentham shared with most
of the other eighteenth and early nineteenth century philosophers--that
all motives result from the idea of some preconceived end.

[3] _Edinburgh Review_, March 1829, p. 185. (The italics are mine.)

If he had been pressed, Macaulay would probably have admitted that there
are cases in which human acts and impulses to act occur independently of
any idea of an end to be gained by them. If I have a piece of grit in my
eye and ask some one to take it out with the corner of his handkerchief,
I generally close the eye as soon as the handkerchief comes near, and
always feel a strong impulse to do so. Nobody supposes that I close my
eye because, after due consideration, I think it my interest to do so.
Nor do most men choose to run away in battle, to fall in love, or to
talk about the weather in order to satisfy their desire for a
preconceived end. If, indeed, a man were followed through one ordinary
day, without his knowing it, by a cinematographic camera and a
phonograph, and if all his acts and sayings were reproduced before him
next day, he would be astonished to find how few of them were the result
of a deliberate search for the means of attaining ends. He would, of
course, see that much of his activity consisted in the half-conscious
repetition, under the influence of habit, of movements which were
originally more fully conscious. But even if all cases of habit were
excluded he would find that only a small proportion of the residue
could be explained as being directly produced by an intellectual
calculation. If a record were also kept of those of his impulses and
emotions which did not result in action, it would be seen that they were
of the same kind as those which did, and that very few of them were
preceded by that process which Macaulay takes for granted.

If Macaulay had been pressed still further, he would probably have
admitted that even when an act is preceded by a calculation of ends and
means, it is not the inevitable result of that calculation. Even when we
know what a man thinks it his interest to do, we do not know for certain
what he will do. The man who studies the Stock Exchange list does not
buy his Debentures, unless, apart from his intellectual inference on the
subject, he has an impulse to write to his stockbroker sufficiently
strong to overcome another impulse to put the whole thing off till the
next day.

Macaulay might even further have admitted that the mental act of
calculation itself results from, or is accompanied by, an impulse to
calculate, which impulse may have nothing to do with any anterior
consideration of means and ends, and may vary from the half-conscious
yielding to a train of reverie up to the obstinate driving of a tired
brain onto the difficult task of exact thought.

The text-books of psychology now warn every student against the
'intellectualist' fallacy which is illustrated by my quotation from
Macaulay. Impulse, it is now agreed, has an evolutionary history of its
own earlier than the history of those intellectual processes by which it
is often directed and modified. Our inherited organisation inclines us
to re-act in certain ways to certain stimuli because such reactions have
been useful in the past in preserving our species. Some of the reactions
are what we call specifically 'instincts,' that is to say, impulses
towards definite acts or series of acts, independent of any conscious
anticipation of their probable effects.[4] Those instincts are sometimes
unconscious and involuntary; and sometimes, in the case of ourselves and
apparently of other higher animals, they are conscious and voluntary.
But the connection between means and ends which they exhibit is the
result not of any contrivance by the actor, but of the survival, in the
past, of the 'fittest' of many varying tendencies to act. Indeed the
instinct persists when it is obviously useless, as in the case of a dog
who turns round to flatten the grass before lying down on a carpet; and
even when it is known to be dangerous, as when a man recovering from
typhoid hungers for solid food.

[4] 'Instinct is usually defined as the faculty of acting in such a way
as to produce certain ends without foresight of the ends and without
previous education in the performance.'--W. James, _Principles of
Psychology_, vol. ii. p. 383.

The fact that impulse is not always the result of conscious foresight
is most clearly seen in the case of children. The first impulses of a
baby to suck, or to grasp, are obviously 'instinctive.' But even when
the unconscious or unremembered condition of infancy has been succeeded
by the connected consciousness of childhood, the child will fly to his
mother and hide his face in her skirts when he sees a harmless stranger.
Later on he will torture small beasts and run away from big beasts, or
steal fruit, or climb trees, though no one has suggested such actions to
him, and though he may expect disagreeable results from them.

We generally think of 'instinct' as consisting of a number of such
separate tendencies, each towards some distinct act or series of acts.
But there is no reason to suppose that the whole body of inherited
impulse even among non-human animals has ever been divisible in that
way. The evolutionary history of impulse must have been very
complicated. An impulse which survived because it produced one result
may have persisted with modifications because it produced another
result; and side by side with impulses towards specific acts we can
detect in all animals vague and generalised tendencies, often
overlapping and contradictory, like curiosity and shyness, sympathy and
cruelty, imitation and restless activity. It is possible, therefore, to
avoid the ingenious dilemma by which Mr. Balfour argues that we must
either demonstrate that the desire, _e.g._ for scientific truth, is
lineally descended from some one of the specific instincts which teach
us 'to fight, to eat, and to bring up children,' or must admit the
supernatural authority of the Shorter Catechism.[5]

[5] _Reflections suggested by the New Theory of Matter_, 1904, p. 21.
'So far as natural science can tell us, every quality of sense or
intellect which does _not_ help us to fight, to eat, and to bring up
children, is but a by-product of the qualities which do.'

The pre-rational character of many of our impulses is, however, disguised
by the fact that during the lifetime of each individual they are
increasingly modified by memory and habit and thought. Even the
non-human animals are able to adapt and modify their inherited impulses
either by imitation or by habits founded on individual experience. When
telegraph wires, for instance, were first put up many birds flew against
them and were killed. But although the number of those that were killed
was obviously insufficient to produce a change in the biological
inheritance of the species, very few birds fly against the wires now.
The young birds must have imitated their elders, who had learnt to avoid
the wires; just as the young of many hunting animals are said to learn
devices and precautions which are the result of their parents'
experience, and later to make and hand down by imitation inventions of
their own.

