Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties - Vol. 1

By M. Ostrogorski; Frederick Clarke | Go to book overview

SECOND CHAPTER
BREAK-UP OF THE OLD SOCIETY

I

SOLID and coherent as the political and social fabric of England was, it was too narrow to contain the national life. Everything in it was cramped: the private individual, beginning his career with a fairly sound but very incomplete education; society, drawn from a limited circle, its every-day life ruled by conventions and prejudices, its mental culture derived from a literature modelled on the formal lines of classic art, its spiritual sustenance supplied by a religion free from mysticism but also devoid of enthusiasm, and reduced by the homilies of the pulpit to arguments in which the existence of God was demonstrated by his utility; the Church a branch of the State; the State reposing solely on a single class supposed to be the only one with a stake in the country. The great mass of the nation received hardly a ray of light or warmth from this society of gentlemen, from this aristocratic Church, from this State religion embodied in paragraphs, from this exclusive political system. True, the individual was not molested as in continental countries; the restrictions on freedom of labour were falling into disuse; the fundamental rights of the citizen were under the protection of the tribunals; the administration, invested with a judicial character in the person of the magistrates and controlled by settled laws, was not exposed to the arbitrary proceedings of a bureaucracy and was free from the shifting influences of parliamentary parties; the material condition of the people was not unbearably wretched before the industrial revolution; the feelings of the ruling class towards the lower classes were characterized by anything but ill- will. But this ruling class did nothing to lift the masses out of the slough of ignorance in which they were sunk, to enlarge their mental horizon, to make them feel that they, too, had a

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