Civil Society Essay


Of the General Characteristics of Human Nature.


Of the question relating to the State of Nature.

NATURAL productions are generally formed by degrees. Vegetables grow from a tender shoot, and animals from an infant state. The latter being de∣stined to act, extend their operations as their powers increase: they exhibit a progress in what they perform, as well as in the faculties Page  2 they acquire, This progress in the case of man is continued to a greater extent than in that of any other animal. Not only the individual advances from infancy to manhood, but the species itself from rudeness to civilization. Hence the supposed departure of mankind from the state of their na∣ture; hence our conjectures and different opinions of what man must have been in the first age of his being. The poet, the historian, and the mo∣ralist, frequently allude to this ancient time; and under the emblems of gold, or of iron, represent a condition, and a manner of life, from which mankind have either degenerated, or on which they have greatly improved. On either supposition, the first state of our nature must have borne no resemblance to what men have exhibited in any subsequent period; historical monuments, even of the earliest date, are to be considered as novelties; and the most common establishments of human society are to be classed among the incroachments which fraud, oppression, or a busy invention, have made upon the reign of nature, by which the chief of our grievances or blessings were equally with∣held.

AMONG the writers who have attempted to distinguish, in the human character, its original qualities, and to point out the limits between nature and art, some have represented mankind in their first condition, as possessed of mere animal sensibility, without any exercise of the faculties that render them superior to the brutes, without any political union, without any means of explain∣ing their sentiments, and even without possessing any of the apprehensions and passions which the voice and the gesture are so well fitted to express. Page  3 Others have made the state of nature to consist in perpetual wars, kindled by competition for domi∣nion and interest, where every individual had a separate quarrel with his kind, and where the presence of a fellow-creature was the signal of battle.

THE desire of laying the foundation of a fa∣vourite system, or a fond expectation, perhaps, that we may be able to penetrate the secrets of nature, to the very source of existence, have, on this subject, led to many fruitless inquiries, and given rise to many wild suppositions. Among the various qualities which mankind possess, we select one or a few particulars on which to establish a theory, and in framing our account of what man was in some imaginary state of nature, we over∣look what he has always appeared within the reach of our own observation, and in the records of history.

IN every other instance, however, the natural historian thinks himself obliged to collect facts, not to offer conjectures. When he treats of any particular species of animals, he supposes, that their present dispositions and instincts are the same they originally had, and that their present manner of life is a continuance of their first destination. He admits, that his knowledge of the material system of the world consists in a collection of facts, or at most, in general tenets derived from particular observations and experiments. It is only in what relates to himself, and in matters the most important, and the most easily known, that he substitutes hypothesis instead of reality, and con∣founds Page  4 the provinces of imagination and reason, of poetry and science.

BUT without entering any farther on questions either in moral or physical subjects, relating to the manner or the origin of our knowledge; without any disparagement to that subtilty which would analyze every sentiment, and trace every mode of being to its source; it may be safely affirmed, That the character of man, as he now exists, that the laws of this animal and intellectual system, on which his happiness now depends, de∣serve our principal study; and that general prin∣ciples relating to this, or any other subject, are useful only so far as they are founded on just ob∣servation, and lead to the knowledge of important consequences, or so far as they enable us to act with success when we would apply either the intel∣lectual or the physical powers of nature, to the great purposes of human life.

IF both the earliest and the latest accounts col∣lected from every quarter of the earth, represent mankind as assembled in troops and companies; and the individual always joined by affection to one party, while he is possibly opposed to another; employed in the exercise of recollection and fore∣sight; inclined to communicate his own senti∣ments, and to be made acquainted with those of others; these facts must be admitted as the foun∣dation of all our reasoning relative to man. His mixed disposition to friendship or enmity, his rea∣son, his use of language and articulate sounds, like the shape and the erect position of his body, are to be considered as so many attributes of his Page  5 nature: they are to be retained in his description, as the wing and the paw are in that of the eagle and the lion, and as different degrees of fierceness, vigilance, timidity, or speed, are made to occupy a place in the natural history of different animals.

IF the question be put, What the mind of man could perform, when left to itself, and without the aid of any foreign direction? we are to look for our answer in the history of mankind. Parti∣cular experiments which have been found so useful in establishing the principles of other sciences, could probably, on this subject, teach us nothing important, or new: we are to take the history of every active being from his conduct in the situa∣tion to which he is formed, not from his appear∣ance in any forced or uncommon condition; a wild man therefore, caught in the woods, where he had always lived apart from his species, is a singular instance, not a specimen of any general character. As the anatomy of an eye which had never received the impressions of light, or that of an ear which had never felt the impulse of sounds, would probably exhibit defects in the very struc∣ture of the organs themselves, arising from their not being applied to their proper functions; so any particular case of this sort would only shew in what degree the powers of apprehension and sen∣timent could exist where they had not been em∣ployed, and what would be the defects and imbe∣cilities of a heart in which the emotions that per∣tain to society had never been felt.

MANKIND are to be taken in groupes, as they have always subsisted. The history of the indivi∣dual is but a detail of the sentiments and thoughts Page  6 he has entertained in the view of his species; and every experiment relative to this subject should be made with intire societies, not with single men. We have every reason, however, to believe, that in the case of such an experiment made, we shall suppose, with a colony of children transplanted from the nursery, and left to form a society apart, untaught, and undisciplined, we should only have the same things repeated, which, in so many dif∣ferent parts of the earth, have been transacted al∣ready. The members of our little society would feed and sleep, would herd together and play, would have a language of their own, would quar∣rel and divide, would be to one another the most important objects of the scene, and, in the ardour of their friendships and competitions, would over∣look their personal danger, and suspend the care of their self-preservation. Has not the human race been planted like the colony in question? Who has directed their course? whose instruction have they heard? or whose example have they followed?

NATURE, therefore, we shall presume, having given to every animal its mode of existence, its dispositions and manner of life, has dealt equally with those of the human race; and the natural historian who would collect the properties of this species, may fill up every article now, as well as he could have done in any former age. Yet one property by which man is distinguished, has been sometimes overlooked in the account of his nature, or has only served to mislead our attention. In other classes of animals, the individual advances from infancy to age or maturity; and he attains, in the compass of a single life, to all the perfection Page  7 his nature can reach: but, in the human kind, the species has a progress as well as the indivi∣dual; they build in every subsequent age on foun∣dations formerly laid; and, in a succession of years, tend to a perfection in the application of their faculties, to which the aid of long experience is required, and to which many generations must have combined their endeavours. We observe the progress they have made; we distinctly enumerate many of its steps; we can trace them back to a distant antiquity; of which no record remains, nor any monument is preserved, to inform us what were the openings of this wonderful scene. The consequence is, that instead of attending to the character of our species, where the particu∣lars are vouched by the surest authority, we en∣deavour to trace it through ages and scenes un∣known; and, instead of supposing that the be∣ginning of our story was nearly of a piece with the sequel, we think ourselves warranted to reject every circumstance of our present condition and frame, as adventitious, and foreign to our nature. The progress of mankind from a supposed state of animal sensibility, to the attainment of reason, to the use of language, and to the habit of so∣ciety, has been accordingly painted with a force of imagination, and its steps have been marked with a boldness of invention, that would tempt us to admit, among the materials of history, the suggestions of fancy, and to receive, perhaps, as the model of our nature in its original state, some of the animals whose shape has the greatest resemblance to ours*.

Page  8 IT would be ridiculous to affirm, as a disco∣very, that the species of the horse was probably never the same with that of the lion; yet, in op∣position to what has dropped from the pens of eminent writers, we are obliged to observe, that men have always appeared among animals a di∣stinct and a superior race; that neither the pos∣session of similar organs, nor the approximation of shape, nor the use of the hand*, nor the con∣tinued intercourse with this sovereign artist, has enabled any other species to blend their nature or their inventions with his; that in his rudest state, he is found to be above them; and in his greatest degeneracy, never descends to their level. He is, in short, a man in every condition; and we can learn nothing of his nature from the analogy of other animals. If we would know him, we must attend to himself, to the course of his life, and the tenor of his conduct. With him the society appears to be as old as the individual, and the use of the tongue as universal as that of the hand or the foot. If there was a time in which he had his acquaintance with his own species to make, and his faculties to acquire, it is a time of which we have no record, and in relation to which our opinions can serve no purpose, and are sup∣ported by no evidence.

WE are often tempted into those boundless re∣gions of ignorance or conjecture, by a fancy which delights in creating rather than in merely retain∣ing the forms which are presented before it: we are the dupes of a subtilty, which promises to sup∣ply Page  9 every defect of our knowledge, and, by fill∣ing up a few blanks in the story of nature, pre∣tends to conduct our apprehension nearer to the source of existence. On the credit of a few obser∣vations, we are apt to presume, that the secret may soon be laid open, and that what is termed wis∣dom in nature, may be referred to the operation of physical powers. We forget that physical powers, employed in succession, and combined to a saluta∣ry purpose, constitute those very proofs of design from which we infer the existence of God; and that this truth being once admitted, we are no long∣er to search for the source of existence; we can only collect the laws which the author of nature has established; and in our latest as well as our earliest discoveries, only come to perceive a mode of creation or providence before unknown.