Many of the directly inherited impulses, again, appear both in man and
other animals at a certain point in the growth of the individual, and
then, if they are checked, die away, or, if they are unchecked, form
habits; and impulses, which were originally strong and useful, may no
longer help in preserving life, and may, like the whale's legs or our
teeth and hair, be weakened by biological degeneration. Such temporary
or weakened impulses are especially liable to be transferred to new
objects, or to be modified by experience and thought.

With all these complicated facts the schoolmaster has to deal. In
Macaulay's time he used to be guided by his 'common-sense,' and to
intellectualise the whole process. The unfortunate boys who acted upon
an ancient impulse to fidget, to play truant, to chase cats, or to mimic
their teacher, were asked, with repeated threats of punishment,'why'
they had done so. They, being ignorant of their own evolutionary
history, were forced to invent some far-fetched lie, and were punished
for that as well. The trained schoolmaster of to-day takes the existence
of such impulses as a normal fact; and decides how far, in each case, he
shall check them by relying on that half-conscious imitation which makes
the greater part of class-room discipline, and how far by stimulating a
conscious recognition of the connection, ethical or penal, between acts
and their consequences. In any case his power of controlling instinctive
impulse is due to his recognition of its non-intellectual origin. He may
even be able to extend this recognition to his own impulses, and to
overcome the conviction that his irritability during afternoon school
in July is the result of an intellectual conclusion as to the need of
special severity in dealing with a set of unprecedentedly wicked boys.

The politician, however, is still apt to intellectualise impulse as
completely as the schoolmaster did fifty years ago. He has two excuses,
that he deals entirely with adults, whose impulses are more deeply
modified by experience and thought than those of children, and that it
is very difficult for any one who thinks about politics not to confine
his consideration to those political actions and impulses which are
accompanied by the greatest amount of conscious thought, and which
therefore come first into his mind. But the politician thinks about men
in large communities, and it is in the forecasting of the action of
large communities that the intellectualist fallacy is most misleading.
The results of experience and thought are often confined to individuals
or small groups, and when they differ may cancel each other as political
forces. The original human impulses are, with personal variations,
common to the whole race, and increase in their importance with an
increase in the number of those influenced by them.

It may be worth while, therefore, to attempt a description of some of
the more obvious or more important political impulses, remembering
always that in politics we are dealing not with such clear-cut separate
instincts as we may find in children and animals, but with tendencies
often weakened by the course of human evolution, still more often
transferred to new uses, and acting not simply but in combination or

Aristotle, for instance, says that it is 'affection' (or 'friendship,'
for the meaning of [Greek: philia] stands half way between the
two words) which 'makes political union possible,' and 'which law-givers
consider more important than justice.' It is, he says, a hereditary
instinct among animals of the same race, and particularly among men.[6]
If we look for this political affection in its simplest form, we see it
in our impulse to feel 'kindly' towards any other human being of whose
existence and personality we become vividly aware. This impulse can be
checked and overlaid by others, but any one can test its existence and
its prerationality in his own case by going, for instance, to the
British Museum and watching the effect on his feelings of the discovery
that a little Egyptian girl baby who died four thousand years ago rubbed
the toes of her shoes by crawling upon the floor.

[6] _Ethics_, Bk. viii. chap. I. [Greek: physei t' enyparchein eoike ...
ou ponon en anthropois alla kai en ornisi kai tois pleistois ton zoon,
kai tois homoethnesi pros allela, kai malista tois anthropois ... eoike
de kai tas poleis synechein he philia, kai hoi nomothetai mallon peri
auten spoudazein e ten dikaiosynen].

The tactics of an election consist largely of contrivances by which this
immediate emotion of personal affection may be set up. The candidate is
advised to 'show himself continually, to give away prizes, to 'say a
few words' at the end of other people's speeches--all under
circumstances which offer little or no opportunity for the formation of
a reasoned opinion of his merits, but many opportunities for the rise of
a purely instinctive affection among those present. His portrait is
periodically distributed, and is more effective if it is a good, that is
to say, a distinctive, than if it is a flattering likeness. Best of all
is a photograph which brings his ordinary existence sharply forward by
representing him in his garden smoking a pipe or reading a newspaper.

A simple-minded supporter whose affection has been so worked up will
probably try to give an intellectual explanation of it. He will say that
the man, of whom he may know really nothing except that he was
photographed in a Panama hat with a fox-terrier, is 'the kind of man we
want,' and that therefore he has decided to support him; just as a child
will say that he loves his mother because she is the best mother in the
world,[7] or a man in love will give an elaborate explanation of his
perfectly normal feelings, which he describes as an intellectual
inference from alleged abnormal excellences in his beloved. The
candidate naturally intellectualises in the same way. One of the most
perfectly modest men I know once told me that he was 'going round' a
good deal among his future constituents 'to let them see what a good
fellow I am.' Unless, indeed, the process can be intellectualised, it is
for many men unintelligible.

[7] A rather unusually reflective little girl of my acquaintance, felt,
one day, while looking at her mother, a strong impulse of affection. She
first gave the usual intellectual explanation of her feeling, 'Mummy, I
do think you are the most beautiful Mummy in the whole world,' and then,
after a moment's thought, corrected herself by saying, 'But there, they
do say love is blind.'

