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A Treatise on the Status of Woman
The Origin and Growth of the Family and
History without political science has no fruit:
--Sir John Richard Seeley
This book is written from the standpoint of historic materialism. The theory of historic materialism is young and, so far as I am aware, no economist, sociologist or historian, using the English language, has made any serious attempt toward its application in his investigations. What has been written upon the subjects treated in this book with reference to that theory is scattered in scientific and philosophical books and periodicals, mostly known only to men of learning, and I know of no book in the English language investigating those subjects on the basis of historic materialism popularly enough, so as to be adapted to the needs of the general public.
• Carlyle would never have called political economy the dismal science, if it had had advanced already to the study of the evolution of economics, of the lines on which it proceeded and does proceed from the beginning of human society up to our own time, and the connection between the economic structure of society and social and political institutions. Instead of that, political economists considered the continued existence of the present economic system with, perhaps, some slight modifications, a matter per se and studied only the inter-relations of causes and effects within the system. Thus, political economy degenerated into a mere science of trade, able to serve only the working out of rules and systems of private economy for individual use.
That was a dismal science, indeed. It was unable to kindle a ray of hope, to warm a single soul. A political economy which was unable to develop a higher ideal than buying cheap and selling dear could not possibly awaken response or enthusiasm in any human heart, and could produce nothing but mute resignation among the suffering masses and utter disregard of their woes among
those whom the chances of fate had placed on the sunny side of life.
To-day we know better. Although political economy as officially taught at colleges and universities is still impregnated with the same spirit of hopelessness, yet those who are free to speak teach us that economic systems share the fate of everything on earth. They come and go; they live and die. Some day in the future there will hardly be a remnant left of our economic institutions. With the knowledge of the past the human mind busies itself with the creation of goals to strive for, of ideals to fight for. What matters it whether the goal will be realized exactly as it had been contrived by thought and longing? What matters it whether the social edifice of the future will correspond exactly to the ideal created by reasoning intellect and lofty imagination? There is hope, there is expectation, there is life, there is enthusiasm, there is struggle and there is the certainty of a better future.
It is the object of this book to enable the reader to form his own judgment of future possibilities and probabilities from historical knowledge. I will attempt to show that what is has come to be, not because it was willed by man, but as the necessary and logical sequence of what was, and that the future will be the result of the same process of evolution. The parts which man plays in this process and his activities are not capricious and self-willed, but spring with necessity from motives which result from conditions.
I have some hope that a better knowledge of this truth will serve to remove many prejudices and be productive of more patience with and tolerance of the opinions of others.
'Tis a foe invisible
Which in the human heart opposes me,
Not that, which full of life, instinct, with power,
The true, the perilously formidable.
The thing of an eternal yesterday.
For of the wholly common is man made,
And custom is his nurse. Woe then to them
House furniture, the dear inheritance
And what is gray with age becomes religious.
ISCHILLER, “The Death of Wallenstein."