WE speak of art as distinguished from nature; but art itself is natural to man. He is in some mea∣sure the artificer of his own frame, as well as his fortune, and is destined, from the first age of his being, to invent and contrive. He applies the same talents to a variety of purposes, and acts nearly the same part in very different scenes. He would be always improving on his subject, and he carries this intention where-ever he moves, through the streets of the populous city, or the wilds of the forest. While he appears equally fitted to every condition, he is upon this account unable to settle in any. At once obstinate and fickle, he complains of innova∣tions, and is never sated with novelty. He is per∣petually busied in reformations, and is continually wedded to his errors. If he dwell in a cave, he would improve it into a cottage; if he has already built, he would still build to a greater extent. Page  10 But he does not propose to make rapid and hasty transitions; his steps are progressive and slow; and his force, like the power of a spring, silently pres∣ses on every resistance; an effect is sometimes pro∣duced before the cause is perceived; and with all his talent for projects, his work is often ac∣complished before the plan is devised. It ap∣pears, perhaps, equally difficult to retard or to quicken his pace; if the projector complain he is tardy, the moralist thinks him unstable; and whe∣ther his motions be rapid or slow, the scenes of human affairs perpetually change in his manage∣ment: his emblem is a passing stream, not a stag∣nating pool. We may desire to direct his love of improvement to its proper object, we may wish for stability of conduct; but we mistake human nature, if we wish for a termination of labour, or a scene of repose.

THE occupations of men, in every condition, bespeak their freedom of choice, their various opi∣nions, and the multiplicity of wants by which they are urged: but they enjoy, or endure, with a sen∣sibility, or a phlegm, which are nearly the same in every situation. They possess the shores of the Caspian, or the Atlantic, by a different tenure, but with equal ease. On the one they are fixed to the soil, and seem to be formed for settlement, and the accommodation of cities: The names they bestow on a nation, and on its territory, are the same. On the other they are mere animals of passage, prepared to roam on the face of the earth, and with their herds, in search of new pas∣ture and favourable seasons, to follow the sun in his annual course.

Page  11 MAN finds his lodgement alike in the cave, the cottage, and the palace; and his subsistence equal∣ly in the woods, in the dairy, or the farm. He assumes the distinction of titles, equipage, and dress; he devises regular systems of government, and a complicated body of laws: or, naked in the woods, has no badge of superiority but the strength of his limbs and the sagacity of his mind; no rule of conduct but choice; no tie with his fellow∣creatures but affection, the love of company, and the desire of safety. Capable of a great variety of arts, yet dependent on none in particular for the preservation of his being; to whatever length he has carried his artifice, there he seems to enjoy the conveniencies that suit his nature, and to have found the condition to which he is destined. The tree which an American, on the banks of the O∣roonoko*, has chosen to climb for the retreat, and the lodgement of his family, is to him a conve∣nient dwelling. The sopha, the vaulted dome, and the colonade, do not more effectually content their native inhabitant.

IF we are asked therefore, Where the state of nature is to be found? we may answer, It is here; and it matters not whether we are understood to speak in the island of Great Britain, at the Cape of Good Hope, or the Straits of Magellan. While this active being is in the train of employing his talents, and of operating on the subjects around him, all situations are equally natural. If we are told, That vice, at least, is contrary to nature; we Page  12 may answer, It is worse; it is folly and wretched∣ness. But if nature is only opposed to art, in what situation of the human race are the footsteps of art unknown? In the condition of the savage, as well as in that of the citizen, are many proofs of human invention; and in either is not any perma∣nent station, but a mere stage through which this travelling being is destined to pass. If the palace be unnatural, the cottage is so no less; and the highest refinements of political and moral appre∣hension, are not more artificial in their kind, than the first operations of sentiment and reason.

IF we admit that man is susceptible of improve∣ment, and has in himself a principle of progression, and a desire of perfection, it appears improper to say, that he has quitted the state of his nature, when he has begun to proceed; or that he finds a station for which he was not intended, while, like other animals, he only follows the disposition, and employs the powers that nature has given.

THE latest efforts of human invention are but a continuation of certain devices which were prac∣tised in the earliest ages of the world, and in the rudest state of mankind. What the savage pro∣jects, or observes, in the forest, are the steps which led nations, more advanced, from the architecture of the cottage to that of the palace, and conduct∣ed the human mind from the perceptions of sense, to the general conclusions of science.

ACKNOWLEDGED defects are to man in every condition matter of dislike. Ignorance and imbe∣cility are objects of contempt: penetration and conduct give eminence, and procure esteem. Whi∣ther Page  13 should his feelings and apprehensions on these subjects lead him? To a progress, no doubt, in which the savage, as well as the philosopher, is engaged; in which they have made different ad∣vances, but in which their ends are the same. The admiration Cicero entertained for literature, elo∣quence, and civil accomplishments, was not more real than that of a Scythian for such a measure of similar endowments as his own apprehension could reach.

Were I to boast,

says a Tartar prince*,

it would be of that wisdom I have re∣ceived from God. For as, on the one hand, I yield to none in the conduct of war, in the disposition of armies, whether of horse or of foot, and in directing the movements of great or small bodies; so, on the other, I have my talent in writing, inferior perhaps only to those who inhabit the great cities of Persia or India. Of other nations, unknown to me, I do not speak.

MAN may mistake the objects of his pursuit; he may misapply his industry, and misplace his improvements. If under a sense of such possible errors, he would find a standard by which to judge of his own proceedings, and arrive at the best state of his nature, he cannot find it perhaps in the practice of any individual, or of any nation whatever; not even in the sense of the majority, or the prevailing opinion of his kind. He must look for it in the best conceptions of his under∣standing, in the best movements of his heart; he must thence discover what is the perfection and the Page  14 happiness of which he is capable. He will find, on the scrutiny, that the proper state of his na∣ture, taken in this sense, is not a condition from which mankind are for ever removed, but one to which they may now attain; not prior to the ex∣ercise of their faculties, but procured by their just application.

OF all the terms that we employ in treating of human affairs, those of natural and unnatural are the least determinate in their meaning. Op∣posed to affectation, frowardness, or any other de∣fect of the temper or character, the natural is an epithet of praise; but employed to specify a con∣duct which proceeds from the nature of man, can serve to distinguish nothing: for all the actions of men are equally the result of their nature. At most, this language can only refer to the general and prevailing sense or practice of mankind; and the purpose of every important inquiry on this subject may be served by the use of a language equally familiar and more precise. What is just, or unjust? What is happy, or wretched, in the manners of men? What, in their various situati∣ons, is favourable or adverse to their amiable qua∣lities? are questions to which we may expect a sa∣tisfactory answer; and whatever may have been the original state of our species, it is of more impor∣tance to know the condition to which we ourselves should aspire, than that which our ancestors may be supposed to have left.

Page  15


Of the principles of self-preservation.

IF in human nature there are qualities by which it is distinguished from every other part of the animal creation, men are themselves in different climates and in different ages greatly diversified. So far as we are able to account for this diversity on principles either moral or physical, we perform a task of great curiosity or signal utility. It ap∣pears necessary, however, that we attend to the universal qualities of our nature, before we regard its varieties, or attempt to explain differences con∣sisting in the unequal possession or application of dispositions and powers that are in some measure common to all mankind.

MAN, like the other animals, has certain in∣stinctive propensities, which, prior to the percep∣tion of pleasure or pain, and prior to the experi∣ence of what is pernicious or useful, lead him to perform many functions of nature relative to him∣self and to his fellow-creatures. He has one set of dispositions which refer to his animal preservation, and to the continuance of his race; another which lead to society, and by inlisting him on the side of one tribe or community, frequently engage him in war and contention with the rest of mankind. His powers of discernment, or his intellectual fa∣culties, which, under the appellation of reason, are distinguished from the analogous endowments of other animals, refer to the objects around him, ei∣ther as they are subjects of mere knowledge, or Page  16 as they are subjects of approbation or censure. He is formed not only to know, but likewise to ad∣mire and to contemn; and these proceedings of his mind have a principal reference to his own cha∣racter, and to that of his fellow-creatures, as be∣ing the subjects on which he is chiefly concerned to distinguish what is right from what is wrong. He enjoys his felicity likewise on certain fixed and determinate conditions; and either as an individu∣al apart, or as a member of civil society, must take a particular course in order to reap the advantages of his nature. He is, withal, in a very high de∣gree susceptible of habits; and can, by forbear∣ance or exercise, so far weaken, confirm, or even diversify his talents, and his dispositions, as to ap∣pear, in a great measure, the arbiter of his own rank in nature, and the author of all the varities which are exhibited in the actual history of his species. The universal characteristics, in the mean time, to which we have now referred, must, when we would treat of any part of this history, consti∣tute the first subject of our attention; and they require not only to be enumerated, but to be dis∣tinctly considered.

THE dispositions which refer to the preservati∣on of the individual, while they continue to ope∣rate in the manner of instinctive desires, are near∣ly the same in man that they are in the other ani∣mals: but in him they are sooner or later combi∣ned with reflection and foresight; they give rise to his apprehensions on the subject of property, and make him acquainted with that object of care which he calls his interest. Without the instincts which teach the beaver and the squrrel, the ant and the bee, to make up their little hoards for winter, at Page  17 first improvident, and, where no immediate object of passion is near, addicted to sloth, he becomes, in process of time, the great storemaster among animals. He finds in a provision of wealth, which he is probably never to employ, an object of his greatest solicitude, and the principal idol of his mind. He apprehends a relation between his person and his property, which renders what he calls his own in a manner a part of himself, a con∣stituent of his rank, his condition, and his charac∣ter, in which, independent of any real enjoyment, he may be fortunate or unhappy; and, independent of any personal merit, he may be an object of consideration or neglect; and in which he may be wounded and injured, while his person is safe, and every want of his nature completely supplied.