A monarch is a life-long candidate, and there exists a singularly
elaborate traditional art of producing personal affection for him. It is
more important that he should be seen than that he should speak or act.
His portrait appears on every coin and stamp, and apart from any
question of personal beauty, produces most effect when it is a good
likeness. Any one, for instance, who can clearly recall his own emotions
during the later years of Queen Victoria's reign, will remember a
measurable increase of his affection for her, when, in 1897, a
thoroughly life-like portrait took the place on the coins of the
conventional head of 1837-1887, and the awkward compromise of the first
Jubilee year. In the case of monarchy one can also watch the
intellectualisation of the whole process by the newspapers, the official
biographers, the courtiers, and possibly the monarch himself. The daily
bulletin of details as to his walks and drives is, in reality, the more
likely to create a vivid impression of his personality, and therefore to
produce this particular kind of emotion, the more ordinary the events
described are in themselves. But since an emotion arising out of
ordinary events is difficult to explain on a purely intellectual basis,
these events are written about as revealing a life of extraordinary
regularity and industry. When the affection is formed it is even
sometimes described as an inevitable reasoned conclusion arising from
reflection upon a reign during which there have been an unusual number
of good harvests or great inventions.

Sometimes the impulse of affection is excited to a point at which its
non-rational character becomes obvious. George the Third was beloved by
the English people because they realised intensely that, like
themselves, he had been born in England, and because the published facts
of his daily life came home to them. Fanny Burney describes, therefore,
how when, during an attack of madness, he was to be taken in a coach to
Kew, the doctors who were to accompany him were seriously afraid that
the inhabitants of any village who saw that the King was under restraint
would attack them.[8] The kindred emotion of personal and dynastic
loyalty (whose origin is possibly to be found in the fact that the
loosely organised companies of our prehuman ancestors could not defend
themselves from their carnivorous enemies until the general instinct of
affection was specialised into a vehement impulse to follow and protect
their leader), has again and again produced destructive and utterly
useless civil wars.

[8] _Diary of Madame D'Arblay_, ed. 1905, vol. iv. p. 184, 'If they even
attempted force, they had not a doubt but his smallest resistance would
call up the whole country to his fancied rescue.'

Fear often accompanies and, in politics, is confused with affection. A
man, whose life's dream it has been to get sight and speech of his King,
is accidentally brought face to face with him. He is 'rooted to the
spot,' becomes pale, and is unable to speak, because a movement might
have betrayed his ancestors to a lion or a bear, or earlier still, to a
hungry cuttlefish. It would be an interesting experiment if some
professor of experimental psychology would arrange his class in the
laboratory with sphygmographs on their wrists ready to record those
pulse movements which accompany the sensation of 'thrill,' and would
then introduce into the room without notice, and in chance order, a
bishop, a well-known general, the greatest living man of letters, and a
minor member of the royal family. The resulting records of immediate
pulse disturbances would be of real scientific importance, and it might
even be possible to continue the record in each case say, for a quarter
of a minute, and to trace the secondary effects of variations in
political opinions, education, or the sense of humour among the

At present almost the only really scientific observation on the subject
from its political side is contained in Lord Palmerston's protest
against a purely intellectual account of aristocracy: 'there is no
damned nonsense about merit,' he said, 'in the case of the Garter.'
Makers of new aristocracies are still, however, apt to intellectualise.
The French government, for instance, have created an order, 'Pour le
Merite Agricole,' which ought, on the basis of mere logic, to be very
successful; but one is told that the green ribbon of that order produces
in France no thrill whatever.

The impulse to laugh is comparatively unimportant in politics, but it
affords a good instance of the way in which a practical politician has
to allow for pre-rational impulse. It is apparently an immediate effect
of the recognition of the incongruous, just as trembling is of the
recognition of danger. It may have been evolved because an animal which
suffered a slight spasm in the presence of the unexpected was more
likely to be on its guard against enemies, or it may have been the
merely accidental result of some fact in our nervous organisation which
was otherwise useful. Incongruity is, however, so much a matter of habit
and association and individual variation, that it is extraordinarily
difficult to forecast whether any particular act will seem ridiculous to
any particular class, or how long the sense of incongruity will in any
case persist. Acts, for instance, which aim at producing exalted
emotional effect among ordinary slow-witted people--Burke's dagger,
Louis Napoleon's tame eagle, the German Kaiser's telegrams about Huns
and mailed fists--may do so, and therefore be in the end politically
successful, although they produce spontaneous laughter in men whose
conception of good political manners is based upon the idea of

Again, almost the whole of the economic question between socialism and
individualism turns on the nature and limitations of the desire for
property. There seem to be good grounds for supposing that this is a
true specific instinct, and not merely the result of habit or of the
intellectual choice of means for satisfying the desire of power.
Children, for instance, quarrel furiously at a very early age over
apparently worthless things, and collect and hide them long before they
can have any clear notion of the advantages to be derived from
individual possession. Those children who in certain charity schools are
brought up entirely without personal property, even in their clothes or
pocket-handkerchiefs, show every sign of the bad effect on health and
character which results from complete inability to satisfy a strong
inherited instinct. The evolutionary origin of the desire for property
is indicated also by many of the habits of dogs or squirrels or magpies.
Some economist ought therefore to give us a treatise in which this
property instinct is carefully and quantitatively examined. Is it, like
the hunting instinct, an impulse which dies away if it is not indulged?
How far can it be eliminated or modified by education? Is it satisfied
by a leasehold or a life-interest, or by such an arrangement of
corporate property as is offered by a collegiate foundation, or by the
provision of a public park? Does it require for its satisfaction
material and visible things such as land or houses, or is the holding,
say, of colonial railway shares sufficient? Is the absence of unlimited
proprietary rights felt more strongly in the case of personal chattels
(such as furniture and ornaments) than in the case of land or machinery?
Does the degree and direction of the instinct markedly differ among
different individuals or races, or between the two sexes?

Pending such an inquiry my own provisional opinion is that, like a good
many instincts of very early evolutionary origin, it can be satisfied by
an avowed pretence; just as a kitten which is fed regularly on milk can
be kept in good health if it is allowed to indulge its hunting instinct
by playing with a bobbin, and a peaceful civil servant satisfies his
instinct of combat and adventure at golf. If this is so, and if it is
considered for other reasons undesirable to satisfy the property
instinct by the possession, say, of slaves or of freehold land, one
supposes that a good deal of the feeling of property may in the future
be enjoyed even by persons in whom the instinct is abnormally strong,
through the collection of shells or of picture postcards.

