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The Scientific Outlook, Part 9 – Two Examples of Scientifically Created Artificial Societies: Japan and Soviet Russia

Two Examples of Scientifically Created: Japan and Soviet Russia

Originally posted August 24, 2008


“No sharp line can be drawn between scientific technique and traditional arts and crafts. The essential characteristic of scientific technique is the utilization of natural forces in ways not evident to the totally uninstructed.” – Bertrand Russell, 1931 (p137)

From The Scientific Outlook:

[Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“As we approach modern times, the changes deliberately brought about in social structure become greater. This is especially the case where revolutions are concerned. The American Revolution and the French Revolution deliberately created certain societies with certain characteristics, but in the main these characteristics were political, and their effects in other directions formed no part of the primary intentions of the revolutionaries. But scientific technique has so enormously increased the power of governments that it has now become possible to produce much more profound and intimate changes in social structure than any that were contemplated by Jefferson or Robespierre. Science first taught us to create machines; it is now teaching us by Mendelian breeding and experimental embryology to create new plants and animals. There can be little doubt that similar methods will before long give us power, within wide limits, to create new human individuals differing in predetermined ways from the individuals produced by unaided nature. And by means of psychological and economic technique it is becoming possible to create societies as artificial as the steam engine, and as different from anything that would grow up of its own accord without deliberate intention on the part of human agents.

Such artificial societies will, of course, until social science is much more perfected than it is at present, have many unintended characteristics, even if their creators succeed in giving them all the characteristics that were intended. The unintended characteristics may easily prove more important than those that were foreseen, and may cause the artificially constructed societies to break down in one way or another. But I do not think it is open to doubt that the artificial creation of societies will continue and increase so long as scientific technique persists. The pleasure in planned construction is one of the most powerful motives in men who combine intelligence with energy; whatever can be constructed according to a plan, such men will endeavour to construct. So long as the technique for creating a new type of society exists there will be men seeking to employ this technique. They are likely to suppose themselves actuated by some idealistic motive, and it is possible that such motives may play a part in determining what sort of society they shall aim at creating. But the desire to create is not itself idealistic, since it is a form of the love of power, and while the power to create exists there will be men desirous of using this power even if unaided nature would produce a better result than any that can be brought about by deliberate intention.” – 204

“There are in the world at the present time two Powers which illustrate the possibility of artificial creation. The two Powers in question are Japan and Soviet Russia.” – 206

Japan

“Modern Japan [1930] is almost exactly what it was intended to be by the men who made the revolution in 1867. This is one of the most remarkable political achievements in all history, in spite of the fact that the purpose which inspired the innovators was simple and such as every Japanese might be expected to sympathize with. The purpose was, in fact, nothing more recondite than the preservation of national independence. China had been found impotent to resist the Western Powers, and Japan appeared to be in like case. Certain Japanese statesman perceived that the military and naval power of the Western nations rested upon Western education and Western industrial technique. They decided to introduce both, with such modifications as Japanese history and circumstances demanded. But whereas industrialism had grown up in the West with very little assistance from the State, and scientific knowledge had developed very far before the Western Governments undertook the task of universal education, Japan, being pressed for time, was obliged to impose education and science and industrialism by governmental pressure.

It was clearly impossible to effect so great a change in the mentality of the average citizen by mere appeals to reason and self-interest. The reformers, therefore, skilfully enlisted the divine person of the Mikado and the divine authority of the Shinto religion on the side of modern science. The Mikado had been for centuries obscure and unimportant, but he had already been restored to power once before in the year A.D. 645, so that there was a precedent of respectable antiquity for what was being done. The Shinto religion, unlike Buddhism, was indigenous to Japan, but had been for ages thrust into the background by the foreign religion imported from China and Korea. The reformers very wisely decided that in introducing Christian military technique they would not attempt to introduce the theology with which it had hitherto been correlated, but would have a nationalistic theology of their own, Shinto, as now taught by the State in Japan, is a powerful weapon of nationalism; its gods are Japanese, and its cosmogony teaches that Japan was created sooner than other countries. The Mikado is descended from the Sun Goddess, and is therefore superior to the mere earthly rulers of other States. Shinto, as now taught, is so different from the old indigenous beliefs that competent students have described it as a new religion. As a result of this skilful combination of enlightened technique with unenlightened theology, the Japanese have succeeded not merely in repelling the Western menace, but in becoming one of the Great Powers and achieving the third place on the sea.

