Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Mr. Mallock's Missing Science

Before criticising Mr. Mallock's little essay, let us summarize its
contents. The author begins with an analysis of the aims, the principles,
and the "pseudo-science" of modern Democracy. Having established the evil
and destructive character of these things, he sets himself to show by
logical argument that the present state of social inequality, which
Democrats wish to disturb, is a natural and wholesome state; that the
continuance of civilization is dependent upon it; and that it could only
be overturned by effecting a radical change--not in human institutions,
but in human character. The desire for inequality is inherent in the human
character; and in order to prove this statement, Mr. Mallock proceeds to
affirm that there is such a thing as a science of human character; that of
this science he is the discoverer; and that the application of this
science to the question at issue will demonstrate the integrity of Mr.
Mallock's views, and the infirmity of all others. In the ensuing chapters
the application is made, and at the end the truth of the proposition is
declared established.

This is the outline; but let us note some of the details. Mr. Mallock
asserts (Chap. I.) that the aim of modern Democracy is to overturn "all
that has hitherto been connected with high-breeding or with personal
culture"; and that "to call the Democrats a set of thieves and
confiscators is merely to apply names to them which they have no wish to
repudiate." He maintains (Chap. II.) that the first and foremost of the
Democratic principles is "that the perfection of society involves social
equality"; and that "the luxury of one man means the deprivation of
another." He credits the Democrats with arguing that "the means of
producing equality are a series of changes in existing institutions"; that
"by changing the institutions of a society we are able to change its
structure"; that "the cause of the distribution of wealth" is "laws and
forms of government"; and that "the wealthy classes, as such, are
connected with wealth in no other way but as the accidental appropriators
of it." In his third chapter he tells us that "the entire theory of modern
Democracy ... depends on the doctrine that the cause of wealth is labor";
that Democrats believe we "may count on a man to labor, just as surely as
we may count on a man to eat"; that "the man who does not labor is
supported by the man who does"; and that the pseudo-science of modern
Democracy "starts with the conception of man as containing in himself a
natural tendency to labor." And here Mr. Mallock's statement of his
opponent's position ends.

In the fourth chapter we are brought within sight of "The Missing
Substitute." "A man's character," we are told, "divides into his desires
on the one hand, and his capacities on the other"; and it is observed that
"various as are men's desires and capacities, yet if talent and ambition
commanded no more than idleness and stupidity, all men practically would
be idle and stupid." "Men's capacities," we are reminded, "are practically
unequal, because they develop their own potential inequalities; they do
this because they desire to place themselves in unequal external
circumstances,--which result the condition of society renders possible."

Coming now to the Science of Human Character itself, we find that it
"asserts a permanent relationship to exist between human character and
social inequality"; and the author then proceeds at some length to show
how near Herbert Spencer, Buckle, and other social and economic
philosophers, came to stumbling over his missing science, and yet avoided
doing so. Nevertheless, argues Mr. Mallock, "if there be such a thing as a
social science, or a science of history, there must be also a science of
biography"; and this science, though it "cannot show us how any special
man will act in the future," yet, if "any special action be given us, it
can show us that it was produced by a special motive; and conversely, that
if the special motive be wanting, the special action is sure to be wanting
also." As an example how to distinguish between those traits of human
character which are available for scientific purposes, and those which are
not, Mr. Mallock instances a mob, which temporarily acts together for some
given purpose: the individual differences of character then "cancel out,"
and only points of agreement are left. Proceeding to the sixth chapter, he
applies himself to setting to rest the scruples of those who find
something cynical in the idea that the desire for Inequality is compatible
with a respectable form of human character. It is true, he says, that man
does not live by bread alone; but he denies that he means to say "that all
human activity is motived by the desire for inequality"; he would assert
that only "of all productive labor, except the lowest." The only actions
independent of the desire for inequality, however, are those performed in
the name of art, science, philanthropy, and religion; and even in these
cases, so far as the actions are not motived by a desire for inequality,
they are not of productive use; and _vice versā_. In the remaining
chapters, which we must dismiss briefly, we meet with such statements as
"labor has been produced by an artificial creation of want of food, and by
then supplying the want on certain conditions"; that "civilization has
always been begun by an oppressive minority"; that "progress depends on
certain gifted individuals," and therefore social equality would destroy
progress; that inequality influences production by existing as an object
of desire and as a means of pressure; that the evils of poverty are caused
by want, not by inequality; and that, finally, equality is not the goal of
progress, but of retrogression; that inequality is not an accidental evil
of civilization, but the cause of its development; the distance of the
poor from the rich is not the cause of the former's poverty as distinct
from riches, but of their civilized competence as distinct from barbarism;
and that the apparent changes in the direction of equality recorded in
history, have been, in reality, none other than "a more efficient
arrangement of inequalities."