The property instinct is, it happens, one of two instances in which the
classical economists deserted their usual habit of treating all desires
as the result of a calculation of the means of obtaining 'utility' or
'wealth.' The satisfaction of the instinct of absolute property by
peasant proprietorship turned, they said, 'sand to gold,' although it
required a larger expenditure of labour for every unit of income than
was the case in salaried employment. The other instance was the instinct
of family affection. This also still needs a special treatise on its
stimulus, variation, and limitations. But the classical economists
treated it as absolute and unvarying. The 'economic man,' who had no
more concern than a lone wolf with the rest of the human species, was
treated as possessing a perfect and permanent solidarity of feeling with
his 'family.' The family was apparently assumed as consisting of those
persons for whose support a man in Western Europe is legally
responsible, and no attempt was made to estimate whether the instinct
extended in any degree to cousins or great uncles.

A treatise on political impulses which aimed at completeness would
further include at least the fighting instinct (with the part which it
plays, together with affection and loyalty, in the formation of
parties), and the instincts of suspicion, curiosity, and the desire to

All these primary impulses are greatly increased in immediate
effectiveness when they are 'pure,' that is to say, unaccompanied by
competing or opposing impulses; and this is the main reason why art,
which aims at producing one emotion at a time, acts on most men so much
more easily than does the more varied appeal of real life. I once sat in
a suburban theatre among a number of colonial troopers who had come over
from South Africa for the King's Coronation. The play was 'Our Boys,'
and between the acts my next neighbour gave me, without any sign of
emotion, a hideous account of the scene at Tweefontein after De Wet had
rushed the British camp on the Christmas morning of 1901--the militiamen
slaughtered while drunk, and the Kaffir drivers tied to the blazing
waggons. The curtain rose again, and, five minutes later, I saw that he
was weeping in sympathy with the stage misfortunes of two able-bodied
young men who had to eat 'inferior Dorset' butter. My sympathy with the
militiamen and the Kaffirs was 'pure,' whereas his was overlaid with
remembered race-hatred, battle-fury, and contempt for British
incompetence. His sympathy, on the other hand, with the stage characters
was not accompanied, as mine was, by critical feelings about theatrical
conventions, indifferent acting, and middle-Victorian sentiment.

It is this greater immediate effect of pure and artificial as compared
with mixed and concrete emotion which explains the traditional maxim of
political agents that it is better that a candidate should not live in
his constituency. It is an advantage that he should be able to represent
himself as a 'local candidate,' but his local character should be _ad
hoc_, and should consist in the hiring of a large house each year in
which he lives a life of carefully dramatised hospitality. Things in no
way blameworthy in themselves--his choice of tradesmen, his childrens'
hats and measles, his difficulties with his relations--will be, if he is
a permanent resident, 'out of the picture,' and may confuse the
impression which he produces. If one could, by the help of a
time-machine, see for a moment in the flesh the little Egyptian girl who
wore out her shoes, one might find her behaving so charmingly that one's
pity for her death would be increased. But it is more probable that,
even if she was, in fact, a very nice little girl, one would not.

This greater immediate facility of the emotions set up by artistic
presentment, as compared with those resulting from concrete observation
has, however, to be studied in its relation to another fact--that
impulses vary, in their driving force and in the depth of the nervous
disturbance which they cause, in proportion, not to their importance in
our present life, but to the point at which they appeared in our
evolutionary past. We are quite unable to resist the impulse of mere
vascular and nervous reaction, the watering of the mouth, the jerk of
the limb, the closing of the eye which we share with some of the
simplest vertebrates. We can only with difficulty resist the instincts
of sex and food, of anger and fear, which we share with the higher
animals. It is, on the other hand, difficult for us to obey consistently
the impulses which attend on the mental images formed by inference and
association. A man may be convinced by a long train of cogent reasoning
that he will go to hell if he visits a certain house; and yet he will do
so in satisfaction of a half conscious craving, whose existence he is
ashamed to recognise. It may be that when a preacher makes hell real to
him by physical images of fire and torment his conviction will acquire
coercive force. But that force may soon die away as his memory fades,
and even the most vivid description has little effect as compared with a
touch of actual pain. At the theatre, because pure emotion is facile,
three-quarters of the audience may cry, but because second-hand emotion
is shallow, very few of them will be unable to sleep when they get home,
or will even lose their appetite for a late supper. My South African
trooper probably recovered from his tears over 'Our Boys' as soon as
they were shed. The transient and pleasurable quality of the tragic
emotions produced by novel reading is well known. A man may weep over a
novel which he will forget in two or three hours, although the same man
may be made insane, or may have his character changed for life, by
actual experiences which are far less terrible than those of which he
reads, experiences which at the moment may produce neither tears nor any
other obvious nervous effect.

Both those facts are of first-rate political importance in those great
modern communities in which all the events which stimulate political
action reach the voters through newspapers. The emotional appeal of
journalism, even more than that of the stage, is facile because it is
pure, and transitory because it is second-hand. Battles and famines,
murders and the evidence of inquiries into destitution, all are
presented by the journalist in literary form, with a careful selection
of 'telling' detail. Their effect is therefore produced at once, in the
half-hour that follows the middle-class breakfast, or in the longer
interval on the Sunday morning when the workman reads his weekly paper.
But when the paper has been read the emotional effect fades rapidly

Any candidate at an election feels for this reason the strangeness of
the conditions under which what Professor James calls the 'pungent sense
of effective reality,'[9] reaches or fails to reach, mankind, in a
civilisation based upon newspapers. I was walking along the street
during my last election, thinking of the actual issues involved, and
comparing them with the vague fog of journalistic phrases, the
half-conscious impulses of old habit and new suspicion which make up
the atmosphere of electioneering. I came round a street corner upon a
boy of about fifteen returning from work, whose whole face lit up with
genuine and lively interest as soon as he saw me. I stopped, and he
said: 'I know you, Mr. Wallas, you put the medals on me.' All that day
political principles and arguments had refused to become real to my
constituents, but the emotion excited by the bodily fact that I had at a
school ceremony pinned a medal for good attendance on a boy's coat, had
all the pungency of a first-hand experience.

