Page images

economics. Moreover, this organic contractualism has absolutely nothing in common with Jean Jacques Rousseau's theory of the social contract; it is also the antipode of the contractualism of Yves Guiot and of radical liberalism in general; in implies the constant intervention of the collective body in its own organization and reorganization; it is a social, and not an individualistic, contractualism.

Societies in general are distinguished from individual organisms by their greater mass and their superior complexity; every society, even the simplest, is larger and more complicated than a zoölogical organism.

This double difference in the quantity of the social mass and in the variety of its combinations corresponds to this general phenomena of nature, that the more a substance is extended the more it is subject to variations; it being impossible for the environment to act in the same manner upon each of the parts of the mass because of their different situations.

We may say also that the quantitative differences are the profound source of the distinctive qualitative characteristics of social bodies and of their successive differentiations, as will become more apparent in the chapter devoted to social aggregates.

The variations of the social body are also favored by the fact that it is more discrete or diffuse than individual organisms; its constituent units are less intimately bound together. Its structure is less symmetrical than zoölogical structure, and inorganic or intermediary structures, and than organisms such as crystals. These characteristics imply the greater plasticity of society, and this plasticity has in turn the corollary of modifiability.

From the point of view of the interpretation of the natural structure and functioning of societies, a capital phenomenon here appears. Social bodies are not merely the result of the combination of inorganic bodies and of inferior organisms; another factor enters into their organization: the human species, population. This second factor, by virtue of its own constitution and its action and reaction upon the first, consists of sensible units. All societies are superorganisms, endowed not only with a general sensibility, as are all other organisms, or a special sensibility, as are some other organisms, but they advance from the simplest forms of the latter to the highest, to a reasonable and even methodical collective life. Therefore, as societies are plastic and modifiable par excellence, they are able to interfere methodically in their own constitution, in their own government. On the one hand, the social organs become so much the more sensible, so much the more reasonable in each category of organs, as they assume superior forms. Thus in the economic system, the boards of conciliation, the councils of labor, of industry, and of agriculture are superior forms of sensibility and adaptation; on the other hand, the highest social functions are also the most sensible; they are so much more intelligent than the primary functions that the sociologists have wrongly divided social facts into two classes, material and ideological. Thus, the juridic sensibility, especially the political, is more intense than the economic sensibility. The superior social forms are the most conscious, the most rational. This superior sensibility is especially the accompaniment of new forms. Moreover, it is a relative superiority, for the earlier forms have lost, in part, their conscious characteristic only because of their ancientness itself; they also were superior and conscious at the time of their development. The service of posts and railways has lost its conscious contractual characteristic and has become automatic.

Social contractualism is, then, the distinctive and most important sociological phenomenon, from the qualitative point of view. It is anterior to the division of labor and appears as soon as there is homogeneous co-operation. It is the conscious method par excellence of the collective life, although it may manifest itself unconsciously, and although it may be transformed into unconscious and automatic modes of activity; that is to say, the organization and activity of societies are not merely the spontaneous products of their constitutive elements, but they may be likewise the results of their conscious action upon themselves.

It is precisely by their methodical activity and by their methodical self-direction that societies manifest their organizing power in its highest degree. And, what is remarkable, this contractualism appears more or less perfectly in every stage of all civilizations, as we shall have occasion to show in our exposition of the great law of homogeneity of social phenomena. Hence, it results that the property of organizing and functioning according to contractual modes is the essence of social aggregates.

We find contractual forms nowhere excepting in social bodies. Contracts may be made in regard to inorganic or organic bodies, but these bodies cannot themselves combine contractually. Thus, aside from the purely quantitative differences observed by Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer, societies possess a special property, a characteristic mode of activity, which gives rise to equally characteristic forms : a contractual activity and contractual forms.

Therefore, sociology is not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively, distinct from the antecedent sciences; it has its own domain composed of the co-ordinated ensemble of the special social sciences, an enscinblc characterized by particular phenom

As it also has its own method, the historical method in the broadest sense, including statistics, it can and should be organized into a distinct but not independent science.