Japan has shown extraordinary sagacity in the adaptation of science to political needs. Science as an intellectual force is sceptical and somewhat destructive of social coherence, while as a technical force it has precisely the opposite qualities. The technical developments due to science have increased the size and intensity of organizations, and have more particularly greatly augmented the power of Governments. Governments have, therefore, good reason to be friendly to science, so long as it can be kept from dangerous and subversive speculations. In the main the men of science have shown themselves amenable. The State favours one set of superstitions in Japan, and another in the West, but the scientists both in Japan and of the West have, with some exceptions, been willing to acquiesce in governmental doctrines, because most of them are citizens first, and servants of truth only in the second place.

In spite of the extraordinary success of Japanese policy, there are certain unintended effects which are likely in time to cause serious difficulties. The sudden change of habits and of conscious opinions has induced a certain nervous strain, at any rate in the urban part of the population. This may produce a tendency to hysteria in time of national stress; indeed, such a tendency was shown in the massacres of Koreans that occurred after the earthquake of Tokio. What is more serious, the position of Japan demands the growth of both industrialism and armaments. Owing to the expense of the latter the industrial workers are poor; they tend, consequently, to acquire a rebellious mentality, and the circumstances of their work make it difficult for them to preserve that close family organization upon which Japanese society is built. If Japan should become engaged in an unsuccessful war, these stances might produce a revolution analogous to the Russian Revolution. The present social structure in Japan is likely therefore in time to become unstable, but it may be that the same skill which has rendered possible the triumphant career of Japan throughout the last seventy years will enable the Japanese to adapt themselves to changing circumstances gradually without any violent upheaval. The one thing that seems fairly certain is that, whether gradually or by revolution, the social structure in Japan will have to be profoundly modified. Remarkable as it is, therefore, it is not a perfect example of scientific construction. I do not mean by this that it could have been bettered at the time, but only that it is not in all respects a model for the future.” – 206

Soviet Russia

“The attempt at scientific construction which is being made by the Soviet Government is more ambitious than that which was carried through by the Japanese innovators in 1867; it aims at a much greater change in social institutions, and at the creation of a society far more different from anything previously known than is that of Japan. The experiment is still in progress, and only a rash man would venture to predict whether it will succeed or fail; the attitude both of friends and enemies towards it has been singularly unscientific. For my part, I am not anxious to appraise the good or evil in the Soviet system, but merely to point out those elements of deliberate planning which make it so far the most complete example of a scientific society. In the first place, all the major factors of production and distribution are controlled by the State; in the second place, all education is designed to stimulate activity in support of the official experiment; in the third place, the State does what it can to substitute its religion for the various traditional beliefs which have existed within the territory of the U.S.S.R.; in the forth place, literature and the Press are controlled by the Government, and are such as are thought likely to help it in its constructive purposes; in the fifth place, the family, in so far as it represents a loyalty which competes with loyalty to the State, is being gradually weakened; in the sixth place, the Five Year Plan is bending the whole constructive energies of the nation to the realization of a certain economic balance and productive efficiency, by means of which it is hoped that a sufficient degree of material comfort will be secured for everyone. In every other society of the world there is enormously less central direction than under the Soviet Government. It is true that during the war the energies of the nations were, to a considerable extent, centrally organized, but everyone knew that this was temporary, and even at its height the organization was not so all-pervasive as it is in Russia. The Five Year Plan, as its name implies, is supposed to be temporary, and to belong to a time of stress not wholly unlike that of the Great War, but it is to be expected that if it succeeds, other plans will take its place, since the central organization of the vast nation’s activities is too attractive to the organizers to be abandoned readily.