[9] 'The moral tragedy of human life comes almost wholly from the fact
that the link is ruptured which normally should hold between vision of
the truth and action, and that this pungent sense of effective reality
will not attach to certain ideas.' W. James, _Principles of Psychology_,
vol. ii. p. 547.

Throughout the contest the candidate is made aware, at every point, of
the enormously greater solidity for most men of the work-a-day world
which they see for themselves, as compared with the world of inference
and secondary ideas which they see through the newspapers. A London
County Councillor, for instance, as his election comes near, and he
begins to withdraw from the daily business of administrative committees
into the cloud of the electoral campaign, finds that the officials whom
he leaves behind, with their daily stint of work, and their hopes and
fears about their salaries, seem to him much more real than himself. The
old woman at her door in a mean street who refuses to believe that he is
not being paid for canvassing, the prosperous and good-natured tradesman
who says quite simply,' I expect you find politics rather an expensive
amusement,' all seem to stand with their feet upon the ground. However
often he assures himself that the great realities are on his side, and
that the busy people round him are concerned only with fleeting
appearances, yet the feeling constantly recurs to him that it is he
himself who is living in a world of shadows.

This feeling is increased by the fact that a candidate has constantly to
repeat the same arguments, and to stimulate in himself the same
emotions, and that mere repetition produces a distressing sense of
unreality. The preachers who have to repeat every Sunday the same
gospel, find also that 'dry times' alternate with times of exaltation.
Even among the voters the repetition of the same political thoughts is
apt to produce weariness. The main cause of the recurring swing of the
electoral pendulum seems to be that opinions which have been held with
enthusiasm become after a year or two stale and flat, and that the new
opinions seem fresh and vivid.

A treatise is indeed required from some trained psychologist on the
conditions under which our nervous system shows itself intolerant of
repeated sensations and emotions. The fact is obviously connected with
the purely physiological causes which produce giddiness, tickling,
sea-sickness, etc. But many things that are 'natural,' that is to say,
which we have constantly experienced during any considerable part of the
ages during which our nervous organisation was being developed,
apparently do not so affect us. Our heartbeats, the taste of water, the
rising and setting of the sun, or, in the case of a child, milk, or the
presence of its mother, or of its brothers, do not seem to become, in
sound health, distressingly monotonous. But 'artificial' things, however
pleasant at first--a tune on the piano, the pattern of a garment, the
greeting of an acquaintance--are likely to become unbearable if often
exactly repeated. A newspaper is an artificial thing in this sense, and
one of the arts of the newspaper-writer consists in presenting his
views with that kind of repetition which, like the phrases of a fugue,
constantly approaches, but never oversteps the limit of monotony.
Advertisers again are now discovering that it pays to vary the monotony
with which a poster appeals to the eye by printing in different colours
those copies which are to hang near each other, or still better, by
representing varied incidents in the career of 'Sunny Jim' or 'Sunlight

A candidate is also an artificial thing. If he lives and works in his
constituency, the daily vision of an otherwise admirable business man
seated in a first-class carriage on the 8.47 A.M. train in the same
attitude and reading the same newspaper may produce a slight and
unrecognised feeling of discomfort among his constituents, although it
would cause no such feeling in the wife whose relation to him is
'natural.' For the same reason when his election comes on, although he
may declare himself to be the 'old member standing on the old platform,'
he should be careful to avoid monotony by slightly varying his portrait,
the form of his address, and the details of his declaration of political

Another fact, closely connected with our intolerance of repeated
emotional adjustment, is the desire for privacy, sufficiently marked to
approach the character of a specific instinct, and balanced by a
corresponding and opposing dread of loneliness. Our ancestors in the
ages during which our present nervous system became fixed, lived,
apparently, in loosely organised family groups, associated for certain
occasional purposes, into larger, but still more loosely organised,
tribal groups. No one slept alone, for the more or less monogamic family
assembled nightly in a cave or 'lean-to' shelter. The hunt for food
which filled the day was carried on, one supposes, neither in complete
solitude nor in constant intercourse. Even if the female were left at
home with the young, the male exchanged some dozen times a day rough
greetings with acquaintances, or joined in a common task. Occasionally,
even before the full development of language, excited palavers attended
by some hundreds would take place, or opposing tribes would gather for a

It is still extremely difficult for the normal man to endure either much
less or much more than this amount of intercourse with his fellows.
However safe they may know themselves to be, most men find it difficult
to sleep in an empty house, and would be distressed by anything beyond
three days of absolute solitude. Even habit cannot do much in this
respect. A man required to submit to gradually increasing periods of
solitary confinement would probably go mad as soon as he had been kept
for a year without a break. A settler, though he may be the son of a
settler, and may have known no other way of living, can hardly endure
existence unless his daily intercourse with his family is supplemented
by a weekly chat with a neighbour or a stranger; and he will go long and
dangerous journeys in order once a year to enjoy the noise and bustle of
a crowd.

