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The Daily Logos I

“A scientific method of sociological analysis may serve the same purpose for society as a psychic analysis may accomplish for the individual by unveiling the cause of latent conflicts and repressions and by making society conscious of its real ends and motives of action.  The actual tendency of practical politics, especially in democratic countries, is unfortunately just the opposite, since they invest such conflicts with a halo of idealism and thrive on sociological misunderstandings.

“This is the more regrettable because the modern state is daily extending its control over a wider area of social life and is taking over functions that were formerly regarded as the province of independent social units such as the family and the church, or as a sphere for the voluntary activities of private individuals.  It is not merely the state is becoming more centralized, but that society and culture are becoming politicized.  In the old days the statesman was responsible for the preservation of internal order and the defense of the state against its enemies.  Today he is called on to deal more and more with questions of a purely sociological character, and he may even be expected to transform the whole structure of society and refashion the cultural traditions of the people.  The abolition of war, the destruction of poverty, the control of the birth-rate, the elimination of the unfit–these are questions which the statesmen of the past would no more have dared to meddle with than the course of the seasons or the movements of the stars; yet they are all vital issues today, and some of them figure on the agenda of our political parties.  It is obvious that the solution of these problems calls for all the resources of sociological science–even supposing that science was in a much more advanced state than it actually is; yet the unfortunate politician is expected to provide a solution by his common sense enlightened by a cloudy mixture of economic materialism and moral idealism.  We can hardly wonder at the popularity of Marxian Socialism, for that at least has a sociology of a kind, though it is elementary and one-sided.”

-Christopher Dawson, “Sociology as a Science.” Dynamics of World History

Dawson here provides an insight that is still, and perhaps more penetrating today, in a world where governance is not only increasingly centralized, but in which society is entirely politicized, in all the wrong ways: what ought to be dominantly aesthetic, such as the arts, has become a medium for political intervention in sociological matters.  Contrariwise, what ought to be decided upon by the constituents of society, namely individual people, their churches, their communities, and their families, is handed over more and more frequently to be systematized by a centralized government which is thoroughly incompetent in providing solutions.

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