IN these apprehensions, while other passions on∣ly operate occasionally, the interested find the ob∣ject of their ordinary cares; their motive to the practice of mechanic and commercial arts; their temptation to trespass on the laws of justice; and, when extremely corrupted, the price of their pro∣stitutions, and the standard of their opinions on the subject of good and evil. Under this influence, they would enter, if not restrained by the laws of civil society, on a scene of violence or meanness, which would exhibit our species, by turns, under an aspect more terrible and odious, or more vile and contemptible than that of any animal which inherits the earth.

ALTHOUGH the consideration of interest is founded on the experience of animal wants and de∣sires, its object is not to gratify any particular ap∣petite, but to secure the means of gratifying all; and it imposes frequently a restraint on the very de∣sires Page  18 from which it arose, more powerful and more severe than those of religion or duty. It arises from the principles of self-preservation in the human frame; but is a corruption, or at least a partial re∣sult, of those principles, and is upon many ac∣counts very improperly termed self-love.

LOVE is an affection which carries the attention of the mind beyond itself, and has a quality which we call tenderness, that never can accompany the considerations of interest. This affection being a complacency and a continued satisfaction in its ob∣ject, independent of any external event, it has, in the midst of disappointment and sorrow, pleasures and triumphs unknown to those who act without any regard to their fellow-creatures; and in every change of condition, it continues entirely distinct from the sentiments which we feel on the subject of personal success or adversity. But as the care a man entertains for his own interest, and the attention his affection makes him pay to that of another, may have similar effects, the one on his own fortune, the other on that of his friend, we confound the princi∣ples from which he acts; we suppose that they are the same in kind, only referred to different objects; and we not only misapply the name of love, in con∣junction with self, but, in a manner tending to de∣grade our nature, we limit the aim of this suppo∣sed selfish affection to the securing or accumulating the constituents of interest, or the means of mere animal life.

IT is somewhat remarkable, that notwithstand∣ing men value themselves so much on qualities of the mind, on parts, learning and wit, on courage, generosity, and honour, those men are still supposed to be in the highest degree selfish or attentive to Page  19 themselves, who are most careful of animal life, and who are least mindful of rendering that life an object worthy of care. It will be difficult, howe∣ver, to tell why a good understanding, a resolute and generous mind, should not, by every man in his senses, be reckoned as much parts of himself, as either his stomach or his palate, and much more than his estate or his dress. The epicure, who con∣sults his physician, how he may restore his relish for food, and by creating an appetite, may increase the means of enjoyment, might at least with an equal regard to himself, consult how he might strengthen his affection to a parent or a child, to his country or to mankind; and it is probable that an appetite of this sort would prove a source of en∣joyment not less than the former.

BY our supposed selfish maxims, notwithstand∣ing, we generally exclude from among the objects of our personal cares, many of the happier and more respectable qualities of human nature. We consider affection and courage as mere follies, that lead us to neglect or expose ourselves; we make wisdom consist in a regard to our interest; and without explaining what interest means, we would have it understood as the only reasonable motive of action with mankind. There is even a system of philosophy founded upon tenets of this sort, and such is our opinion of what men are likely to do upon selfish principles, that we think it must have a tendency very dangerous to virtue. But the er∣rors of this system do not consist so much in ge∣neral principles, as in their particular applications; not so much in teaching men to regard them∣selves, as in leading them to forget that their happiest affections, their candour, and their in∣dependence Page  20 of mind, are in reality parts of them∣selves. And the adversaries of this supposed selfish philosophy, where it makes self-love the ruling pas∣sion with mankind, have had reason to find fault, not so much with its general representations of hu∣man nature, as with the obtrusion of a mere in∣novation in language for a discovery in science.

WHEN the vulgar speak of their different mo∣tives, they are satisfied with ordinary names, which refer to known and obvious distinctions. Of this kind are the terms benevolence and selfishness, by which they express their desire of the welfare of others, or the care of their own. The speculative are not always satisfied with this proceeding; they would analyze, as well as enumerate the principles of nature; and the chance is, that, merely to gain the appearance of something new, without any prospect of real advantage, they will disturb the order of vulgar apprehension. In the case before us, they have actually found, that benevolence is no more than a species of self-love; and would oblige us, if possible, to look out for a new set of words, by which we may distinguish the selfishness of the parent when he takes care of his child, from his selfishness when he only takes care of himself. For according to this philosophy, as in both cases he only means to gratify a desire of his own, he is in both cases equally selfish. The term benevolent, in the mean time, is not employed to characterise persons who have no desires of their own, but per∣sons whose own desires prompt them to procure the welfare of others. The fact is, that we should need only a fresh supply of language, instead of that which by this seeming discovery we should have lost, in order to make the reasonings of men proceed Page  21 as they formerly did. But it is certainly impossible to live and to act with men, without employing different names to distinguish the hu∣mane from the cruel, and the benevolent from the selfish.

THESE terms have their equivalents in every tongue; they were invented by men of no re∣finement, who only meant to express what they distinctly perceived or strongly felt. And if a man of speculation should prove that we are sel∣fish in a sense of his own, it does not follow that we are so in the sense of the vulgar; or, as ordi∣nary men would understand his conclusion, that we are condemned in every instance to act on mo∣tives of interest, covetousness, pusillanimity, and cowardice; for such is conceived to be the ordi∣nary import of selfishness in the character of man.

AN affection or passion of any kind is some∣times said to give us an interest in its object; and humanity itself gives an interest in the welfare of mankind. This term interest, which commonly implies little more than our regard to property, is sometimes put for utility in general, and this for happiness; insomuch that, under these ambigui∣ties, it is not surprising we are still unable to de∣termine, whether interest is the only motive of human action, and the standard by which to di∣stinguish our good from our ill.

SO much is said in this place, not from any desire to have a share in any controversy of this sort, but merely to confine the meaning of the term in∣terest to its most common accep ation, and to in∣timate our intention of employing it in expressing Page  22 those objects of care which refer to our external condition, and the preservation of our animal na∣ture. When taken in this sense, it will not surely be thought to comprehend at once all the motives of human conduct. If men be not allowed to have disinterested benevolence, they will not be denied to have disinterested passions of another kind. Ha∣tred, indignation, and rage, frequently urge them to act in opposition to their known interest, and even to hazard their lives, without any hopes of compensation in any future returns of preferment or profit.

Page  23


Of the principles of Union among Mankind.

MANKIND have always wandered or sett∣led, agreed or quarrelled, in troops and companies. The cause of their assembling, what∣ever it be, is the principle of their alliance or union.

IN collecting the materials of history, we are seldom willing to put up with our subject merely as we find it. We are loth to be embarrassed with a multiplicity of particulars, and apparent incon∣sistencies. In theory we profess the investigation of general principles; and in order to bring the matter of our inquiries within the reach of our comprehension, are disposed to adopt any system. Thus, in treating of human affairs, we would draw every consequence from a principle of union, or a principle of dissension. The state of nature is a state of war or of amity, and men are made to unite from a principle of affection, or from a principle of fear, as is most suitable to the system of different writers. The history of our species indeed abundantly shews, that they are to one an∣other mutual objects both of fear and of love; and they who would prove them to have been originally either in a state of alliance, or of war, have arguments in store to maintain their asserti∣ons. Our attachment to one division, or to one sect, seems often to derive much of its force from an animosity conceived to an opposite one: and this animosity in its turn, as often arises from a Page  24 zeal in behalf of the side we espouse, and from a desire to vindicate the rights of our party.

MAN is born in society,

says Montesquieu,

and there he remains.

The charms that de∣tain him are known to be manifold. We may reckon the parental affection, which, instead of de∣serting the adult, as among the brutes, embraces more close, as it becomes mixed with esteem, and the memory of its early effects; together with a propensity common to man and other animals, to mix with the herd, and, without reflection, to fol∣low the croud of his species. What this propensity was in the first moment of its operation, we know not; but with men accustomed to company, its enjoyments and disappointments are reckoned a∣mong the principal pleasures or pains of human life. Sadness and melancholy are connected with soli∣tude; gladness and pleasure with the concourse of men. The track of a Laplander on the snowy shore, gives joy to the lonely mariner; and the mute signs of cordiality and kindness which are made to him, awaken the memory of pleasures which he felt in society. In fine, says the writer of a voyage to the north, after describing a mute scene of this sort,

We were extremely pleased to con∣verse with men, since in thirteen months we had seen no human creature*.

But we need no remote observation to confirm this position: The wailings of the infant, and the languors of the adult, when alone; the lively joys of the one, and the chearfulness of the other, upon the return of company, are a sufficient proof of its solid foun∣dations in the frame of our nature.

Page  25 IN accounting for actions we often forget that we ourselves have acted; and instead of the sen∣timents which stimulate the mind in the presence of its object, we assign as the motives of conduct with men, those considerations which occur in the hours of retirement and cold reflection. In this mood frequently we can find nothing important, besides the deliberate prospects of interest; and a great work, like that of forming society, must in our apprehension arise from deep reflections, and be carried on with a view to the advantages which mankind derive from commerce and mutual sup∣port. But neither a propensity to mix with the herd, nor the sense of advantages enjoyed in that condition, comprehend all the principles by which men are united together. Those bands are even of a feeble texture, when compared to the resolute ardour with which a man adheres to his friend, or to his tribe, after they have for some time run the career of fortune together. Mutual discove∣ries of generosity, joint trials of fortitude, redou∣ble the ardours of friendship, and kindle a flame in the human breast, which the considerations of personal interest or safety cannot suppress. The most lively transports of joy are seen, and the loudest shrieks of despair are heard, when the objects of a tender affection are beheld in a state of triumph or of suffering. An Indian recovered his friend unexpectedly on the island of Juan Fer∣nandes: He prostrated himself on the ground, at his feet:

We stood gazing in silence,

says Dampier,

at this tender scene.