But, on the other hand, the nervous system of most men will not tolerate
the frequent repetition of that adjustment of the mind and sympathies to
new acquaintanceship, a certain amount of which is so refreshing and so
necessary. One can therefore watch in great modern cities men half
consciously striving to preserve the same proportion between privacy and
intercourse which prevailed among their ancestors in the woods, and one
can watch also the constant appearance of proposals or experiments which
altogether ignore the primary facts of human nature in this respect. The
habitual intellectualism of the writers of political Utopias prevents
them from seeing any 'reason' why men should not find happiness as well
as economy in a sort of huge extension of family life. The writer
himself at his moments of greatest imaginative exaltation does not
perhaps realise the need of privacy at all. His affections are in a
state of expansion which, without fancifulness, one may refer back to
the emotional atmosphere prevalent in the screaming assemblies of his
prehuman ancestors; and he is ready, so long as this condition lasts,
to take the whole world almost literally to his bosom. What he does not
realise is that neither he nor any one else can keep himself permanently
at this level. In William Morris's _News from Nowhere_ the customs of
family life extend to the streets, and the tired student from the
British Museum talks with easy intimacy to the thirsty dustman. I
remember reading an article written about 1850 by one of the early
Christian Socialists. He said that he had just been riding down Oxford
Street in an omnibus, and that he had noticed that when the omnibus
passed over a section of the street in which macadam had been
substituted for paving, all the passengers turned and spoke to each
other. 'Some day,' he said, 'all Oxford Street will be macadamised, and
then, because men will be able to hear each other's voices, the omnibus
will become a delightful informal club.' Now nearly all London is paved
with wood, and people as they sit in chairs on the top of omnibuses can
hear each other whispering; but no event short of a fatal accident is
held to justify a passenger who speaks to his neighbour.

Clubs were established in London, not so much for the sake of the
cheapness and convenience of common sitting-rooms and kitchens, as to
bring together bodies of men, each of whom should meet all the rest on
terms of unrestrained social intercourse. One can see in Thackeray's
_Book of Snobs_, and in the stories of Thackeray's own club quarrels,
the difficulties produced by this plan. Nowadays clubs are successful
exactly because it is an unwritten law in almost every one of them that
no member must speak to any other who is not one of his own personal
acquaintances. The innumerable communistic experiments of Fourier,
Robert Owen, and others, all broke up essentially because of the want of
privacy. The associates got on each other's nerves. In those confused
pages of the _Politics_, in which Aristotle criticises from the point of
view of experience the communism of Plato, the same point stands out:
'It is difficult to live together in community,' communistic colonists
have always 'disputed with each other about the most ordinary matters';
'we most often disagree with those slaves who are brought into daily
contact with us.'[10]

[10] _Politics_, Book II. ch. V.

The Charity Schools of 1700 to 1850 were experiments in the result of a
complete refusal of scope, not only for the instinct of property, but
for the entirely distinct instinct of privacy, and part of their
disastrous nervous and moral effect must be put down to that. The boys
in the contemporary public boarding-schools secured a little privacy by
the adoption of strange and sometimes cruel social customs, and more has
been done since then by systems of 'studies' and 'houses.' Experience
seems, however, to show that during childhood a day school with its
alternation of home, class-room, and playing field, is better suited
than a boarding-school to the facts of normal human nature.

This instinctive need of privacy is again a subject which would repay
special and detailed study. It varies very greatly among different
races, and one supposes that the much greater desire for privacy which
is found among Northern, as compared to Southern Europeans, may be due
to the fact that races who had to spend much or little of the year under
cover, adjusted themselves biologically to a different standard in this
respect. It is clear, also, that it is our emotional nature, and not the
intellectual or muscular organs of talking, which is most easily
fatigued. Light chatter, even among strangers, in which neither party
'gives himself away,' is very much less fatiguing than an intimacy which
makes some call upon the emotions. An actor who accepts the second
alternative of Diderot's paradox, and _feels_ his part, is much more
likely to break down from overstrain, than one who only simulates
feeling and keeps his own emotional life to himself.

It is in democratic politics, however, that privacy is most neglected,
most difficult, and most necessary. In America all observers are agreed
as to the danger which results from looking on a politician as an
abstract personification of the will of the people, to whom all citizens
have an equal and inalienable right of access, and from whom every one
ought to receive an equally warm and sincere welcome. In England our
comparatively aristocratic tradition as to the relation between a
representative and his constituents has done something to preserve
customs corresponding more closely to the actual nature of man. A tired
English statesman at a big reception is still allowed to spend his time
rather in chaffing with a few friends in a distant corner of the room
than in shaking hands and exchanging effusive commonplaces with
innumerable unknown guests. But there is a real danger lest this
tradition of privacy may be abolished in English democracy, simply
because of its connection with aristocratic manners. A young labour
politician is expected to live in more than American conditions of
intimate publicity. Having, perhaps, just left the working bench, and
having to adjust his nerves and his bodily health to the difficult
requirements of mental work, he is expected to receive every caller at
any hour of the day or night with the same hearty good will, and to be
always ready to share or excite the enthusiasm of his followers. After a
year or two, in the case of a man of sensitive nervous organisation, the
task is found to be impossible. The signs of nervous fatigue are at
first accepted by him and his friends as proofs of his sincerity. He
begins to suffer from the curate's disease, the bright-eyed, hysterical
condition in which a man talks all day long to a succession of
sympathetic hearers about his own overwork, and drifts into actual
ill-health, though he is not making an hour's continuous exertion in the
day. I knew a young agitator in that state who thought that he could not
make a propagandist speech unless the deeply admiring pitman, in whose
cottage he was staying, played the Marseillaise on a harmonium before he
started. Often such a man takes to drink. In any case he is liable, as
the East End clergymen who try to live the same life are liable, to the
most pitiable forms of moral collapse.

Such men, however, are those who being unfit for a life without privacy,
do not survive. Greater political danger comes perhaps from those who
are comparatively fit. Any one who has been in America, who has stood
among the crowd in a Philadelphian law-court during the trial of a
political case, or has seen the thousands of cartoons in a contest in
which Tammany is concerned, will find that he has a picture in his mind
of one type at least of those who do survive.