The Russian experiment may succeed or may fail, but even if it fails, it will be followed by others which will share its most interesting characteristic, namely, the unitary direction of a whole nation’s activities. This was impossible in earlier days, since it depends upon the technique of propaganda, i.e., upon universal education, newspapers, the cinema, and the wireless. The State had already been strengthened by railways and the telegraph, which made possible the rapid transmission of news and concentration of troops. In addition to modern methods of propaganda, modern methods of warfare have strengthened the State as against discontented elements; aeroplanes and poison gasses have made revolt difficult unless it obtains the support of aeronauts and chemists. Any prudent Government will favour these two classes and take pains to secure their loyalty. As the example of Russia has shown, it is now possible for men of energy and intelligence, if they once become possessed of the governmental machine, to retain power even though at first they may have to face the opposition of the majority of the population. We must therefore increasingly expect to see government falling into the hands of oligarchies, not of birth but of opinion. In countries long accustomed to democracy, the empire of these oligarchies may be concealed behind democratic forms, as was that of Augustus in Rome, but elsewhere their rule will be undisguised. If there is to be scientific experimentation in the construction of new kinds of societies, the rule of an oligarchy of opinion is essential. It may be expected that there will be conflicts between different oligarchies, but that ultimately some one oligarchy will acquire world dominion, and will produce a world-wide organization as complete and elaborate as that now existing in the U.S.S.R.” – 209

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The Scientific Outlook, Part 8 – Free Trade and Labor in a Scientific Society

Free Trade and Labor in a Scientific Society

Originally posted August 17, 2008


“In the old days it was expected that about half the children in a family would die before they grew up; this involved pain, illness, and sorrow to the mother, often great suffering to the children, and a waste of natural resources in the care of children who never lived to become productive.” – Bertrand Russell, 1931 (p196)

The Scientific Society and the Enlargement of Organization

From The Scientific Outlook:

[Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“Such a state of affairs will have both merits and demerits; more important than either, however, is the fact that nothing less will enable a society imbued with scientific technique to survive. Scientific technique demands organization, and the more it becomes perfected, the larger are the organizations that it demands. Quite apart from war, the present depression has made it evident that an international organization of credit and banking is necessary to the prosperity not only of some countries, but of all. The international organization of industrial production is being rendered necessary by the efficiency of modern methods. Modern industrial plants can easily supply, in many directions, much more than the total needs of the world. The result of this, which should be wealth, is in fact poverty, owing to competition. In the absence of competition, the immensely enhanced productivity of labour would enable men to arrive at a just compromise between leisure and goods: they could choose whether they would work six hours a day and be rich, or four hours a day and enjoy only moderate comfort. The advantages of world-wide organization, both in preventing the waste of economic competition and in removing the danger of war, are so great as to be becoming an essential condition for the survival of societies possessing scientific technique. This argument is overwhelming in comparison with all counterarguments, and renders almost unimportant the question whether life in an organized world State will be more or less satisfactory than life at the present day. For it is only in the direction of an organized world State that the human race can develop unless it abandons scientific technique, and it will not do this except as the result of a cataclysm so severe as to lower the whole level of civilization.

The advantages to be derived from an organized world State are great and obvious. There will be, in the first place, security against war and a saving of almost the whole effort and expense now devoted to competitive armaments: there will be, one must suppose, a single, highly efficient fighting machine, employing mainly aeroplanes and chemical methods of warfare, which will be quite obviously irresistible, and will therefore not be resisted. The central government may be changed from time to time by a palace revolution, but this will only alter the personnel of the figure-heads, not the essential organization of government. The central government will, of course, forbid the propaganda of nationalism, by means of which at present anarchy is maintained, and will put in its place a propaganda of loyalty to the world State.” – 212

Free Trade

“We have seen that scientific civilization demands world-wide organization if it is to be stable. We have considered the possibility of such an organization in matters of government. We shall now consider it in the economic sphere. At present, production is organized as far as possible nationally be means of tariff walls; every nation tries to produce at home as much as possible of the goods that it consumes. This tendency is on the increase, and even Great Britain, which has hitherto aimed at maximizing its exports by means of Free Trade, appears to be on the point of abandoning this policy in favour of comparative economic isolation.

It is, of course, clear that, from a purely economic point of view, it is wasteful to organize production nationally rather than internationally. It would be an economy if all the motorcars used throughout the world were manufactured in Detroit. That is to say, a car of given excellence could be produced with less expense of human labour in that case than it can at present. In a world scientifically organized most industrial products would be thus localized. There would be one place for making pins and needles, another place for making scissors and knives, another place for making aeroplanes, and yet another for agricultural machinery. When, if ever, the world government that we have considered comes into being, one of its first tasks will be the international organization of production. Production will no longer be left, as at present, to private enterprise, but will be undertaken solely in accordance with government orders. This is already the case with such things as battleships, because in regard to war efficiency is thought to be important; but in most matters production is left to the chaotic impulses of private manufacturers, who make too much of some things and too little of others, with the result that there is poverty in the midst of unused plenty. The industrial plant at present existing in the world is in many directions far in excess of the world’s needs. By eliminating competition and concentrating production in a single concern, all this waste could be avoided.

