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The Acquisitive Society   By:

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THE ACQUISITIVE SOCIETY

BY

R. H. TAWNEY

FELLOW OF BALLIOL COLLEGE, OXFORD; LATE MEMBER OF THE COAL INDUSTRY COMMISSION

NEW YORK

HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY

COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY

HARCOURT, BRACE AND HOWE, INC.

PRINTED IN THE U. S. A. BY

THE QUINN & BODEN COMPANY

RAHWAY, N. J.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I INTRODUCTORY II RIGHTS AND FUNCTIONS III THE ACQUISITIVE SOCIETY IV THE NEMESIS OF INDUSTRIALISM V PROPERTY AND CREATIVE WORK VI THE FUNCTIONAL SOCIETY VII INDUSTRY AS A PROFESSION VIII THE "VICIOUS CIRCLE" IX THE CONDITION OF EFFICIENCY X THE POSITION OF THE BRAIN WORKER XI PORRO UNUM NECESSARIUM

The author desires to express his acknowledgments to the Editor of the Hibbert Journal for permission to reprint an article which appeared in it .

{1}

THE ACQUISITIVE SOCIETY

I

INTRODUCTORY

It is a commonplace that the characteristic virtue of Englishmen is their power of sustained practical activity, and their characteristic vice a reluctance to test the quality of that activity by reference to principles. They are incurious as to theory, take fundamentals for granted, and are more interested in the state of the roads than in their place on the map. And it might fairly be argued that in ordinary times that combination of intellectual tameness with practical energy is sufficiently serviceable to explain, if not to justify, the equanimity with which its possessors bear the criticism of more mentally adventurous nations. It is the mood of those who have made their bargain with fate and are content to take what it offers without re opening the deal. It leaves the mind free to concentrate undisturbed upon profitable activities, because it is not distracted by a taste for unprofitable speculations. Most generations, it might be said, walk in a path which they neither make, nor discover, but accept; the main thing is that they should march. The blinkers worn by Englishmen enable them to trot all the more steadily along the beaten {2} road, without being disturbed by curiosity as to their destination.

But if the medicine of the constitution ought not to be made its daily food, neither can its daily food be made its medicine. There are times which are not ordinary, and in such times it is not enough to follow the road. It is necessary to know where it leads, and, if it leads nowhere, to follow another. The search for another involves reflection, which is uncongenial to the bustling people who describe themselves as practical, because they take things as they are and leave them as they are. But the practical thing for a traveler who is uncertain of his path is not to proceed with the utmost rapidity in the wrong direction: it is to consider how to find the right one. And the practical thing for a nation which has stumbled upon one of the turning points of history is not to behave as though nothing very important were involved, as if it did not matter whether it turned to the right or to the left, went up hill or down dale, provided that it continued doing with a little more energy what it has done hitherto; but to consider whether what it has done hitherto is wise, and, if it is not wise, to alter it. When the broken ends of its industry, its politics, its social organization, have to be pieced together after a catastrophe, it must make a decision; for it makes a decision even if it refuses to decide. If it is to make a decision which will wear, it must travel beyond the philosophy momentarily in favor with the proprietors of its newspapers. Unless it is to move with the energetic futility of a squirrel in a revolving cage, it must have a clear apprehension both of the {3} deficiency of what is, and of the character of what ought to be. And to obtain this apprehension it must appeal to some standard more stable than the momentary exigencies of its commerce or industry or social life, and judge them by it... Continue reading book >>




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