Powerfully built, with the big jaw and loose mouth of the dominant
talker, practised by years of sitting behind saloon bars, they have
learnt the way of 'selling cheap that which should be most dear.' But
even they generally look as if they drank, and as if they would not live
to old age.

Other and less dreadful types of politicians without privacy come into
one's mind, the orator who night after night repeats the theatrical
success of his own personality, and, like the actor, keeps his recurring
fits of weary disgust to himself; the busy organising talkative man to
whom it is a mere delight to take the chair at four smoking concerts a
week. But there is no one of them who would not be the better, both in
health and working power, if he were compelled to retire for six months
from the public view, and to produce something with his own hand and
brain, or even to sit alone in his own house and think.

These facts, in so far as they represent the nervous disturbance
produced by certain conditions of life in political communities, are
again closely connected with the one point in the special psychology of
politics which has as yet received any extensive consideration--the
so-called 'Psychology of the Crowd,' on which the late M. Tarde, M. Le
Bon, and others have written. In the case of human beings, as in the
case of many other social and semi-social animals, the simpler
impulses--especially those of fear and anger--when they are consciously
shared by many physically associated individuals, may become enormously
exalted, and may give rise to violent nervous disturbances. One may
suppose that this fact, like the existence of laughter, was originally
an accidental and undesirable result of the mechanism of nervous
reaction, and that it persisted because when a common danger was
realised (a forest fire, for instance, or an attack by beasts of prey),
a general stampede, although it might be fatal to the weaker members of
the herd, was the best chance of safety for the majority.

My own observation of English politics suggests that in a modern
national state, this panic effect of the combination of nervous
excitement with physical contact is not of great importance. London in
the twentieth century is very unlike Paris in the eighteenth century, or
Florence in the fourteenth, if only because it is very difficult for any
considerable proportion of the citizens to be gathered under
circumstances likely to produce the special 'Psychology of the Crowd.' I
have watched two hundred thousand men assembled in Hyde Park for a
Labour Demonstration. The scattered platforms, the fresh air, the wide
grassy space, seemed to be an unsuitable environment for the production
of purely instinctive excitement, and the attitude of such an assembly
in London is good-tempered and lethargic. A crowd in a narrow street is
more likely to get 'out of hand,' and one may see a few thousand men in
a large hall reach a state approaching genuine pathological exaltation
on an exciting occasion, and when they are in the hands of a practised
speaker. But as they go out of the hall they drop into the cool ocean of
London, and their mood is dissipated in a moment. The mob that took the
Bastille would not seem or feel an overwhelming force in one of the
business streets of Manchester. Yet such facts vary greatly among
different races, and the exaggeration which one seems to notice when
reading the French sociologists on this point may be due to their
observations having been made among a Latin and not a Northern race.

So far I have dealt with the impulses illustrated by the internal
politics of a modern State. But perhaps the most important section in
the whole psychology of political impulse is that which is concerned not
with the emotional effect of the citizens of any state upon each other,
but with those racial feelings which reveal themselves in international
politics. The future peace of the world largely turns on the question
whether we have, as is sometimes said and often assumed, an instinctive
affection for those human beings whose features and colour are like our
own, combined with an instinctive hatred for those who are unlike us. On
this point, pending a careful examination of the evidence by the
psychologists, it is difficult to dogmatise. But I am inclined to think
that those strong and apparently simple cases of racial hatred and
affection which can certainly be found, are not instances of a specific
and universal instinct but the result of several distinct and
comparatively weak instincts combined and heightened by habit and
association. I have already argued that the instinct of political
affection is stimulated by the vivid realisation of its object. Since
therefore it is easier, at least for uneducated men, to realise the
existence of beings like than of beings unlike themselves, affection for
one's like would appear to have a natural basis, but one likely to be
modified as our powers of realisation are stimulated by education.
Again, since most men live, especially in childhood, among persons
belonging to the same race as themselves, any markedly unusual face or
dress may excite the instinct of fear of that which is unknown. A
child's fear, however, of a strangely shaped or coloured face is more
easily obliterated by familiarity than it would be if it were the result
of a specific instinct of race-hatred. White or Chinese children show,
one is told, no permanent aversion for Chinese or white or Hindoo or
negro nurses and attendants. Sex love, again, even when opposed by
social tradition, springs up freely between very different human types;
and widely separated races have been thereby amalgamated. Between some
of the non-human species (horses and camels, for instance) instinctive
mutual hatred, as distinguished from fear, does seem to exist, but
nowhere, as far as I know, is it found between varieties so nearly
related to each other and so readily interbreeding as the various human

Anglo-Indian officials sometimes explain, as a case of specific
instinct, the fact that a man who goes out with an enthusiastic interest
in the native races often finds himself, after a few years, unwillingly
yielding to a hatred of the Hindoo racial type. But the account which
they give of their sensations seems to me more like the nervous disgust
which I described as arising from a constantly repeated mental and
emotional adjustment to inharmonious surroundings. At the age when an
English official reaches India most of his emotional habits are already
set, and he makes, as a rule, no systematic attempt to modify them.
Therefore, just as the unfamiliarity of French cookery or German beds,
which at the beginning of a continental visit is a delightful change,
may become after a month or two an intolerable _gene,_ so the servility
and untruthfulness, and even the patience and cleverness of those
natives with whom he is brought into official contact, get after a few
years on the nerves of an Anglo-Indian. Intimate and uninterrupted
contact during a long period, after his social habits have been formed,
with people of his own race but of a different social tradition would
produce the same effect.