The control of raw materials is a matter which in any scientific society would be governed by a central authority. At present the important raw materials are controlled by military power. The weak nation possessed of oil soon finds itself under suzerainty of some stronger nation. The Transvaal lost its independence because it contained gold. Raw material ought not to belong to those who, by conquest or diplomacy, have happened to acquire the territory in which they are; they ought to belong to a world authority which would ration them to those who had the most skill in utilizing them. Moreover, our present economic system causes everybody to be wasteful of raw materials, since there is no motive for foresight. In a scientific world the supply of any vital raw material will be carefully estimated, and as the moment of its exhaustion approaches scientific research will be directed to the discovery of a substitute.

Agriculture, for reasons which we considered in an earlier chapter, may have less importance in the future than it has at present, and has had in the past. We shall have not only artificial silk but artificial wool and artificial timber and artificial rubber. In time we may have artificial food. But in the meantime agriculture will become more and more industrialized, both in its methods and in the mentality of those who practise it. American and Canadian agriculturists have already the industrial mentality, not the mentality of the patient peasant. Machinery will, of course, be increasingly employed. In the neighbourhood of large urban markets intensive cultivation with artificial methods of warming the soil will yield many crops every year. Here and there throughout the country-side there will be large power stations forming the nucleus around which the population will cluster. Of agricultural mentality, as it has been known since ancient times, nothing will survive, since the soil and even the climate will be subject to human control.” – 239

Labour in a Scientific Society

“The gain from an economic point of view will be enormous: there will be no waste in competitive production, no uncertainty as to employment, no poverty, no sudden alternations of good and bad times; every man willing to work will be kept in comfort, and every man unwilling to work will be kept in prison. When owing to any circumstances the work upon which a man has hitherto been employed is no longer required, he will be taught some new kind of work, and will be adequately maintained while he is learning his new trade. Economic motives will be employed to regulate population, which will probably be kept stationary. Almost all that is tragic in human life will be eliminated, and even death will seldom come before old age.” – 213

“It may be assumed that every man and woman will be obliged to work, and will be taught a new trade if for any reason work at the old trade is no longer required. The pleasantest work, of course, will be that which gives the most control over the mechanism. The posts giving most power will presumably be awarded to the ablest men as a result of intelligence tests. For entirely inferior work negroes will be employed wherever possible. One may, I suppose, assume that the most desirable kinds of work will be more highly paid than the less desirable kinds, since they require more skill. The society will not be one in which there is equality, although I doubt whether the inequalities will be hereditary except as between different races, i.e., between white and coloured labour. Everybody will be comfortable, and those who occupy the better-paid posts will be able to enjoy considerable luxury. There will not be, as at present, fluctuations of good and bad times, for these are merely the result of our anarchic economic system. Nobody will starve, and nobody will suffer the economic anxieties which at present beset rich and poor alike. On the other hand, life will be destitute of adventure except for the most highly paid experts. Ever since civilization began men have been seeking security more avidly than they have sough anything else. In such a world they will have it, but I am not quite sure whether they will think it worth the price that they will have paid for it.” – 242

“Take again the question of work, both the kind of work and the method of performing it. At present young people choose their own trade or profession, usually because at the moment of their choice it seems to afford a good opening. A well-informed person possessed of foresight might know that the particular line in question was going to be much less profitable a few years hence. In such a case some public guidance to the young might prove extremely useful. And as regards technical methods, it is seldom in the public interest that an antiquated or wasteful technique should be allowed to persist when a more economical technique is known. At present, owning to the irrational character of the capitalist system, the interest of the individual wage-earner is very often opposed to the interest of the community, since economical methods may cause him to lose his job. This is due to the survival of capitalistic principles in a society which has grown so organic that it ought not to tolerate them. It is obvious that in a well-organized community it should be impossible for a large body of individuals to profit by preserving an inefficient technique. It is clear that the use of the most efficient technique should be enforced, and no wage-earner should be allowed to suffer by its enforcement.” – 220