If we would know what is the religion of a wild American, what it is in his heart that most resembles devo∣tion: it is not his fear of the sorcerer, nor his Page  26 hope of protection from the spirits of the air or the wood; it is the ardent affection with which he selects and embraces his friend; with which he clings to his side in every season of peril; and with which he invokes his spirit from a distance, when dangers surprise him alone.* Whatever proofs we may have of the social disposition of man in familiar and contiguous scenes, it is pos∣sibly of importance, to draw our observations from the examples of men who live in the sim∣plest condition, and who have not learned to affect what they do not actually feel.

MERE acquaintance and habitude nourish af∣fection, and the experience of society brings every passion of the human mind upon its side. Its tri∣umphs and prosperities, its calamities and distresses, bring a variety and a force of emotion, which can only have place in the company of our fellow∣creatures. It is here that a man is made to for∣get his weakness, his cares of safety, and his sub∣sistence; and to act from those passions which make him discover his force. It is here he finds that his arrows fly swifter than an eagle, and his weapons wound deeper than the paw of the lion, or the tooth of the boar. It is not alone his sense of a support which is near, nor the love of distinc∣tion in the opinion of his tribe, that inspire his courage, or swell his heart with a confidence that exceeds what his natural force should bestow. Vehement passions of animosity or attachment are the first exertions of vigour in his breast; under their influence, every consideration, but that of Page  27 his object, is forgotten; dangers and difficulties only excite him the more.

THAT condition is surely favourable to the nature of any being, in which his force is in∣creased; and if courage be the gift of society to man, we have reason to consider his union with his species as the noblest part of his fortune. From this source are derived, not only the force, but the very existence of his happiest emotions; not only the better part, but almost the whole of his rational character. Send him to the desert alone, he is a plant torn from its roots: the form indeed may remain, but every faculty droops and withers; the human personage and the human cha∣racter cease to exist.

MEN are so far from valuing society on ac∣count of its mere external conveniencies, that they are commonly most attached where those conveniences are least frequent; and are there most faithful, where the tribute of their allegiance is paid in blood. Affection operates with the greatest force, where it meets with the greatest difficulties: In the breast of the parent, it is most solicitous amidst the dangers and distresses of the child: In the breast of a man, its flame redoubles where the wrongs or sufferings of his friend, or his country, require his aid. It is, in short, from this principle alone that we can account for the obstinate attachment of a savage to his unsettled and defenceless tribe, when temptations on the side of ease and of safety might induce him to fly from famine and danger, to a station more affluent, and more secure. Hence the sanguine affection which every Greek bore to his country, and Page  28 hence the devoted patriotism of an early Roman. Let those examples be compared with the spirit which reigns in a commercial state, where men may be supposed to have experienced, in its full extent, the interest which individuals have in the preservation of their country. It is here, indeed, if ever, that man is sometimes found a detached and solitary being: he has found an object which sets him in competition with his fellow-creatures, and he deals with them as he does with his cattle and his soil, for the sake of the profits they bring. The mighty engine which we suppose to have formed society, only tends to set its members at variance, or to continue their intercourse after the bands of affection are broken.

Page  29


Of the principles of War and Dissension.

THERE are some circumstances in the lot of mankind,

says Socrates,

that shew them to be destined to friendship and amity: Those are, their mutual need of one another; their mutual compassion; their sense of mutual benefits; and the pleasures arising in company. There are other circumstances which prompt them to war and dissension; the admi∣ration and the desire which they entertain for the same subjects; their opposite pretensions; and the provocations which they mutually offer in the course of their competitions.

WHEN we endeavour to apply the maxims of natural justice to the solution of difficult questions, we find that some cases may be supposed, and actually happen, where oppositions take place, and are lawful, prior to any provocation, or act of injustice; that where the safety and preserva∣tion of numbers are mutually inconsistent, one party may employ his right of defence, before the other has begun an attack. And when we join with such examples, the instances of mistake, and misunderstanding, to which mankind are exposed, we may be satisfied that war does not always proceed from an intention to injure; and that even the best qualities of men, their can∣dour, as well as their resolution, may operate in the midst of their quarrels.

Page  30 THERE is still more to be observed on this subject. Mankind not only find in their condition the sources of variance and dissension; they ap∣pear to have in their minds the seeds of animosity, and to embrace the occasions of mutual opposition, with alacrity and pleasure In the most pacific situation there are few who have not their enemies, as well as their friends; and who are not pleased with opposing the proceedings of one, as much as with favouring the designs of another. Small and simple tribes, who in their domestic society have the firmest union, are in their state of op∣position as separate nations, frequently animated with the most implacable hatred. Among the ci∣tizens of Rome, in the early ages of that republic, the name of a foreigner, and that of an enemy, were the same. Among the Greeks, the name of Barbarian, under which that people comprehended every nation that was of a race, and spoke a lan∣guage, different from their own, became a term of indiscriminate contempt and aversion. Even where no particular claim to superiority is formed, the repugnance to union, the frequent wars, or rather the perpetual hostilities, which take place among rude nations and separate clans, discover how much our species is disposed to opposition, as well as to concert.

LATE discoveries have brought us to the know∣ledge of almost every situation in which mankind are placed. We have found them spread over large and extensive continents, where communica∣tions are open, and where national confederacy might be easily formed. We have found them in narrower districts, circumscribed by mountains, Page  31 great rivers, and arms of the sea. They have been found in small and remote islands, where the inhabitants might be easily assembled, and derive an advantage from their union. But in all those situations, alike, they were broke into cantons, and affected a distinction of name and community. The titles of fellow-citizen and countryman, un∣opposed to those of alien and foreigner, to which they refer, would fall into disuse, and lose their meaning. We love individuals on account of personal qualities; but we love our country, as it is a party in the divisions of mankind; and our zeal for its interest, is a predilection in behalf of the side we maintain.

IN the promiscuous concourse of men, it is sufficient that we have an opportunity of selecting our company. We turn away from those who do not engage us, and we fix our resort where the society is more to our mind. We are fond of distinctions; we place ourselves in opposition, and quarrel under the denominations of faction and party, without any material subject of controversy. Aversion, like affection, is fostered by a continued direction to its particular object. Separation and estrangement, as well as opposition, widen a breach which did not owe its beginnings to any offence. And it would seem, that till we have reduced mankind to the state of a family, or found some external consi∣deration to maintain their connection in greater numbers, they will be for ever separated into bands, and form a plurality of nations.

THE sense of a common danger, and the as∣saults of an enemy, have been frequently useful to nations, by uniting their members more firmly together, and by preventing the secessions and Page  32 actual separations in which their civil discord might otherwise terminate. And this motive to union which is offered from abroad, may be necessary, not only in the case of large and extensive na∣tions, where coalitions are weakened by distance, and the distinction of provincial names; but even in the narrow society of the smallest states. Rome itself was founded by a small party, which took its flight from Alba; her citizens were often in danger of separating; and if the villages and can∣tons of the Volsci had been further removed from the scene of their dissensions, the Mons Sacer might have received a new colony before the mother-country was ripe for such a discharge. She continued long to feel the quarrels of her no∣bles and her people; and the gates of Janus were frequently opened, to remind her inhabitants of the duties they owed to their country.

IF societies, as well as individuals, be charged with the care of their own preservation, and if in both we apprehend a separation of interest, which may give rise to jealousies and competitions, we cannot be surprised to find hostilities arise from this source. But were there no angry passions of a different sort, the animosities which attend an opposition of interest, should bear a proportion to the supposed value of the subject.

The Hot∣tentot nations,

says Kolben,

trespass on one another by thefts of cattle and of women; but such injuries are seldom committed, except with a view to exasperate their neighbours, and bring them to a war.

Such depredations then are not the foundation of a war, but the effects of a hostile intention already conceived. The na∣tions of North America, who have no herds to preserve, nor settlements to defend, are yet en∣gaged Page  33 in almost perpetual wars, for which they can assign no reason, but the point of honour, and a desire to continue the struggle their fathers main∣tained. They do not regard the spoils of an enemy; and the warrior who has seized any booty, easily parts with it to the first person who comes in his way*.

BUT we need not cross the Atlantic to find proofs of animosity, and to observe, in the collision of separate societies, the influence of angry pas∣sions, that do not arise from an opposition of in∣terest. Human nature has no part of its cha∣racter, of which more flagrant examples are given on this side of the globe. What is it that stirs in the breasts of ordinary men when the enemies of their country are named? Whence are the pre∣judices that subsist between different provinces, cantons, and villages, of the same empire and territory? What is it that excites one half of the nations of Europe against the other? The statesman may explain his conduct on motives of national jealousy and caution, but the people have dislikes and antipathies, for which they cannot account. Their mutual reproaches of perfidy and injustice, like the Hottentot depredations, are but symptoms of an animosity, and the language of a hostile disposition already conceived. The charge of cowardice and pusillanimity, qualities which the interested and cautious enemy should, of all others, like best to find in his rival, is urged with aver∣sion, and made the ground of dislike. Hear the peasants on different sides of the Alps, and the Page  34 Pyrenees, the Rhine, or the British channel, give vent to their prejudices and national passions; it is among them that we find the materials of war and dissension laid without the direction of govern∣ment, and sparks ready to kindle into a flame, which the statesman is frequently disposed to ex∣tinguish. The fire will not always catch where his reasons of state would direct, nor stop where the concurrence of interest has produced an alli∣ance.

My Father,

said a Spanish peasant,

would rise from his grave, if he could foresee a war with France.

What interest had he, or the bones of his father, in the quarrels of princes?

