Saturday, February 4, 2017

Book Review: Physics and Politics

Physics and Politics, or, Thoughts on the application of the principles of "natural selection" and "inheritance" to political society, by Walter Bagehot.
The book begins with a review of the preliminary age, when the sudden acquisition of much physical knowledge started to impact our society. There is scarcely a department of science or art which is the same, or at all the same, as it was fifty years ago. A new world of inventions—of railways and of telegraphs—has grown up around us which we cannot help seeing; a new world of ideas is in the air and affects us, though we do not see it.
Thereafter the book delves into many of the restrictive practices of olden days, like the policy of the old priest-nobles of Egypt and India who divert their people from becoming familiar with the sea, and represent the occupation of a seaman as incompatible with the purity of the highest castes. Or maxims like 'Whoever speaks two languages is a rascal', which seriously limited society's growth.
Another element with significant influence is discussed next - the difference between progression and stationary inaction. How progress was unknown to the ancient world, which mistook it as latter. Even when changes happened to take place, those tended to concentrate itself more and more in certain groups which we call 'civilised nations.' And how the nations themselves progressed into dissimilar societies having different ambitions. And how, we are into the present, 'an age of committees', where the committees do nothing in particular, and all our energy evaporates in to talk.
The book mentions that political science also is under the influence of natural forces, just as physical science is. Like reflex actions that are natural in makeup, by the help of the brain we may acquire an affinity of certain way of behavior (ARTIFICIAL reflex actions). Which is to say, an action may require all our attention and all our volition for its initial instances, but could autonomously happen on later occasions. But, the author states, just as physical science acts upon things to leave distinct signs of the nature's influence, it is possible to construe an accurate conception of what we may expect in the political plane. By observation, we can also find a good account of the evidence by which we are led to expect it. This further takes us to the great conquest of our earth and what facilitated this, nature's influence, can be clearly observed in our laws, the ultimate bond of our civilization. 
The author clearly has some points. The growth shown by some cultures as well as the stagnation of a few others have been shown to be owing to the flexible nature (or the lack of it) displayed by each society, or the different ideas of 'progress' each maintained. These we can easily make out from the laws prevailing in each.