Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure: And Other Essays.  Edward Carpenter

Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure: And Other Essays

By Edward Carpenter

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Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure: And Other Essays In looking over this volume, first published in 1889, with a view to a final Edition, I am glad to note that after all there is not much in it requiring alteration. Considering that the original issue took place more than 30 years ago, I had thought that the great changes in scientific and philosophic thought which have taken place during that period would probably have rendered & quot;out of date & quot; a good deal of the book. As a matter of fact, the first paper & mdash;that on Civilisation & mdash;was given as a lecture before the Fabian Society, in 1888; and I shall not easily forget the furious attacks which were made upon it on that occasion. The book & mdash;published as a whole in 1889 & mdash;came in for a very similar reception from the press-critics. They slated it to the top of their bent & mdash;except in those not unfrequent cases when they ignored it as almost beneath notice. The whole trend of the thought of the time was against its conclusions; and it is perhaps worth while to recall these facts in order to measure how far we have travelled in these 30 years. For to-day (I think we may say) these conclusions are generally admitted as correct; and the views which seemed so hazarded and precarious at the earlier date are now fairly accepted and established. The word Civilisation has undoubtedly during this period suffered an ominous change of color. It is no longer an easy term denoting all that is ideal and delightful in social life, but on the contrary, carries with it a sense of doubt and of criticism, as of something that is by no means accepted yet, but is rather on its trial & mdash;if not actually condemned! I am sorry to note, however, that the suggestion made more than once in the course of my book & mdash;namely that the term (Civilisation) should properly be given an historical instead of ideal value, as applicable to a certain period only in the history of each people, has not yet been generally taken up. Yet a paper by some more competent person than myself on the definite marks and signs of the civilisation-period in History & mdash;their first appearance in the course of human progress and evolution, and their probable disappearance again at a later stage & mdash;would be greatly interesting and instructive. My little essay on this subject was written at the time of its composition with a good deal of imaginative & eacute;lan; and is of course open to criticism on that side, as being mainly enthusiastic in character and only slenderly supported by exact data proofs, historical illustrations, analogies, and so forth. But to largely alter or amend the essay without seriously crippling it would be impossible; and though the form may be hurried or inadequate, yet as far as the actual contents and conclusions are concerned I still adhere to them absolutely, and believe that time will show them to be fully justified.

Edward Carpenter


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