Social Theory

by G. D. H. Cole. New York; Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1920. 12mo, 220 pp. $1.50.
THIS book merits a more distinctive title, to place it at once, for readers who do not know the author, in the group of very modern works which aim to build a scientific substructure of theory under the radical social and economic changes in which all civilized communities are now involved.
Mr. Cole has written an earlier book upon Self-Government in Industry, which is said to be exciting remarkable interest in Japan. That title suggests something of the attitude and thought which the author lias transferred in this later work to a wider field. He attempts to redefine and reanalyze social facts and laws, and to reconstruct social theory on a basis of recent experience. Though he seeks permanent conclusions, the form and emphasis of what he writes are determined by current events and problems. He differs from Continental and Spencerian sociologists and political scientists in subordinating historical and evolutionary explanations of social institutions, and he repudiates entirely the use of biological analogies and fanciful comparisons with physical organisms for interpreting laws of social growth. In place of these methods he tries to explain the existing forms and functions of society by direct observation and analysis, with constantly implied attention to their present pathological aspects.
This is a dry task, but remunerative; because, without being warped to suit a pet theory of reform, it affords practical tests for detecting, and perhaps remedying, defects in existing social machinery. The book contains no panacea and no pharmaceutical prescriptions for social ills, but it does suggest rules for diagnosis and general canons of treatment. It seems to buoy some reliable anchorages in what are now dangerously troubled waters.
Naturally such a book is not hammock-reading. The author is lucid, but he requires sustained attention. It is not possible in a brief space to analyze his argument. He conceives the state as only one of many organs of government, and ascribes part of our social confusion to conflicts of jurisdiction and function among these organs. His exposition of these points is illuminating. * Real democracy is to be found, not in a single omnicompetent representative assembly, but in a system of coordinated functional representative bodies.’ Those who are distressed to-day by the paralysis of our legislatures, confronted by great after-war problems, will find food for fruitful thought in Mr. Cole’s development of this theme. V. S, C.