Democracy and Progress

Democracy and Progress

Democracy and Progress

Democracy and Progress

Excerpt

CAPITALISM IS often thought of as a system which permits wealthy ladies to spend the winter in Miami--in other words as the mere existence of claims on property and a leisure class. So narrow a definition will hardly do. Claims on property of some sort are nearly as old as the human race, while leisure classes and "conspicuous consumption" were known before Babylon. The special cultural pattern of the last two hundred years cannot be entirely explained by phenomena found to a greater or less extent throughout the last two thousand. Some more detailed analysis is needed.

Our problem in this chapter is to discover the connection--if any--between science, capitalism, and the tremendous material progress of the last century and a half. But we must be careful how we place our emphasis. If it were "proved by twenty bishops" that capitalism, science, and material progress were inseparable, it still might not be true that capitalism was the best available social system. Many other questions need to be discussed before we reach a final choice. The problem of science is taken as a starting point not because scientific advance is a consideration which overrides all others, but because increased material well-being is the one goal common to nearly all factions in America today. Anyone who looks beneath the surface of modern controversy, however, soon finds that he must reckon with points of view which, consciously or unconsciously, wish to change the system not in order to smooth the way for science and material progress but in order to end them.

Another basic problem inevitably involved in the search for a connection between science, democracy, and capitalism is how far, in any case, we are justified in crediting the achievements of a . . .

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