Review of the Book

Socialism as the Sociological Ideal
by Floyd J. Melvin

William Block

[Reprinted from the Single Tax Review, May-June 1915]

Mr. Metvin undertakes to demonstrate that the social democratic organization of industry will be a concrete manifestation of the sociological ideal. This ideal, the nowhere definitely stated as such, seems to be the social system which seeks by means of the social control of heredity and environment to direct the further progress of civilization in accordance with the ideals arising through social self-consciousness. This is the true Socialism, of which the socialistic regime is the practical application. No philosophical basis for the ideal is at- tempted. We are left to infer that a high degree of democratic socialization is of necessity a good.

The anthropology of the book is ridiculous and naive, its bibliography a most entertaining hodge-podge. The author is read in only a certain class of "social" speculation. It is highly dubious whether sociology is a science, and the irritating stress laid upon its scientific character, seems strange when one considers its utterly poor scientific material. Sociology is a compound of anthropology, political philosophy and history. Its peculiar significance is philosophical rather than scientific. We miss throughout the book the fine metaphysical equipment of Mackenzie's on Introduction to Political Philosophy or the passion of Fitz-James Stephens' Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

The work seems throughout to confound similarity of function with equality of opportunity to function. It is not an extension of democracy to make men physically alike, neither is it an extension of democracy to make them financially, mentally and spiritually alike. The function of democracy as we conceive it, is to allow of so much individual development as is compatible with the development of any other member of the group. Although he expressly repudiates it, the logical ideal of the author's democracy would be a Jesuit society, "each for all and all for each," in which the common will is the will of all, in which the individual development is subordinate always to that will. Our ideal is that of the social will not obtruding itself save to guard the individual wills. The individual will includes the right to power, riches or any form of social inequality, not unfairly gained by depriving others of the equal opportunities to do the same. The elimination of chance in society which the Luther thinks to be a great feature of socialistic organization, is its most damming phase.

The author would confer a favor by defining the word "social." Prof. Dewey has declared the individual to be a situation, a "focus" of social traditions. If so he possesses nothing that society cannot lay prior claim to. If this theory be true why seek individual development at all? Man should develop only as a social situation, being evoluted by his usefulness to the group. The weak point in all socialistic ideals (here used philosophically) is the gliding over of the fact, that the "being different" part of a man is what makes him an individual and is the only fact about him that is significant for political ethics. And that is why individualism and not Socialism is the true goal.