The Theory of Social Revolutions (eBook)
by Brooks Adams
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In America, in 1770, a well-defined aristocracy held control. As an effect of the Industrial Revolution upon industry and commerce, the Revolutionary War occurred, the colonial aristocracy misjudged the environment, adhered to Great Britain, were exiled, lost their property, and perished. Immediately after the American Revolution and also as a part of the Industrial Revolution, the cotton gin was invented, and the cotton gin created in the South another aristocracy, the cotton planters, who flourished until 1860. At this point the changing of the environment, caused largely by the railway, brought a pressure upon the slave-owners against which they, also failing to comprehend their situation, rebelled. They were conquered, suffered confiscation of their property, and perished. Furthermore, the rebellion of the aristocracy at the South was caused, or at all events was accompanied by, the rise of a new dominant class at the North, whose power rested upon the development of steam in transportation and industry. This is the class which has won high fortune by the acceleration of the social movement, and the consequent urban growth of the nineteenth century, and which has now for about two generations dominated in the land. If this class, like its predecessors, has in its turn mistaken its environment, a redistribution of property must occur, distressing, as previous redistributions have been, in proportion to the inflexibility of the sufferers. The last two redistributions have been painful, and, if we examine passing phenomena from this standpoint, they hardly appear to promise much that is reassuring for the future.
Meditating upon these matters, it is hard to resist the persuasion that unless capital can, in the immediate future, generate an intellectual energy, beyond the sphere of its specialized calling, very much in excess of any intellectual energy of which it has hitherto given promise, and unless it can besides rise to an appreciation of diverse social conditions, as well as to a level of political sagacity, far higher than it has attained within recent years, its relative power in the community must decline. If this be so the symptoms which indicate social disintegration will intensify. As they intensify, the ability of industrial capital to withstand the attacks made upon it will lessen, and this process must go on until capital abandons the contest to defend itself as too costly. Then nothing remains but flight. Under what conditions industrial capital would find migration from America possible, must remain for us beyond the bounds even of speculation. It might escape with little or no loss. On the other hand, it might fare as hardly as did the southern slaveholders. No man can foresee his fate. In the event of adverse fortune, however, the position of capitalists would hardly be improved by the existence of political courts serving a malevolent majority. Whatever may be in store for us, here at least, we reach an intelligible conclusion. Should Nature follow such a course as I have suggested, she will settle all our present perplexities as simply and as drastically as she is apt to settle human perturbations, and she will follow logically in the infinitely extended line of her own most impressive precedents.
The Floating Press