The causes of social revolt - PDF book by Frederick Maxse (1872)

The causes of social revolt 

The causes of social revolt



I propose in this lecture to offer some observations upon the causes which lead to Social Revolt. Last year we witnessed a terrible instance of this in a country which is reputed to be one of the most civilized in the world.

 The only consolation we can derive from so vast a misfortune is to appreciate the lesson it offers. In my opinion, the true lesson of the Paris Revolt has so far been completely misunderstood. As, however, the circumstances which produced, or rather precipitated the Paris insurrection, were exceptional, I shall not confine myself to the consideration of the causes of this particular revolt; but propose to call your attention to those general causes of Social Revolt which are common to all countries that have attained a certain precarious stage of progress, and especially to the shape which they assume in our own country. 

 I venture to think that I am not ill-qualified to offer you some thought upon this subject. Living as I have done from childhood in an upper-class atmosphere, and yet led by the irresistible force of conscientious conviction to espouse — as the cause of human justice — the Democratic cause, I have become the political associate of its supporters, and have thus been continually occupied in listening to both sides. 

The proposition and its refutation, I may say, I have received simultaneously. No sooner has my conscience, warmed by sympathy, acquainted me with a vast human wrong, resulting from a vast human error, than a sincere teacher (I might say tempter) has been at hand, to reprove me for my backsliding, and to demonstrate that everything is for the best, wrongs included. And so I have received ample opportunity for studying the respective frames of mind and temper of the classes developing antagonistic views — for observing how they are influenced and how they are circumstanced — and hence for forming some opinion as to the principal causes which, on the one hand, lead well-meaning and benevolent people to present a merciless aspect — (to consign men to God's mercy when they have none themselves); and on the other, prepare the way for Social Revolt. The Causes of Social Revolt, The Primary Cause. 

The primary cause of social discontent is best disclosed by a simple question: Is the present state of society a satisfactory one? The reply will much depend upon our standard of comparison. If we compare ourselves with an inferior state (as is the custom of supine people) the reply may be " Yes." It is, however, the habit of reformers, in this as in all ages — and it is to them we owe all that we have got good — to test the existing state by a high standard of human welfare. We, therefore, assume, without insisting upon a Utopian ideal, that the majority of human beings (including the majority of little children) should be sufficiently fed, comfortably clothed, decently housed, and generally in a position to appreciate the dignity of human life. Is this the case in our present state of society? 

An honest man can give but one reply to this question. It is certain that the majority of human beings, even though they spend their lives in unremitting toil, have considerable difficulty in securing the means of subsistence for themselves and their families. Will any man who uses his senses dare to deny the extensive misery which prevails among that portion of the population which is 10 The Causes of Social Revolt? huddled up in the great towns; or, that the peasantry in our thinly populated rural districts are among the worst paid, and most joyless in the world? Can such a state of society be deemed satisfactory? 


The minority in this state who are advantageously placed, declare that such is the natural state of society, and inform the majority that their belief in a remedy is the result of ignorance. It is not unnatural that the man who is born in easy circumstances, and solely governed by a personal standard of happiness, who — by the mere process of dipping his hand into an inexhaustible pocket — always commands luxurious residence and repast, whether at home or abroad, as well as unlimited sources of personal excitement and amusement; who has been steeped from infancy in Upper-Class fallacies and prejudices and trained to believe that every man (including each of our 3, 000,000 paupers) ^ is already " in that state of life in which it has pleased God to place him: " it is not unnatural, I say, that such a man should be not less indifferent to projects of reform than he is incredulous of their efficacy.

the book details :
  • Author: Frederick Augustus Maxse
  • Publication date:  (1872)
  • Company: London, Longmans

  • Download 3.6 MB

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