In the first volume of the Introduction, we proceeded to the analysis of the social phenomena resulting from the combination of their two constituent elements, land and population. After this analysis, we proceeded to the hierarchical classification. As it stands, this classification is in reality a co-ordination, a first sociological synthesis, at the same time subjective and objective, if we view it from the point of view of knowledge of phenomena and their order, not merely their logical and dogmatic order, but also their natural order. This classification corresponds, not only to the movement of human thought, which always proceeds from the simplest and most general facts to the most complex and most special, but it is also in harmony with the natural relationship of social phenomena, which become differentiated in proportion as they become organized.


Yet this first synthesis, which is based upon a hierarchic classification of the phenomena originating from the elementary social factors, is still very simple; it constitutes a co-ordinated series, which is mainly lineal. It has been criticised because of this fact, particularly by MM. Worms and Tarde, who fail to consider that this first part of our work was essentially analytic; that the great laws of continuity, universality, homogeneity, simultaneity, correlation, and interdependence of social phenomena could be set forth only at a later time, and that they would be especially considered in our announced synthetic volumes devoted to the general structure and life of societies.

M. G. Dewelshauwer, in L'idéalisme scientifique, pp. 77-83, likewise criticises our classification, He condemns it as being exclusively lineal, and consequently as not corresponding to reality. Like the other critics, he does not see that each of the superposed classes of phenomena is divided into a great number of branches, and that this elementary and analytic classification, because of the fact that it is abstract and elementary, is only provisional. In fact, it is in the general structure and the general life of societies that we are able to accord to the organic correlation and to the interdependence of societies the importance which they deserve; the hierarchy of elementary phenomena is added first to their concrete synthetic aspect, then to their general and abstract synthetic aspect.

In his turn, M. Worms, in Revue internatoinale de sociologie, No. 5, 1893, criticises our classification by saying that social phenomena are in reality synchronous. This is true only in the homogeneous and confused state of primitive societies; progress consists precisely in their successive organic differentiation and their successive appearance, but all the social functions take place synchronously in the amorphous and undifferentiated state. M. Worms also contends the genetic phenomena make double use of the constitutive factor, populations.

This is an error ; the factor of populations is exclusively biologic and psychic, in so far as it is a factor, while combined with the second factor (the land) into a society it becomes social and assumes special forms, giving rise to institutions or organs, groups of organs, systems, such as marriage, paternity, filiation, adoption, guardianship, and so on, which are not forms organized by the biologic factors, but are social phenomena. In brief, whatever M. Worms thinks of it, my classification of social phenomena is complete, and, further, the number of classes cannot be reduced without causing useless confusion.

Already, in the course of our work, the fact has appeared that in social morphology the logical and lineal classification is more and more subordinate to the simultaneous and correlative quality. Even in the first part of the Introduction, we showed that the repetition of the same social activities in directions which become more regular and constant gives rise to social functions which become integrated into social organs or social institutions. In the constitution of these organs there exists the same order of logical and natural filiation as for the phenomena, but with this difference, that the organs are already the particular syntheses of all the social phenomena; the lineal, hierarchic series is here mingled with a general combination of all the elements in the hierarchic order, and is therefore attenuated and reduced by an order of equivalence, each element concurring in the service of the whole, to which all the agents, especially the simplest and most general, are useful and indispensable.

Let us repeat here again that it is not necessary to attach to these expressions, functions, and organs any strict biological sense, or especially to deduce sociological conclusions from certain analogics. Nevertheless, these expressions facilitate our comprehension of the true nature of social institutions. Although there is no reason here for an absolute assimilation, the superorganisms are not totally distinct from ordinary organisms. Thus, as the more and more regular passage of nervous excitation by the same path explains the formation of nerve, so the more and more regular transportation of men and utilities serves to explain the formation of routes, from the natural foot-path to the railroad. Yet the route is not a nerve. The latter does not serve especially to transport elements of nutrition, although it transmits the offers and the orders; the post-office and the telegraph, with their many stations, are in this relation more analagous to a nerve than are roads.

« PreviousContinue »