THESE observations seem to arraign our spe∣cies, and to give an unfavourable picture of man∣kind; and yet the particulars we have mentioned are consistent with the most amiable qualities of our nature, and often furnish a scene for the exer∣cise of our greatest abilities. They are sentiments of generosity and self-denial that animate the war∣rior in defence of his country; and they are dis∣positions most favourable to mankind, that be∣come the principles of apparent hostility to men. Every animal is made to delight in the exercise of his natural talents and forces: The lion and the tyger sport with the paw; the horse delights to commit his mane to the wind, and forgets his pasture to try his speed in the field; the bull even before his brow is armed, and the lamb while yet an emblem of innocence, have a disposition to strike with the forehead, and anticipate, in play, the conflicts they are doomed to sustain. Man too is disposed to opposition, and to employ the forces of his nature against an equal antagonist; he loves to bring his reason, his eloquence, his Page  35 courage, even his bodily strength, to the proof, His sports are frequently an image of war; sweat and blood are freely expended in play: and frac∣tures or death are often made to terminate the pastimes of idleness and festivity. He was not made to live for ever, and even his love of amuse∣ment has opened a path that leads to the grave.

WITHOUT the rivalship of nations, and the practice of war, civil society itself could scarcely have found an object, or a form. Mankind might have traded without any formal convention, but they cannot be safe without a national concert. The necessity of a public defence, has given rise to many departments of state, and the intellectual talents of men have found their busiest scene in wielding their national forces. To overawe, or intimidate, or, when we cannot persuade with reason, to resist with fortitude, are the occupations which give its most animating exercise, and its greatest triumphs, to a vigorous mind; and he who has never struggled with his fellow-creatures, is a stranger to half the sentiments of mankind.

THE quarrels of individuals, indeed, are fre∣quently the operations of unhappy and detestable passions; malice, hatred, and rage. If such pas∣sions alone possess the breast, the scene of dissen∣sion becomes an object of horror; but a common opposition maintained by numbers, is always al∣layed by passions of another sort. Sentiments of affection and friendship mix with animosity; the active and strenuous become the guardians of their society; and violence itself is, in their case, an exertion of generosity as well as of courage. We applaud, as proceeding from a national or party Page  36 spirit, what we could not endure as the effect of a private dislike; and amidst the competitions of rival states, think we have found, for the patriot and the warrior, in the practice of violence and stratagem, the most illustrious career of human virtue. Even personal opposition here does not divide our judgment on the merits of men. The rival names of Agesilaus and Epaminondas, of Scipio and Hannibal, are repeated with equal praise; and war itself, which in one view appears so fatal, in another is the exercise of a liberal spirit; and in the very effects which we regret, is but one distemper more by which the author of nature has appointed our exit from human life.

THESE reflections may open our view into the state of mankind; but they tend to reconcile us to the conduct of Providence, rather than to make us change our own: where, from a regard to the welfare of our fellow-creatures, we endeavour to pacify their animosities, and unite them by the ties of affection. In the pursuit of this amiable intention, we may hope, in some instances, to dis∣arm the angry passions of jealousy and envy; we may hope to instil into the breasts of private men sentiments of candour toward their fellow∣creatures, and a disposition to humanity and jus∣tice. But it is vain to expect that we can give to the multitude of a people a sense of union among themselves, without admitting hostility to those who oppose them. Could we at once, in the case of any nation, extinguish the emulation which is excited from abroad, we should pro∣bably break or weaken the bands of society at home, and close the busiest scenes of national oc∣cupations and virtues.

Page  37


Of Intellectual Powers.

MANY attempts have been made to analyze the dispositions which we have now enu∣merated; but one purpose of science, perhaps the most important, is served, when the existence of a disposition is established. We are more con∣cerned in its reality, and in its consequences, than we are in its origin, or manner of formation.

THE same observation may be applied to the other powers and faculties of our nature. Their existence and use are the principal objects of our study. Thinking and reasoning, we say, are the operations of some faculty; but in what manner the faculties of thought or reason remain, when they are not exerted, or by what difference in the frame they are unequal in different persons, are questions which we cannot resolve. Their ope∣rations alone discover them: when unapplied, they lie hid even from the person to whom they per∣tain; and their action is so much a part of their nature, that the faculty itself, in many cases, is scarcely to be distinguished from a habit acquired in its frequent exertion.

PERSONS who are occupied with different subjects, who act in different scenes, generally appear to have different talents, or at least to have the same faculties variously formed, and suited to different purposes. The peculiar genius of na∣tions, as well as of individuals, may in this man∣ner arise from the state of their fortunes. And Page  38 it is proper that we endeavour to find some rule, by which to judge of what is admirable in the ca∣pacities of men, or fortunate in the application of their faculties, before we venture to pass a judgment on this branch of their merits, or pre∣tend to measure the degree of respect they may claim by their different attainments.

TO receive the informations of sense, is per∣haps the earliest function of an animal combined with an intellectual nature; and one great accom∣plishment of the living agent consists in the force and sensibility of his animal organs. The plea∣sures or pains to which he is exposed from this quarter, constitute to him an important difference between the objects which are thus brought to his knowledge; and it concerns him to distinguish well, before he commits himself to the direction of appetite. He must scrutinize the objects of one sense by the perceptions of another; examine with the eye, before he ventures to touch; and employ every means of observation, be∣fore he gratifies the appetites of thirst and of hunger. A discernment acquired by experience, becomes a faculty of his mind; and the infe∣rences of thought are sometimes not to be di∣stinguished from the perceptions of sense.

THE objects around us, beside their separate appearances, have their relations to one another. They suggest, when compared, what would not occur when they are considered apart; they have their effects, and mutual influences; they exhi∣bit, in like circumstances, similar operations, and uniform consequences. When we have found and expressed the points in which the uniformity Page  39 of their operations consists, we have ascertained a physical law. Many such laws, and even the most important, are known to the vulgar, and oc∣cur upon the smallest degrees of reflection: but others are hid under a seeming confusion, which ordinary talents cannot remove; and are therefore the objects of study, long observation, and supe∣rior capacity. The faculties of penetration and judgement, are, by men of business, as well as of science, employed to unravel intricacies of this sort; and the degree of sagacity with which either is endowed, is to be measured by the success with which they are able to find general rules, applicable to a variety of cases that seemed to have nothing in common, and to discover important di∣stinctions between subjects which the vulgar are apt to confound.

TO collect a multiplicity of particulars under general heads, and to refer a variety of operations to their common principle, is the object of science. To do the same thing, at least within the range of his active engagements, pertains to the man of pleasure, or business: and it would seem, that the studious and the active are so far employed in the same task, from observation and experience, to find the general views under which their objects may be considered, and the rules which may be usefully applied in the detail of their conduct. They do not always apply their talents to different subjects; and they seem to be distinguished chiefly by the unequal reach and variety of their remarks, or by the intentions which they severally have in collecting them.

Page  40 WHILST men continue to act from appetites and passions, leading to the attainment of exter∣nal ends, they seldom quit the view of their ob∣jects in detail, to go far in the road of general inquiries. They measure the extent of their own abilities, by the promptitude with which they ap∣prehend what is important in every subject, and the facility with which they extricate themselves on every trying occasion. And these, it must be confessed, to a being who is destined to act in the midst of difficulties, are the proper test of capa∣city and force. The parade of words, and gene∣ral reasonings, which sometime carry an appear∣ance of so much learning and knowledge, are of little avail in the conduct of life. The talents from which they proceed, terminate in mere osten∣tation, and are seldom connected with that supe∣rior discernment which the active apply in times of perplexity; much less with that intrepidity and force of mind which are required in passing through difficult scenes.

THE abilities of active men, however, have a variety corresponding to that of the subjects on which they are occupied. A sagacity applied to external and inanimate nature, forms one species of capacity; that which is turned to society and human affairs, another. Reputation for parts in any scene is equivocal, till we know by what kind of exertion that reputation is gained. That they understand well the subjects to which they apply, is all that can be said, in commending men of the greatest abilities: and every department, every profession, would have its great men, if there were not a choice of objects for the understand∣ing, Page  41 and of talents for the mind, as well as of sentiments for the heart, and of habits for the active character.

THE meanest professions, indeed, so far some∣times forget themselves, or the rest of mankind, as to arrogate, in commending what is distin∣guished in their own way, every epithet the most respectable claim as the right of superior abilities. Every mechanic is a great man with the learner, and the humble admirer, in his particular calling; and we can, perhaps, with more assurance pro∣nounce what it is that should make a man happy and amiable, than what should make his abilities respected, and his genius admired. This, upon a view of the talents themselves, may perhaps be impossible. The effect, however, will point out the rule and the standard of our judgement. To be admired and respected, is to have an ascendant among men. The talents which most directly procure that ascendant, are those which operate on mankind, penetrate their views, prevent their wishes, or srustrate their designs. The superior capacity leads with a superior energy, where every individual would go, and shews the hesita∣ting and the irresolute a clear passage to the at∣tainment of their ends.

THIS description does not pertain to any par∣ticular craft or profession; or perhaps it implies a kind of ability, which the separate application of men to particular callings, only tends to suppress or to weaken. Where shall we find the talents which are fit to act with men in a collective body, if we break that body into parts, and confine the observation of each to a separate track?

