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Edward Bellamy was a religious philosopher who based his philosophy on the Bible and Christian teaching with a profound view of the future he wished on the world from his understanding. He envisioned a beautiful world where men regarded one another as brother and where true love reigned in the thoughts of men, controlled their actions, and thus shape a harmonious future as God planned it in the bible. In one of his literary crafting entitled looking backward he stresses the social growth he envisions for the future generation of the new age in the 21st century, (Bellamy, 2000). He is also vibrant about the option of accepting life’s modern ways and a vivid depiction of what is to be expected of life in the coming age. His ideals are based on human development, social change and indicative growth. Looking backward is a utopian novel and specifically the modern utopian of the year 2000 based on his ideals to present a more differential representation of the future based on his understandings. With his works Bellamy paints a picture of what society and what modernity is with literal quest into both sides of the same coin, positive and negative effects of such development. He points out that a society that embraces development especially on the economic arena with the main goal of financial freedom this would lead to development in a capitalism that would impose on social stability of developed society in America. He also points out the dangers of financial markets and the use of credit cards he envisioned what would happen in the year 2000 to his readers. He warns that quoting him” my friends if you would see men again the beasts of prey as they seemed in the 19th century, all you have is to restore the old social and industrial system, which taught them to view their prey in their fellow men, and to find gain in the loss of others’ his views may seem to reflect what can be called as classical Marxism which seems contrary to social Darwinism projected by Spencer on the issue of social development.
On the other hand Herbert Spencer was a writer who focused on social Darwinism. He draws his arguments from evolutionary views forwarded by Charles Darwin in his works the origin of species and the works of Thomas Malthus. His views on social evolution and growth are strengthened by the term ‘survival of the fittest” and argues that just an organism evolves through natural selection also the society also evolves and increases in complexity through analogous processes. Basically he can be described as sociologist whose arguments and ideals are rooted in social Darwinism. He also puts forward the application of these ideals to explain that life is governed by limitations which include both economic and socialistic limits to growth, (Hofstadter, 1992). He then continues to argue that these hindrances happen in order to give a clearer goal to human individuals so that they can defy the norms and march forward towards a more developed society. “Survivors” as he calls the toughest individuals who are fit enough to conquer the problems life impose on them in their life. His strong and personal belief in cosmic evolution viewing the cosmos as an ever expanding universe with the society marching forward towards development by the fittest individuals surviving and leading to overcome these hindrances while the weaker are limited in creating social classes thus an imbalance in the society. This imbalance in the social and economic level is however needed for proper societal development for it to embrace the benefits of modern life and to maintain a better chain of command and order which would not be possible if it was on the contrary.
On facing the question whether Edward Bellamy challenges Spencer we would have to look into the arguments they postulate in their literal works. Both writers explain the same issues of social growth and development but based on different theories. We have to go into details of these two theories of classical Marxism and social Darwinism deducing the arguments from these two writers. And to this in a more realistic way we make an imaginative conversation between the two writers on their personal beliefs and views and a deeper explanation of what picture they had in their minds and the picture they wanted to paint in the minds of their readers.
Conversation between Edward Bellamy and Herbert Spencer
Bellamy: I still maintain my stand on social equality because the human future is growth from it own history. Social equality is where the members of a society apply their capabilities and opportunities conditioned to a member to the provisional opportunities given to another and this would create a more harmonious working environment where every member grows in. that parallel growth of all members for the equal fulfillment of all of them together. Therefore personal satisfaction and societal growth both become a reality.
Spencer: I don’t quite think that’s the reason why the society is developing at the present moment. The progress being made is fueled by the existence of a modern socialism of capitalism whereby the different levels of hierarchy o command in the society. Similar to say that the social role that each individual takes follows to fulfill the different state of others higher in the hierarchy of society meaning that the stronger individual who has more material wealth is given much in proportion to control compared to the weaker individual who is expected to redefine the capability of the latter individual to earn more and find the national economic funding in a better situation. Survival for the fittest is the game! It’s the reason today there is human progress!
Bellamy: it is true that support Marxism which indeed embraces capitalism but in a different way capitalism could also be used as a means to reach social equality as well. How? By using capitalism as a factor for capitalist taking the responsibility to developing those at the base of the social pyramid thus bring social development. On the other hand I do not support for the support of the imbalance in the social level as the force behind progress and the lack of empathy and sympathy for those facing hardships in life at the end-base of the social ladder.
Spencer: social Darwinism is the simply imitating social laws to apply just like natural laws. Just like natural laws operate on the different animal and plant species so do these social laws operate on the social platform to produce evolutionary development through the various hindrances between various social groups. These forces are underlying and insisting so they form the basis for human progress. Don’t you agree that these same conflicts are what fuels this progress?
Bellamy: if I quote my works looking back it would be easier to understand how I would better phrase your words. In looking backwards I tried to outline the possibilities of equality in embracing life modern ways and in that I could see far into the future of what would happen if modernity was employed this is what I wrote about, the utopia in the year 2000. Looking on both sides of the same coin I outlined the dangers of financial markets and disadvantages of using credits as this would lead to social injustices and men preying on their fellow men that are taking gain in the loss of others if one were to understand as you do. The only possibility of equality is what I explained in my first point.
Spencer: I view the question of equality in a way that we as human we are not equal in our abilities and thus we cannot reform our societies lets say one is endowed with riches and the other with mental capability but no financing we cannot force the individuals to interchange. So the less financially capable individual will have to satisfy the needs of the capable individual so that the rich guy will progress in his social sphere while the poor also is uplifted economically. So they both progress economically and nobody takes a step back.
