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Название: Physics and Politics
Автор: Bagehot W.
A very entertaining book, partly because Bagehot, writing in the 1870s, is so outrageously politically incorrect by today's standards. When he quotes with approval Herbert Spencer's assertion that "the brain of the civilized man is larger by nearly thirty percent than the brain of a savage," you know you are hearing from a very different era than the one we live in.
Bagehot argues that primitive man (sorry) lived by the tyranny of religiously-based "customary law," necessary to weld the group into a fighting unit able to defend itself militarily against aggressors. Civilization itself developed because it was a military advantage, and it was thus selected for in the constant warfare that characterized those times. "Conquest is the premium given by nature to those [whose] national customs have made most fit in war." The character type valued in those "fighting days" emphasized the masculine, military virtues — at least in those groups that survived. The problem, he says, is for a society to move beyond those ways; getting out of the yoke of customary law is a very difficult step, but eventually necessary if the society is to progress. Some societies have accomplished that, but most did not. Progress is the exceptional thing, not the norm. Those societies that have managed to advance are characterized by action based on abstract discussion, rather than superstitious conformity and immediate emotion.
The idea of societal evolution was a very popular one in the years after Darwin's writings became widely known, with human progress seen as resulting from the competition between societies. The notion of "progress" eventually became problematic, as it was recognized that it needed a more value-free definition than simply change in the direction of Victorian society. Bagehot gives little credence to such doubts, however. For him, broad progress is plain to see, noting of the doubters that "we need not take account of the mistaken ideas of unfit men and beaten races." This is cultural self-confidence of a very high order, indeed.
There is a thread of truth running through these essays, although most of the details that Bagehot uses to support that thread are anthropologically dubious, at best. But the effects of competition among human groups, and the determinants of success in that competition, are issues of continuing relevance and great current interest; it is fascinating to see the views of one respected commentator of the mid-late 19th Century, especially when they are stated without any hint of the multicultural tact required today.