Page  42 TO act in the view of his fellow-creatures, to produce his mind in public, to give it all the exercise of sentiment and thought, which pertain to man as a member of society, as a friend, or an enemy, seems to be the principal calling and occupation of his nature. If he must labour, that he may subsist, he can subsist for no better pur∣pose than the good of mankind; nor can he have better talents than those which qualify him to act with men. Here, indeed, the understanding ap∣pears to borrow very much from the passions; and there is a felicity of conduct in human affairs, in which it is difficult to distinguish the promptitude of the head from the ardour and sensibility of the heart. Where both are united, they constitute that superiority of mind, the frequency of which among men, in particular ages and nations, much more than the progress they have made in specu∣lation, or in the practice of mechanic and liberal arts, should determine the rate of their genius, and assign the palm of distinction and honour.

WHEN nations succeed one another in the ca∣reer of discoveries and inquiries, the last is always the most knowing. Systems of science are gra∣dually formed. The globe itself is traversed by degrees, and the history of every age, when past, is an accession of knowledge to those who succeed. The Romans were more knowing than the Greeks; and every scholar of modern Europe is, in this sense, more learned than the most accomplished person that ever bore either of those celebrated names. But is he on that account their supe∣rior?

Page  43 MEN are to be estimated, not from what they know, but from what they are able to perform; from their skill in adapting materials to the seve∣ral purposes of life; from their vigour and con∣duct in pursuing the objects of policy, and in finding the expedients of war and national de∣fence. Even in literature, they are to be esti∣mated from the works of their genius, not from the extent of their knowledge. The scene of mere observation was extremely limited in a Grecian republic; and the bustle of an active life appeared inconsistent with study: but there the human mind, notwithstanding, collected its greatest abi∣lities, and received its best informations, in the midst of sweat and of dust.

IT is peculiar to modern Europe, to rest so much of the human character on what may be learned in retirement, and from the information of books. A just admiration of ancient literature, an opinion that human sentiment, and human rea∣son, without this aid, were to have vanished from the societies of men, have led us into the shade, where we endeavour to derive from imagination and thought, what is in reality matter of experience and sentiment: and we endeavour, through the grammar of dead languages, and the channel of commentators, to arrive at the beauties of thought and elocution, which sprang from the animated spirit of society, and were taken from the living impressions of an active life. Our attainments are frequently limited to the elements of every sci∣ence, and seldom reach to that enlargement of ability and power which useful knowledge should give. Like mathematicians, who study the Ele∣ments Page  44 of Euclid, but never think of mensuration, we read of societies, but do not propose to act with men: we repeat the language of politics, but feel not the spirit of nations: we attend to the formalities of a military discipline, but know not how to employ numbers of men to obtain any purpose by stratagem or force.

BUT for what end, it may be said, is it to point out a misfortune that cannot be remedied? If nati∣onal affairs called for exertion, the genius of men would awake; but in the recess of better em∣ployment, the time which is bestowed on study, if even attended with no other advantage, serves to occupy with innocence the hours of leisure, and set bounds to the pursuit of ruinous and frivolous amusements. From no better reason than this, we employ so many of our early years, under the rod, to acquire what it is not expected we should retain beyond the threshold of the school; and whilst we carry the same frivolous character in our studies that we do in our amusements, the human mind could not suffer more from a con∣tempt of letters, than it does from the false im∣portance which is given to literature, as a busi∣ness for life, not as a help to our conduct, and the means of forming a character that may be happy in itself, and useful to mankind.

IF that time which is passed in relaxing the powers of the mind, and in with-holding every object but what tends to weaken and to corrupt, were employed in fortifying those powers, and in teaching the mind to recognise its objects, and its strength, we should not, at the years of maturity, Page  45 be so much at a loss for occupation; nor, in at∣tending the chances of a gaming-table, misem∣ploy our talents, or waste the fire which remains in the breast. They, at least, who by their stations have a share in the government of their country, might believe themselves capable of business; and while the state had its armies and councils, might find objects enough to amuse, without throwing a personal fortune into hazard, merely to cure the yawnings of a listless and in∣significant life. It is impossible for ever to main∣tain the tone of speculation; it is impossible not sometimes to feel that we live among men.

Page  46


Of Moral Sentiment.

UPON a slight observation of what passes in human life, we should be apt to conclude, that the care of subsistence is the principal spring of human actions. This consideration leads to the invention and practice of mechanical arts; it serves to distinguish amusement from business; and, with many, scarcely admits into competition any other subject of pursuit or attention. The mighty ad∣vantages of property and fortune, when stript of the recommendations they derive from vanity, or the more serious regards to independence and pow∣er, only mean a provision that is made for animal enjoyment; and if our solicitude on this subject were removed, not only the toils of the mechanic, but the studies of the learned, would cease; every department of public business would become unne∣cessary; every senate-house would be shut up, and every palace deserted.

IS man therefore, in respect to his object, to be classed with the mere brutes, and only to be di∣stinguished by faculties that qualify him to multi∣ply contrivances for the support and convenience of animal life, and by the extent of a fancy that ren∣ders the care of animal preservation to him more burdensome than it is to the herd with which he shares in the bounty of nature? If this were his case, the joy which attends on success, or the griefs which arise from disappointment, would make the sum of his passions. The torrent that wasted, or Page  47 the inundation that enriched his possessions, would give him all the emotion with which he is seized, on the occasion of a wrong by which his fortunes are impaired, or of a benefit by which they are preserved and enlarged. His fellow-creatures would be considered merely as they affected his interest. Profit or loss would serve to mark the event of every transaction; and the epithets useful or detrimental would serve to distinguish his mates in society, as they do the tree which bears plenty of fruit, from that which serves only to cumber the ground, or intercept his view.

THIS, however, is not the history of our spe∣cies. What comes from a fellow-creature is re∣ceived with peculiar attention; and every lan∣guage abounds with terms that express somewhat in the transactions of men, different from success and disappointment. The bosom kindles in com∣pany, while the point of interest in view has no∣thing to inflame; and a matter frivolous in itself, becomes important, when it serves to bring to light the intentions and characters of men. The so∣reigner, who believed that Othello, on the stage, was enraged for the loss of his handkerchief, was not more mistaken, than the reasoner who im∣putes any of the more vehement passions of men to the impressions of mere profit or loss.

MEN assemble to deliberate on business; they separate from jealousies of interest; but in their several collisions, whether as friends or as enemies, a fire is struck out which the regards to interest or safety cannot confine. The value of a favour is not measured when sentiments of kindness are perceiv∣ed; Page  48 and the term misfortune has but a feeble mean∣ing, when compared to that of insult and wrong.

AS actors or spectators, we are perpetually made to feel the difference of human conduct, and from a bare recital of transactions which have passed in ages and countries remote from our own, are moved with admiration and pity, or transported with indignation and rage. Our sensibility on this subject gives their charm, in retirement, to the re∣lations of history, and to the fictions of poetry; sends forth the tear of compassion, gives to the blood its briskest movement, and to the eye its live∣liest glances of displeasure or joy. It turns human life into an interesting spectacle, and perpetually solicits even the indolent to mix, as opponents or friends, in the scenes which are acted before them. Joined to the powers of deliberation and reason, it constitutes the basis of a moral nature; and whilst it dictates the terms of praise and of blame, serves to class our fellow-creatures by the most admirable and engaging, or the most odious and contemp∣tible, denominations.

IT is pleasant to find men, who, in their specu∣lations, deny the reality of moral distinctions, for∣get in detail the general positions they maintain, and give loose to ridicule, indignation, and scorn, as if any of these sentiments could have place, were the actions of men indifferent; and with acrimo∣ny pretend to detect the fraud by which moral re∣straints have been imposed, as if to censure a fraud were not already to take a part on the side of mo∣rality*.

Page  49 CAN we explain the principles upon which mankind adjudge the preference of characters, and upon which they indulge such vehement emotions of admiration or contempt? If it be admitted that we cannot, are the facts less true? or must we sus∣pend the movements of the heart until they who are employed in framing systems of science have discovered the principle from which those movements proceed? If a finger burn, we care not for information on the properties of fire: if the heart be torn, or the mind overjoyed, we have not leisure for speculations on the subject of moral sen∣sibility.

IT is fortunate in this, as in other articles to which speculation and theory are applied, that na∣ture proceeds in her course, whilst the curious are busied in the search of her principles. The pea∣sant, or the child, can reason, and judge, and speak his language, with a discernment, a consistency, and a regard to analogy, which perplex the logi∣cian, the moralist, and the grammarian, when they would find the principle upon which the proceed∣ing is founded, or when they would bring to ge∣neral rules, what is so familiar, and so well sustain∣ed in particular cases. The felicity of our conduct is more owing to the talent we possess for detail, and to the suggestion of particular occasions, than it is to any direction we can find in theory and ge∣neral speculations.

WE must, in the result of every inquiry, en∣counter with facts which we cannot explain; and to bear with this mortification would save us fre∣quently a great deal of fruitless trouble. Together Page  50 with the sense of our existence, we must admit many circumstances which come to our knowledge at the same time, and in the same manner; and which do, in reality, constitute the mode of our being. Every peasant will tell us, that a man hath his rights; and that to trespass on those rights is injustice. If we ask him farther, what he means by the term right? we probably force him to sub∣stitute a less significant, or less proper term, in the place of this; or require him to account for what is an original mode of his mind, and a sen∣timent to which he ultimately refers, when he would explain himself upon any particular application of his language.

THE rights of individuals may relate to a va∣riety of subjects, and be comprehended under dif∣ferent heads. Prior to the establishment of pro∣perty, and the distinction of ranks, men have a right to defend their persons, and to act with free∣dom; they have a right to maintain the apprehen∣sions of reason, and the feelings of the heart; and they cannot for a moment converse with one an∣other, without feeling that the part they maintain may be just or unjust. It is not, however, our bu∣siness here to carry the notion of a right into its several applications, but to reason on the sentiment of favour with which that notion is entertained in the mind.

