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Human Nature in Politics Third Edition   By: (1858-1932)

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I offer my thanks to several friends who have been kind enough to read the proofs of this book, and to send me corrections and suggestions; among whom I will mention Professors John Adams and J.H. Muirhead, Dr. A. Wolf, and Messrs. W.H. Winch, Sidney Webb, L. Pearsall Smith, and A.E. Zimmern. It is, for their sake, rather more necessary than usual for me to add that some statements still remain in the text which one or more of them would have desired to see omitted or differently expressed.

I have attempted in the footnotes to indicate those writers whose books I have used. But I should like to record here my special obligation to Professor William James's Principles of Psychology , which gave me, a good many years ago, the conscious desire to think psychologically about my work as politician and teacher.

I have been sometimes asked to recommend a list of books on the psychology of politics. I believe that at the present stage of the science, a politician will gain more from reading, in the light of his own experience, those treatises on psychology which have been written without special reference to politics, than by beginning with the literature of applied political psychology. But readers who are not politicians will find particular points dealt with in the works of the late Monsieur G. Tarde, especially L'Opinion et la Foule and Les Lois de l'Imitation and in the books quoted in the course of an interesting article on 'Herd Instinct,' by Mr. W. Trotter in the Sociological Review for July 1908. The political psychology of the poorer inhabitants of a great city is considered from an individual and fascinating point of view by Miss Jane Addams (of Chicago) in her Democracy and Social Ethics .



I have made hardly any changes in the book as it first appeared, beyond the correction of a few verbal slips. The important political developments which have occurred during the last eighteen months in the English Parliament, in Turkey, Persia, and India, and in Germany, have not altered my conclusions as to the psychological problems raised by modern forms of government; and it would involve an impossible and undesirable amount of rewriting to substitute 'up to date' illustrations for those which I drew from the current events of 1907 and 1908. I should desire to add to the books recommended above Mr. W. M'Dougall's Social Psychology , with special reference to his analysis of Instinct.



30th December 1909.


This edition is, like the second edition (1910), a reprint, with a few verbal corrections, of the first edition (1908). I tried in 1908 to make two main points clear. My first point was the danger, for all human activities, but especially for the working of democracy, of the 'intellectualist' assumption, 'that every human action is the result of an intellectual process, by which a man first thinks of some end which he desires, and then calculates the means by which that end can be attained' (p. 21). My second point was the need of substituting for that assumption a conscious and systematic effort of thought. 'The whole progress,' I argued, 'of human civilisation beyond its earliest stages, has been made possible by the invention of methods of thought which enable us to interpret and forecast the working of nature more successfully than we could, if we merely followed the line of least resistance in the use of our minds' (p. 114).

In 1920 insistence on my first point is not so necessary as it was in 1908. The assumption that men are automatically guided by 'enlightened self interest' has been discredited by the facts of the war and the peace, the success of an anti parliamentary and anti intellectualist revolution in Russia, the British election of 1918, the French election of 1919, the confusion of politics in America, the breakdown of political machinery in Central Europe, and the general unhappiness which has resulted from four years of the most intense and heroic effort that the human race has ever made... Continue reading book >>

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