History and Social Intelligence

History and Social Intelligence

History and Social Intelligence

History and Social Intelligence

Excerpt

The present work deals with the development of the "new" or synthetic and dynamic history, and indicates possible applications of this type of historical writing to some of the leading institutions and problems of contemporary civilization. The writer does not accept the view that history can in many cases be directly useful to the present generation through the discovery of alleged specific analogies between the remote past and the present day. Perhaps the greatest lesson of history is that it has no such lessons for our generation. The most striking revelation of history, when intelligently studied, is the vast differences between the period before the rise of modern science and industrialism and that which has been created by these two great forces in modern culture. Comparisons between "ancient Rome and modern America" are likely to be about as helpful as it would be to consult the mechanism of an ancient Roman ox-cart in order to diagnose the engine trouble which has caused a Packard speedster to become stalled by the roadside. Yet it is highly doubtful if history has any value, beyond its slender contribution to prose literature, unless it gives us such a knowledge of, and attitude towards, the past as will be useful in helping us more intelligently to face the present and plan for the future.

Probably the greatest service which history can render to mankind in this respect is to aid us in gradually weakening that solemn and unreasoning reverence towards the cultures and institutions of the past which is the chief cause of that distressing contemporary lack of competence and insight everywhere in evidence in man's seeming inability to cope with the issues which confront him. We have built up a vast body of saving knowledge in the last century which would, in all probability, be relatively adequate to equip man to deal with the unparalleled complexities and the difficult problems of contemporary society; yet little of this is actually available for practical exploitation because of the paralyzing influence of the octopus of the past. Instead of turning for guidance to the natural and social scientists, who are the chief . . .

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