IF it be true, that men are united by instinct, that they act in society from affections of kind∣ness and friendship; if it be true, that even prior to acquaintance and habitude, men, as such, are commonly to one another objects of attention, and some degree of regard; that while their prosperi∣ty Page  51 is beheld with indifference, their afflictions are considered with commiseration; if calamities be measured by the numbers and the qualities of men they involve; and if every suffering of a fellow∣creature draws a croud of attentive spectators; if even in the case of those to whom we do not habitu∣ally wish any positive good, we are still averse to be the instruments of harm; it should seem, that in these various appearances of an amicable dispo∣sition, the foundations of a moral apprehension are sufficiently laid, and the sense of a right which we maintain for ourselves, is by a movement of hu∣manity and candour extended to our fellow-crea∣tures.

WHAT is it that prompts the tongue when we censure an act of cruelty or oppression? What is it that constitutes our restraint from offences that tend to distress our fellow-creatures? It is probably, in both cases, a particular application of that prin∣ciple, which, in presence of the sorrowful, sends forth the tear of compassion; and a combination of all those sentiments, which constitute a benevolent disposition; and if not a resolution to do good, at least an aversion to be the instrument of harm*.

Page  52 IT may be difficult, however, to enumerate the motives of all the censures and commendations which are applied to the actions of men. Even while we moralize, every disposition of the hu∣man mind may have its share in forming the judge∣ment, and in prompting the tongue. As jealousy is often the most watchful guardian of chastity, so malice is often the quickest to spy the failings of our neighbour. Envy, affectation, and vanity, may dictate the verdicts we give, and the worst prin∣ciples of our nature may be at the bottom of our pretended zeal for morality; but if we only mean to inquire, why they who are well disposed to man∣kind, apprehend, in every instance, certain rights pertaining to their fellow-creatures, and why they applaud the consideration that is paid to those rights, we cannot perhaps assign a better reason, than that the person who applauds, is well dispo∣sed to the welfare of the parties to whom his ap∣plauses refer.

Page  53 WHEN we consider, that the reality of any amicable propensity in the human mind has been frequently contested; when we recollect the pre∣valence of interested competitions, with their at∣tendant passions of jealousy, envy, and malice; it may seem strange to alledge, that love and com∣passion are the most powerful principles in the hu∣man breast: but they are destined, on many oc∣casions, to urge with the most irresistible vehe∣mence; and if the desire of self-preservation be more constant, and more uniform, these are a more plentiful source of enthusiasm, satisfaction, and joy. With a power, not inferior to that of resent∣ment and rage, they hurry the mind into every sacrifice of interest, and bear it undismayed through every hardship and danger.

THE disposition on which friendship is grafted, glows with satisfaction in the hours of tranquillity, and is pleasant, not only in its triumphs, but even in its sorrows. It throws a grace on the external air, and, by its expression on the countenance, com∣pensates for the want of beauty, or gives a charm which no complexion or features can equal. From this source the scenes of human life derive their principal felicity; and their imitations in poetry, their principal ornament. Descriptions of nature, even representations of a vigorous conduct, and a manly courage, do not engage the heart, if they be not mixed with the exhibition of generous sen∣timents, and the pathetic, which is found to arise in the struggles, the triumphs, or the misfortunes of a tender affection. The death of Polites, in the Aeneid, is not more affecting than that of many others who perished in the ruins of Troy; Page  54 but the aged Priam was present when this last of his sons was slain; and the agonies of grief and sorrow force the parent from his retreat, to fall by the hand that shed the blood of his child. The pathetic of Homer consists in exhibiting the force of affections, not in exciting mere terror and pity; passions he has never perhaps, in any instance, at∣tempted to raise.

WITH this tendency to kindle into enthusiasm, with this command over the heart, with the plea∣sure that attends its emotions, and with all its effects in meriting confidence, and procuring e∣steem, it is not surprising, that a principle of hu∣manity should give the tone to our commendati∣ons and our censures, and even where it is hinder∣ed from directing our conduct, should still give to the mind, on reflection, its knowledge of what is desirable in the human character, What hast thou done with thy brother Abel? was the first expostu∣lation in behalf of morality; and if the first an∣swer has been often repeated, mankind have not∣withstanding, in one sense, sufficiently acknow∣ledged the charge of their nature. They have felt, they have talked, and even acted, as the keepers of their fellow-creatures: They have made the in∣dications of candour and mutual affection the test of what is meritorious and amiable in the charac∣ters of men: They have made cruelty and op∣pression the principal objects of their indignation and rage: Even while the head is occupied with projects of interest, the heart is often seduced into friendship; and while business proceeds on the maxims of self-preservation, the careless hour is employed in generosity and kindness.

Page  55 HENCE the rule by which men commonly judge of external actions, is taken from the supposed in∣fluence of such actions on the general good. To abstain from harm, is the great law of natural ju∣stice; to diffuse happiness is the law of morality; and when we censure the conferring a favour on one or a few at the expence of many, we refer to public utility, as the great object at which the ac∣tions of men should be aimed.

AFTER all, it must be confessed, that if a principle of affection to mankind, be the basis of our moral approbation and dislike, we sometimes proceed in distributing applause or censure, with∣out precisely attending to the degree in which our fellow-creatures are hurt or obliged; and that be∣sides the virtues of candour, friendship, generosity, and public spirit, which bear an immediate re∣ference to this principle, there are others which may seem to derive their commendation from a different source. Temperance, prudence, fortitude, are those qualities likewise admired from a prin∣ciple of regard to our fellow-creatures? Why not, since they render men happy in themselves, and useful to others? He who is qualified to promote the welfare of mankind, is neither a sot, a fool, nor a coward. Can it be more clearly expressed, that temperance, prudence, and fortitude, are necessary to the character we love and admire? I know well why I should wish for them in myself; and why likewise I should wish for them in my friend, and in every person who is an object of my affection. But to what purpose seek for reasons of approba∣tion, where qualities are so necessary to our happi∣ness, and so great a part in the perfection of our Page  56 nature? We must cease to esteem ourselves, and to distinguish what is excellent, when such quali∣fications incur our neglect.

A PERSON of an affectionate mind, possessed of a maxim, That he himself, as an individual, is no more than a part of the whole that demands his regard, has found, in that principle, a sufficient foundation for all the virtues; for a contempt of animal pleasures, that would supplant his princi∣pal enjoyment; for an equal contempt of danger or pain, that come to stop his pursuits of public good.

A vehement and steady affection mag∣nifies its object, and lessens every difficulty or danger that stands in the way.

Ask those who have been in love,

says Epictetus,

they will know that I speak truth.

I HAVE before me,

says another eminent moralist*,

an idea of justice, which if I could follow in every instance, I should think myself the most happy of men.

And it is, perhaps, of consequence to their happiness, as well as to their conduct, if those can be disjoined, that men should have this idea properly formed: It is per∣haps but another name for that good of mankind, which the virtuous are engaged to promote. If vir∣tue be the supreme good, its best and most signal effect is to communicate and diffuse itself.

TO love, and even to hate, on the apprehension of moral qualities, to espouse one party from a sense of justice, to oppose another with indignation Page  57 excited by iniquity, are the common indications of probity, and the operations of an animated, up∣right, and generous spirit. To guard against un∣just partialities, and ill-grounded antipathies; to maintain that composure of mind, which, without impairing its sensibility or ardour, proceeds in every instance with discernment and penetration, are the marks of a vigorous and cultivated spirit. To be able to follow the dictates of such a Spirit through all the varieties of human life, and with a mind always master of itself, in prosperity or adversity, and possessed of all its abilities, when the subjects in hazard are life, or freedom, as much as in treat∣ing simple questions of interest, are the triumphs of magnanimity, and true elevation of mind.

The event of the day is decided. Draw this javelin from my body now,

said Epaminondas,

and let me bleed.

IN what situation, or by what instruction, is this wonderful character to be formed? Is it found in the nurseries of affectation, pertness, and vani∣ty, from which fashion is propagated, and the genteel is announced? in great and opulent cities, where men view with one another in equipage, dress, and the reputation of fortune? Is it within the ad∣mired precincts of a court, where we may learn to smile without being pleased, to caress without af∣fection, to wound with the secret weapons of envy and jealousy, and to rest our personal importance on circumstances which we cannot always with ho∣nour command? No: but in a situation where the great sentiments of the heart are awakened; where the characters of men, not their situations and for∣tunes, are the principal distinction; where the anx∣ieties of interest, or vanity, perish in the blaze of Page  58 more vigorous emotions; and where the human soul, having felt and recognised its objects, like an animal who has tasted the blood of his prey, can∣not descend to pursuits that leave its talents and its force unemployed.

PROPER occasions alone operating on a raised and a happy disposition, may produce this admir∣able effect, whilst mere instruction may always find mankind at a loss to comprehend its meaning, or insensible to its dictates. The case however, is not desperate, till we have formed our system of politics, as well as manners; till we have sold our freedom for titles, equipage, and distinctions; till we see no merit but prosperity and power, no dis∣grace but poverty and neglect. What charm of instruction can cure the mind that is tainted with this disorder? What syren voice can awaken a desire of freedom, that is held to be meanness, and a want of ambition? or what persuasion can turn the grimace of politeness into real sentiments of humanity and candour?

Page  59


Of Happiness.

HAVING had under our consideration the active powers and the moral qualities which distinguish the nature of man, is it still necessary that we should treat of his happiness apart? This significant term, the most frequent, and the most familiar, in our conversation, is, perhaps, on re∣flection, the least understood. It serves to express our satisfaction, when any desire is gratified: It is pronounced with a sigh, when our object is distant: It means what we wish to obtain, and what we sel∣dom stay to examine. We estimate the value of every subject by its utility, and its influence on happiness; but we think that utility itself, and hap∣piness, require no explanation.