Perhaps, however, intellectual association is a larger factor than
instinct in the causation of racial affection and hatred. An American
working man associates, for instance, the Far Eastern physical type with
that lowering of the standard wage which overshadows as a dreadful
possibility every trade in the industrial world. Fifty years ago the
middle class readers to whom _Punch_ appeals associated the same type
with stories of tortured missionaries and envoys. After the battle of
the Sea of Japan they associated it with that kind of heroism which,
owing to our geographical position, we most admire; and drawings of the
unmistakably Asiatic features of Admiral Togo, which would have excited
genuine and apparently instinctive disgust in 1859, produced a thrill of
affection in 1906.

But at this point we approach that discussion of the objects, sensible
or imaginary, of political impulse (as distinguished from the impulses
themselves), which must be reserved for my next chapter.



Man's impulses and thoughts and acts result from the relation between
his nature and the environment into which he is born. The last chapter
approached that relation (in so far as it affects politics) from the
side of man's nature. This chapter will approach the same relation from
the side of man's political environment.

The two lines of approach have this important difference, that the
nature with which man is born is looked on by the politician as fixed,
while the environment into which man is born is rapidly and indefinitely
changing. It is not to changes in our nature, but to changes in our
environment only--using the word to include the traditions and
expedients which we acquire after birth as well as our material
surroundings--that all our political development from the tribal
organisation of the Stone Ages to the modern nation has apparently been

The biologist looks on human nature itself as changing, but to him the
period of a few thousands or tens of thousands of years which constitute
the past of politics is quite insignificant. Important changes in
biological types may perhaps have occurred in the history of the world
during comparatively short periods, but they must have resulted either
from a sudden biological 'sport' or from a process of selection fiercer
and more discriminating than we believe to have taken place in the
immediate past of our own species. The present descendants of those
races which are pictured in early Egyptian tombs show no perceptible
change in their bodily appearance, and there is no reason to believe
that the mental faculties and tendencies with which they are born have
changed to any greater degree.

The numerical proportions of different races in the world have, indeed,
altered during that period, as one race proved weaker in war or less
able to resist disease than another; and races have been mingled by
marriage following upon conquest. But if a baby could now be exchanged
at birth with one born of the same breeding-stock even a hundred
thousand years ago, one may suppose that neither the ancient nor the
modern mother would notice any startling difference. The child from the
Stone Age would perhaps suffer more seriously than our children if he
caught measles, or might show somewhat keener instincts in quarrelling
and hunting, or as he grew up be rather more conscious than his fellows
of the 'will to live' and 'the joy of life.' Conversely, a transplanted
twentieth-century child would resist infectious disease better than the
other children in the Stone Age, and might, as he grew up, be found to
have a rather exceptionally colourless and adaptable character. But
there apparently the difference would end. In essentials the type of
each human stock may be supposed to have remained unchanged throughout
the whole period. In the politics of the distant future that science of
eugenics, which aims at rapidly improving our type by consciously
directed selective breeding, may become a dominant factor, but it has
had little influence on the politics of the present or the past.

Those new facts in our environment which have produced the enormous
political changes which separate us from our ancestors have been partly
new habits of thought and feeling, and partly new entities about which
we can think and feel.

It is of these new political entities that this chapter will treat. They
must have first reached us through our senses, and in this case almost
entirely through the senses of seeing and hearing. But man, like other
animals, lives in an unending stream of sense impressions, of
innumerable sights and sounds and feelings, and is only stirred to deed
or thought by those which he recognises as significant to him. How then
did the new impressions separate themselves from the rest and become
sufficiently significant to produce political results?

The first requisite in anything which is to stimulate us toward impulse
or action is that it should be recognisable--that it should be like
itself when we met it before, or like something else which we have met
before. If the world consisted of things which constantly and
arbitrarily varied their appearance, if nothing was ever like anything
else, or like itself for more than a moment at a time, living beings as
at present constituted would not act at all. They would drift like
seaweed among the waves.

The new-born chicken cowers beneath the shadow of the hawk, because one
hawk is like another. Animals wake at sunrise, because one sunrise is
like another; and find nuts or grass for food, because each nut and
blade of grass is like the rest.

But the recognition of likeness is not in itself a sufficient stimulus
to action. The thing recognised must also be _significant_, must be felt
in some way to matter to us. The stars reappear nightly in the heavens,
but, as far as we can tell, no animals but men are stimulated to action
by recognising them. The moth is not stimulated by recognising a
tortoise, nor the cow by a cobweb.

Sometimes this significance is automatically indicated to us by nature.
The growl of a wild beast, the sight of blood, the cry of a child in
distress, stand out, without need of experience or teaching, from the
stream of human sensations, just as, to a hungry fox-cub, the movement
or glimpse of a rabbit among the undergrowth separates itself at once
from the sounds of the wind and the colours of the leaves and flowers.
Sometimes the significance of a sensation has to be learned by the
individual animal during its own life, as when a dog, who recognises the
significance of a rat by instinct, learns to recognise that of a whip
(provided it looks like the whip which he saw and felt before) by
experience and association.

In politics man has to make like things as well as to learn their
significance. Political tactics would indeed be a much simpler matter if
ballot-papers were a natural product, and if on beholding a ballot-paper
at about the age of twenty-one a youth who had never heard of one before
were invariably seized with a desire to vote.

The whole ritual of social and political organisation among savages,
therefore, illustrates the process of creating artificial and easily
recognisable political likenesses. If the chief is to be recognised as a
chief he must, like the ghost of Patroclus, 'be exceedingly like unto
himself.' He must live in the same house, wear the same clothes, and do
the same things year by year; and his successor must imitate him. If a
marriage or an act of sale is to be recognised as a contract, it must be
carried out in the customary place and with the customary gestures. In
some few cases the thing thus artificially brought into existence and
made recognisable still produces its impulsive effect by acting on those

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