Bellamy: that is only when considering financial gain and that’s the whole problem with such capitalism. Those in the upper end of the social pyramid do not truthfully and in a justifiable way take their true role in the society. The poor guy is tricked into abandoning and forgetting his mental capabilities thus he’s not fully satisfied while the rich bloke is satisfied all round which is not equality. Equality is where the social role one takes and is capable fulfills his needs and the needs of the society are also met. This is what I advocate for human progress to be realized.
Spencer: I agree there is a lot of empathy in your argument but this is not the real world situation. Self-centeredness’ is at the core of every man heart and this is the characterization uf human life together with cooperation. This is the paradoxical and precarious nature in which we humans behave. So it is the toughest individual whose growth is able to cope with the external impositions from the society in his life, only he is able to greatly benefit and survive while the weak individual will always be between a rock and a hard place. Like I said survival for the fittest!
Critically speaking the two writers challenges each other. Bellamy challenges Spencer on the truth and reality. Spencer clearly deduces his theories on the reality of today’s world. As it is today the Darwinism has won over the world but that’s the main reason why there are so much social injustices far though not very far from what Bellamy envisions of the future. Spencer on the other hand supports social Darwinism which imposes the creation of social classes that redefine the capability of each member of the society to face the most crucial stages of life. These classes separate individuals on the criterion of economic capability thus different status in life which is the reality of today. So, truly one can see that this imbalance is what bringing this progress and it helps us embrace this modernity wholly as a result of the pull of those in the social pyramid. And without it the hierarchy of the chain of command would not be successful as it is today.
Bellamy’s idealism of an ideal future is a far cry from what we have today or clearly put the picture is blurred and not yet clearly visiible not even in the hearts and lives of men today. But clearly this is what the near future is leading once reforms needed are put in place as it is evident in our near history especially there are more profound evidences of this in the American revolution, the French revolution. The utopian philosophers are they who put forward these modern socialist thoughts. These are founded on ideology rather than on materialism. These ideologies have led to the birth and foundations of modern movements and unions. This is for meritocracy, others for cooperatives which still thrive even today and intentional communities based on equality.
In an excerpt from the declaration of the rights of woman and the female citizen was written by the French playwright Olympe. It is also grounded on the rights of man and the citizen and this all was founded on the search for equality (Collins, 1985). This is a clear evidence of the uncompleted work or the deviation from the search of equality in the French revolution. That’s why we are far from the world Bellamy envisioned for us in those latter days. The declaration clearly stated that all men and women are equal, with equal rights and everywhere throughout the world. Bellamy’s vision that women were treated as equal in the society both independent and responsible can be said to be accomplished by such declarations and laws. The declaration also exposed the lack of fulfillment of laws by dividing people along sexual, racial and religious backgrounds (Gerard, 1999).
The ideology that social Darwinism should be upheld as social philosophy lead to the author Henry George writing the book progress and poverty to punch back at it. He postulated the dangers of inequality in a society. There are many vices in such a social system. His ideas were that those who have the right to enjoy, and those who make should have and that production from a community belongs to the same for its own purposes and he also added that all the earth is the right of the earth’s inhabitants (Gerard, 1999) This ideology sharply discredits what Spencer strongly advocated that there was need for inequity for societal progress. This is because such inequity does not bring about stability instead it brings deep exploitation which accelerates to enslavement of labor as Henry puts it. He reveals that embracing social Darwinism creates social difference and these arise out of favoritism to the socially privileged. He was vocal on the elimination of elite class in society that enslaved the many and this would bring about the satisfaction to all (Hofstadter, 1992). He looks in depth into various laws in place and their far reaching implications on the lives of many for example the law of interest, rent, and distribution amid the law of human progress. He totally refutes with the idea of adoption of social Darwinism as it an enemy to equality and harmony.
With are view on the declaration of independence the declaration during the American revolution, this was a period of setting the destiny of America and with the declaration America was set for development. Why development and progress? Because the declaration of American thirteen states and constitution based on Christian morality and equality were what propelled America to such rapid greatness, progress and strength. The law of equality, life, liberty and pursuits to happiness were the most important formation of the declaration. Because the American citizen was free, equal to any other person with such laws and thus unity in equality led to the ever rise of America, but in the start of the new age capitalism and Darwinism has led to creation of disparity among social classes and creation of an elite class. This has impeded growth and conflicts that push America back as Spencer tried to project could lead to progress. This is not so in china.
China is regarded as a communist state and this has posed a threat to America both economically and as a superpower country. The equality founded on communist ideology has led to china bursting at the seams with success both technologically, peace and most importantly economically (Zakaria, 2008). Chinas economy is booming because of its realization of equity as a source of unity and strength towards achievement of national cohesion and goals.
In conclusion Bellamy’s ideology of social equality is one that is yet to be realized but one is on its way in the making if the countries and ruling powers accept this as the only method to attaining peaceful development and human progress in the world. It is a world envisioned by Edward and indeed it would be a beautiful world where man is recognized as equal to others as God created us and true love would reign in the hearts of men. It would lead to peaceful and harmonious global society with a heartbeat of unison and love no lines dividing us along ethnic, racial, skin color, language, economic lines among others and indeed what a beautiful world it would be where one treats as he would want to be treated and maybe give as much as one would like to get, surely we are ready and willing to work and march towards such a serene society, full of love as Bellamy envisioned in 1887 indeed it is an ideal future.