Defining "Civil Society" 

The term civil society has a range of meanings in contemporary usage. It is sometimes considered to include the family and the private sphere, and referred to as the "third sector" of society, distinct from government and business.

The term civil society was used by writers such as Locke and Rousseau to describe civil government as differentiated from natural society or the state of nature. 

The Marxist concept derives from Hegel. In Hegel civil or bourgeoise society as the realm of individuals who have left the unity of the family to enter into economic competition is contrasted with the state or political society. Marx uses the concept of civil society in his critique of Hegel. It is used as a yardstick of the change from feudal to bourgeoisie society. Civil society arose, Marx insists from the destruction of medieval society. Previously individuals were part of many different societies such as guilds or estates each of which had a political role so that there was no separate civil realm. As these partial societies broke down, civil society arose in which the individual became all important. The old bonds of privilege were replaced by the selfish needs of atomistic individuals separated from each other and from the community.

Contemplorary Civil societies: A pluralistic  

Civil society is not a colourless or odourless gas. Civil society is not an abstract academic concept   anymore. Civil societies have colours and cultures, contexts and contours,   gender and grounds, and politics and passion.

Civil society is plural. The theory and practice of civil society is plural in concept, genealogy,  history, form, locations, content and politics. Its validity is partly   due to this plurality at its conceptual core and the sheer diversity   in its praxis. There is no single theory of civil society. And no single   politics of civil society. This fluidity and fuzziness of the term is,   paradoxically, what makes it significant.

Civil society signifies diverse arenas and spaces of contested power relations. So the contradictions   and contestations of power, culture and economy are reflected in the civil society discourse of a particular country or political context.   Civil society has now become an arena of praxis wherein theory is continually   negotiated and re-negotiated based on the evolving practice in multiple   social, economic and cultural contexts.

The idea of civil society is used for political subversion, political reform as well as political transformation. Proponents of various ideological streams from conservatism   to neo-liberalism and from liberal reformists to radical socialists   have been using the idea and practice of civil society to legitimise   their respective political projects and programmes.

This dynamism, pluralism and  diversity to a large extent shape the emerging civil society discourse   across the world. In South Asia, civil society may reflect the feudal and post-colonial tendencies within its own power spaces. In many countries of Africa, community differentiations based on tribal identities may   influence and shape civil society discourse as well.

How civil society has changed the world

If we consider civil society   discourse as a pluralist network of citizens and associational spaces   for social and political action, then one can begin to appreciate the   contribution of such discourse in shaping and influencing the politics   and policy processes in many countries and the world.

There are five specific areas   where civil society discourse and initiatives have made very important   political and social contributions. 

These are: 

a)  women’s rights 

b) ecological justice and environment protection 

c) human rights of ethnic,religious, race, and sexual minorities 

d) movements for citizens’   participation and accountable governance and e) resistance and protest  against unjust economic globalisation and unilateral militarisation.   

In fact, even in these specific areas there is a multiplicity of civil   society discourse.

However, over the last 30 years,   if women’s rights and green politics are at the centre of all political   and policy discourse, it is indeed due to the consistent mobilisation   and advocacy by thousands of organisations and millions of people across   the world. On February 15, 2003, more than 11 million people across   the world marched against the war in Iraq and unilateral militarisation.   In fact, the unprecedented, coordinated global mobilisation happened   on the same day largely due to digital mobilisation and partly due to   the rather spontaneous coordination among social movements and civil   society actors who met during the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre   in January 2003.

In India too, in the last 25 years, most of the innovative policy framework and legislation happened   due to consistent campaigning and advocacy by civil society organisations.   It is the people-centred advocacy, campaigning and mobilisation by hundreds of civil society organisations in India that prompted the Indian government   to enact the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Right to Education, the new Act to stop domestic violence,   and the one aimed at protecting the land rights of tribal communities.   It is due to the efforts of women’s rights organisations and civil   society initiatives that women’s political participation and 33% reservation   for women in Parliament are at the centre of political discourse in   India.

In many countries of Asia and   Africa, civil society activism has become a countervailing political   force against authoritarian governments. It has also sought to challenge   unjust economic globalisation. This was evident in the citizens’ and   civil society struggle against monarchy in Nepal and authoritarian regimes   in many parts of the world. In many countries of Latin America, civil   society became the common ground for diverse interest groups and political   formations to act together to challenge authoritarian regimes. In fact, civil society played a key role in shaping the political process in Brazil, where social movements, progressive NGOs, progressive factions   of the church, trade unions and public intellectuals came together for   political and policy transformation. The World Social Forum process   originated in Brazil partly due to these historical and political conditions,   and it helped the transformation of state power in Brazil.

With the advent of the Internet,  digital mobilisation and relatively cheap air travel there is an increasing   interconnectedness between civil society initiatives and movements across   the world. The unprecedented mobilisation and campaigns against the   unjust WTO regime and for trade justice and fair trade demonstrated   the power of citizens’ action and mobilisation beyond the state and   market. The diverse range of mobilisation against the World Trade Organisation   in Seattle, Cancun, and Hong Kong influenced the political and policy   choices of many countries and the G20 process. The Jubilee campaign   for cancelling the unjust debt of poor countries attracted the support   of millions of people both in rich and poor countries and in remote   villages and megacities. The successful campaign against landmines proved   to be another example of civil society mobilisation and action across   the world. The World Social Forum emerged as an open space and platform   for the exchange of ideas, coordination of action, and collective envisioning   beyond narrow ideological and political divides. The emergence of a   global justice solidarity movement influenced the political process   in many countries in many ways.

A time for change:   Civil society and 

international relations

In the last 15 years, there   has been a resurgence of political consciousness in civil society. A   whole range of new associations, citizens’ formations, new social   movements, knowledge-action networks and policy advocacy groups have   emerged at the national and international level. 

This was partly due to the shift in international politics in the aftermath of the Cold War and   a consequent shift in the aid-architecture, with a stress on local ownership   in the development process. The new stress on human rights in the aftermath   of the Vienna Human Rights Summit, in 1993, gave new spaces and international   legitimacy to new human rights movements, integrating civil, political,   economic, social and cultural rights. A series of United Nations conferences,   starting with the Rio Summit in 1992, created an enabling global space   for civil society processes and organisations. The Beijing Summit in   1995 on women’s rights, the Copenhagen Summit on social development   in 1996, and the Durban Summit on racism provided a global platform   for civil society movements to advance a new discourse on politics and   public policy. The exchange of knowledge, linkages and resources began   to create a new synergy between countries and communities in the South   as well as in the North. In fact, the United Nations became a key mediating   ground between civil society and various governments.

Such a mediating role between   civil society and state provided a new legitimacy and role for the United   Nations. The new stress on human development, human rights and global   poverty created a legitimate space for global action and campaigns for   civil society. New technological and financial resources helped international   networking and a new trend of globalisation from below. As the new hegemony   of power politics driven by unilateral militarism, conservative politics   and a neoliberal policy paradigm began to dominate the world, the new   social movements and consequent civil society process became the arena   for a new politics of protest and resistance against unjust globalisation.   Such a new civil society process was driven by communities, communications   and creativity. New modes of communication, networking, campaigning   and mobilisation made civil society discourse one of the most influential   political and policy discourses in the 21st century.

There is a significant difference between the civil society discourse of the 1980s, 1990s and that of the last 10 years. Unless we understand and appreciate the multiple   political shifts at the national and international levels, it might   be difficult to understand the consequent shifts in the practice and   theory of civil society. In the 1980s, civil society was more of a conceptual   tool to legitimise and organise the protest movement against authoritarian   governments in Latin America and Central Europe. In the 1990s, the term   ‘civil society’ became an instrument of policy and politics at the   international level, supported by both aid and trade. And in the last   10 years, the idea of civil society has been increasingly contextualised   to become a plural arena of political praxis for transformative politics   in multiple contexts. The old civil society discourse was submerged   in new movements for radical democratisation, feminist politics, and   ecological, social and economic justice. It is the new emerging discourse   on civil society that seeks to address the issue of democratic deficit,   and crisis of governance.

So it is important to reclaim   civil societies -->> as plural and diverse spaces for collective human   action -- as an arena for transformative politics. The reclaiming of   civil societies would mean a reassertion of the dignity, sovereignty   and human rights of all peoples. 

  • The ethics and politics of the idea   of civil society need to be reclaimed to humanise the state, market   and the political process. 
  • There is the need to reclaim a new political   consciousness driven by freedom -- freedom from fear and freedom from   want; freedom of association and freedom of beliefs
  • The idea of civil   society needs to be reinforced by new civil values and virtues: the values of equality and justice; values that would help us fight all  kinds of injustice and discrimination -- based on gender, race, caste or creed. 
  • Civil society can be transformative when it combines the politics of protest and the politics of proposal. Civil society will become an arena that can help combine the politics of people and the politics of knowledge. 
  • Civil society becomes a transformative space when it can   help to create the politics of dissent, politics of association and   citizens’ action against monopoly of power and spaces for counter-discourse   and counter-hegemony.

State of Civil Society in India 

Civil society in India seems defined by exclusion. It is crowded with human rights lawyers and activists, NGO leaders, academics and intellectuals, high-profile journalists, celebrities and think tank-hirelings. Mass media debates never see landless labourers, displaced people, nurses, trade union workers, bus conductors being asked to speak for ‘civil society.' Though, indeed they should.

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