Race, Nations and Classes

Herbert A. Miller

This book is an attempt to describe and analyze some actual, contemporary group conflicts which constitute real potential revolutionary conditions, and to draw conclusions from common and recurrent phenomena, so as to enable nations and classes and lesser groups to adopt policies which will prevent otherwise inevitable and destructive clashes.

We must recognize, however, that many of the results sought by revolution are inevitable, and cannot be prevented either by law or by force. The world has not understood this, and has blundered along without even a thought that it might be possible to proceed without blundering. Every blunder has had to be paid for at such a tremendous cost! If this study can indicate some means by which this cost can be lessened ever so little, the effort will be justified.

To emphasize a social theory or law almost inevitably means to throw it out of focus—to make it, as it were, the exclusive explanation of all the forces and problems in society. Witness the Eugenists and Economic Determinists. A social panacea is as much sought and as unscientific as a patent medicine.

There is no such thing as a single law of society. Human relationships, of which society consists, involve the whole universe—physical and spiritual—and therefore cannot be described simply. The very complexity, however, should stimulate, rather than inhibit, the effort to simplify and classify.

In my attempt to make some strong emphases, I fear that I may be open to the criticism of having put them out of focus. Nothing is farther from my purpose; if

( xii) the reader will remember that there is more than one aspect of a nation or of a religion, and that I am not directing attention to all of them, he will more easily follow my argument.

My conclusion will be that only by learning what is actually happening under given conditions, and an application of the lesson learned to similar conditions, can an ordered world be secured. If the evils of revolutionary conflict are to be avoided, methods of active guidance must be substituted for the old methods of repression and inhibition. We fear revolution because the concomitant of revolution is violence, and we dread violence. My aim is to find a way by which the legitimate results sought by revolution may be secured by peaceful processes; and also that the psychopathic attitudes and destructive secondary organizations which always accompany revolution, and which complicate the social process, may be escaped.

My thesis in this study is that an understanding of, and adjustment to, such psychological laws as may even now be formulated, will prevent the psychopathic conditions which measure the abnormality of group relations, and will thus enable progress to take place in an orderly manner.

I shall describe several conspicuous cases in world-situations, in which there has been complete failure to avoid results which are bound to follow brutal methods. I hope that I may make clear the common cause of many social phenomena which seem to be so widely different.

In chemistry and physiology there may be difference of opinion, but there is never the confusion which prevails in psychology and social science, because the vocabulary and technique are too specialized for popular use. In psychology and social science, not only is most of the vocabulary taken from words in common use, but the problems

( xiii) are those of personal and daily life, and the result is that it is often difficult to tell where the line of scientific explanation begins.  .

It is the habit of the human mind to demand some kind of causal explanation of all phenomena. In other words, thinking assumes cause, but is satisfied with any alleged cause, and we actually find three levels of causal explanation—SUPERSTITION, PSEUDO-SCIENCE, AND SCIENCE.

Superstition is simply the explanation of a sequence of events as causal, when the notion as to the relation between them is accidental and remote. Magic involves the manipulation of causal forces, but there may be also cosmic incidents, like the phases of the moon or the conjunction of the stars with their supposed influences on crops and character. Things that cannot be explained by known causes are explained by mythical causes, but the important thing to notice is that they are explained by causes.

At the opposite pole from superstition is science. As a method it seeks verifiable causes for each sequence in a series. Since the range of experimental verification must be the field which a scientist undertakes to cover it is arbitrarily and definitely limited. As the subject becomes more refined the divisions to be studied become more narrow. True science, however, need make no apologies.

The scientist as a human being, however, lives like other people as to his social relations, and he constantly reverts to the methods which are characteristic of unscientific man, namely, trying to reduce all particulars to universals. But since he has been trained in the scientific method, he now defines his conclusions in scientific terms. This is one form of pseudo-science. For example, the entomologist whose attention has been given to bugs

( xiv) offers an ultimate opinion on matters of race. He would not make a statement about the coloration of a potato bug until he had proved it under careful observation, but he sees no inconsistency in sweeping classifications about Japanese or Nordics.

