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A Critical Examination of Socialism   By: (1849-1923)

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London John Murray, Albemarle Street, W. 1908 Printed by Hazell, Watson and Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.


The Civic Federation of New York, an influential body which aims, in various ways, at harmonising apparently divergent industrial interests in America, having decided on supplementing its other activities by a campaign of political and economic education, invited me, at the beginning of the year 1907, to initiate a scientific discussion of socialism in a series of lectures or speeches, to be delivered under the auspices of certain of the great Universities in the United States. This invitation I accepted, but, the project being a new one, some difficulty arose as to the manner in which it might best be carried out whether the speeches or lectures should in each case be new, dealing with some fresh aspect of the subject, or whether they should be arranged in a single series to be repeated without substantial alteration in each of the cities visited by me. The latter plan was ultimately adopted, as tending to render the discussion of the subject more generally comprehensible to each local audience. A series of five lectures, substantially the same, was accordingly delivered by me in New York, Cambridge, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. But whilst this plan secured continuity of treatment, it secured it at the expense of comprehensiveness. Certain important points had to be passed over. In the present volume the substance of the original lectures has been entirely rearranged and rewritten, and more than half the matter is new. Even in the present volume, however, it has been impossible to treat the subject otherwise than in a general way. At almost every point a really complete discussion would necessitate a much fuller analysis of facts than it has been practicable to give here. Arguments here necessarily confined to a few pages or to a chapter, would each, for their complete elucidation, require a separate monograph. Most readers, however, will be able to supply much of what is missing, by the light of their own common sense; and general arguments, in which, as in block plans of buildings, many details are suppressed, have for practical purposes the great advantage of being generally and easily intelligible, whereas, if stated in fuller and more complex form, they might confuse rather than enlighten a large number of readers.

The fact that the fundamental arguments of this volume were disseminated throughout the United States, not only at the meetings addressed, but also in all the leading newspapers, has had the valuable result, by means of the mass of criticisms which they elicited, of illustrating the manner in which socialists attempt to meet them; and has enabled me to revise, with a view to farther clearness, certain passages which were intentionally or unintentionally misunderstood, and also to emphasise the curious confusions of thought into which various critics have been driven in their efforts to controvert or get round them. I may specially mention a small volume by Mr. G. Wilshire of New York a leading publisher and disseminator of socialistic literature which was devoted to examining my own arguments seriatim. To the principal criticisms of this writer allusions will be found in the following pages. Most of my socialistic opponents (though to this rule there were amusing exceptions) wrote, according to their varying degrees of intelligence and education, with remarkable candour, and also with great courtesy. Mr. Wilshire, in particular, whilst seeking to refute my arguments as a whole, admitted the force of many of them; and did his best, in his elaborate résumé of them, to state them all fairly.

The contentions, and even the phraseology of socialists are in all countries (with the possible exception of Russia) identical. All are vitiated by the same distinctive errors, and it is indifferent whether, for purposes of detail criticism, we go to speakers and writers in this country or America... Continue reading book >>

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