* * * * *

Now, let us inquire what all this ingenious prattle about Inequality and
the Science of Human Character amounts to. What does Mr. Mallock expect?
His book has been out six months, and still Democracy exists. But does any
such Democracy as he combats exist, or could it conceivably exist? Have
his investigations of the human character failed to inform him that one of
the strongest natural instincts of man's nature is immovably opposed to
anything like an equal distribution of existing wealth?--because whoever
owns anything, if it be only a coat, wishes to keep it; and that wish
makes him aware that his fellow-man will wish to keep, and will keep at
all hazards, whatever things belong to him. What Democrats really desire
is to enable all men to have an equal chance to obtain wealth, instead of
being, as is largely the case now, hampered and kept down by all manner of
legal and arbitrary restrictions. As for the "desire for Inequality," it
seems to exist chiefly in Mr. Mallock's imagination. Who does desire it?
Does the man who "strikes" for higher wages desire it? Let us see. A
strike, to be successful, must be not an individual act, but the act of a
large body of men, all demanding the same thing--an increase in wages. If
they gain their end, no difference has taken place in their mutual
position; and their position in regard to their employers is altered only
in that an approach has been made toward greater equality with the latter.
And so in other departments of human effort: the aim, which the man who
wishes to better his position sets before himself, is not to rise head and
shoulders above his equals, but to equal his superiors. And as to the
Socialist schemes for the reorganization of society, they imply, at most,
a wish to see all men start fair in the race of life, the only advantages
allowed being not those of rank or station, but solely of innate capacity.
And the reason the Socialist desires this is, because he believes, rightly
or wrongly, that many inefficient men are, at present, only artificially
protected from betraying their inefficiency; and that many efficient men
are only artificially prevented from showing their efficiency; and that
the fair start he proposes would not result in keeping all men on a dead
level, but would simply put those in command who had a genuine right to be

* * * * *

But this is taxing Mr. Mallock too seriously: he has not written in
earnest. But, as his uncle, Mr. Froude, said, when reading "The New
Republic,"--"The rogue is clever!" He has read a good deal, he has an
active mind, a smooth redundancy of expression, a talent for caricature, a
fondness for epigram and paradox, a useful shallowness, and an amusing
impudence. He has no practical knowledge of mankind, no experience of
life, no commanding point of view, and no depth of insight. He has no
conception of the meaning and quality of the problems with whose exterior
aspects he so prettily trifles. He has constructed a Science of Human
Character without for one moment being aware that, for instance, human
character and human nature are two distinct things; and that, furthermore,
the one is everything that the other is not. As little is he conscious of
the significance of the words "society" and "civilization"; nor can he
explain whether, or why, either of them is desirable or undesirable, good
or bad. He has never done, and (judging from his published works) we do
not believe him capable of doing, any analytical or constructive thinking;
at most, as in the present volume, he turns a few familiar objects upside
down, and airily invites his audience to believe that he has thereby
earned the name of Discoverer, if not of Creator.

Julian Hawthorne

Sorry, no summary available yet.