The other class of pseudo-scientists are those whom a little learning has made mad. They have had a brief course in psychology and they set themselves up as qualified classifiers of human beings according to mental tests. They have not subjected their method or data to scrutiny. They have a confidence in the finality of their conclusions that marks the self-confident mind of a little learning. Their shading into the superstitious is imperceptible to them. The scientific jargon supplies the magical formula, and the tradition they wish to support or the prejudice that dominates them has credence because it has scientific form.

The problem of society would be hopeless unless myth were constantly being shoved into the background, and true science substituted for it ; and yet no one can have the presumption to think that he is entirely free from the danger of falling from the scientific to one of the other positions at any time. One cannot but feel some consternation that what might be called the " middle-class mind," lying between science and superstition, rushes in to solve with scientific assurance some of the most complex problems, the " solution " being generally in line with the traditions and prejudices of their class.

Another inevitable source of confusion is found in the mixture of psychology and ethics. The former is a descriptive science and the latter a normative science. Psychology describes and explains in causal sequences the mental processes of individuals and groups. Ethics, as it commonly is developed, merely sets up a standard and describes the process or way to be followed if the standard is to be

( xv) attained, but there is no necessity, as in descriptive science, that the sequence shall be followed; for that the principle of duty is developed. " Ought " takes the place of " is." This kind of reasoning which is so common, is admirably illustrated by the German ex-Kaiser in his memoirs telling of the gratitude of German workmen at Stettin in 1888 when he had provided them work by diverting a ship-building order to them. He says: " In those days, the German laboring classes knew how to appreciate the blessing of labor." The implication is that now labor is not satisfied with work alone, as it ought to be. The significant psychological fact is found in the dissatisfaction itself ; which must be explained psychologically before the moral question can properly be raised. Nevertheless, everyone, in addition to thinking causally, thinks in terms of moral values, and we have pseudo-moralists as well as pseudo- scientists.    I

The restlessness and confusion of society " ought" not to be constantly breaking out to disturb us, from the point of view of those who are not part of the restlessness, such as ex-Kaisers and the inhabitants of Main Street. But we have to reckon with the reality of what actually is, and it gets us no nearer a solution to lament and exhort. The reformer is always open to criticism because he tends to confuse his knowledge of conditions with his moral objective, though he is always a stage beyond those who are satisfied, because he recognizes the existence of causes that are leading to something new. Even the imperialist and autocrat Bismarck saw the advisability of providing against the dissatisfaction of workmen by recognizing the way in which their demands were likely to come. But this was always an expedient and politic action rather than action on principle.

( xvi)

We are undoubtedly advancing rapidly in both the philosophy and practice of looking for the moral value in the process, rather than in the absolute a priori standard. In other words, social thinking is rapidly becoming pragmatic. It finds the truth of an idea in the way ít works rather than in inherited or static standards.

The legal and rationalistic interpretation of social processes as well as the moral are giving way to the psychological, and men begin tο use the "new psychology," because much of it has developed out of their very demand for a better explanation of things. Legalism presupposes a deliberate rational control of the actions of men, which in fact is only an abstraction and largely an illusion. Most of the time human beings are merely instinctive, emotional and imaginative, or otherwise exhibiting controls below the level of rationality. Our reactions to group conditions seldom rise to the level of deliberation, as we show by following the mores instead of the moral law, fashion instead of comfort and aesthetics, and political prejudice instead of judgment.

Although dogma is discredited, there is a universality and uniformity to these sub-rational reactions which show that they are controlled by law, but by psychological, not moral or statute law. The discovery of the laws must be empirical, and when they are adequately demonstrated, they must modify the very foundations both of the legislative system and of international relations.

Religion and Philosophy have been prevailingly a priori and absolutist rather than a posteriori and pragmatic. The first social studies coming from those nurtured in the traditional schools naturally tended in the same direction; but whether such reasoning be justified or not in purely abstract fields, it has no justification in social science. As a student of philosophy with William James, I resisted his

( xvii) Pragmatism, but as I studied sociology I became convinced that absolutism must give way to pragmatism.

The complexity of society is infinite and a panacea is inconceivable. Pragmatism insists that the truth about phenomena inheres in the way things work. If we look at the chaotic world about us we shall see that social philosophy has been largely dominated by theories that are not working. As we make practical adjustments to truth discovered in action, we may hope to substitute progress for chaos.


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