Human Nature in Politics eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 256 pages of information about Human Nature in Politics.

Perhaps, however, intellectual association is a larger factor than instinct in the causation of racial affection and hatred.  An American working man associates, for instance, the Far Eastern physical type with that lowering of the standard wage which overshadows as a dreadful possibility every trade in the industrial world.  Fifty years ago the middle class readers to whom Punch appeals associated the same type with stories of tortured missionaries and envoys.  After the battle of the Sea of Japan they associated it with that kind of heroism which, owing to our geographical position, we most admire; and drawings of the unmistakably Asiatic features of Admiral Togo, which would have excited genuine and apparently instinctive disgust in 1859, produced a thrill of affection in 1906.

But at this point we approach that discussion of the objects, sensible or imaginary, of political impulse (as distinguished from the impulses themselves), which must be reserved for my next chapter.



Man’s impulses and thoughts and acts result from the relation between his nature and the environment into which he is born.  The last chapter approached that relation (in so far as it affects politics) from the side of man’s nature.  This chapter will approach the same relation from the side of man’s political environment.

The two lines of approach have this important difference, that the nature with which man is born is looked on by the politician as fixed, while the environment into which man is born is rapidly and indefinitely changing.  It is not to changes in our nature, but to changes in our environment only—­using the word to include the traditions and expedients which we acquire after birth as well as our material surroundings—­that all our political development from the tribal organisation of the Stone Ages to the modern nation has apparently been due.

The biologist looks on human nature itself as changing, but to him the period of a few thousands or tens of thousands of years which constitute the past of politics is quite insignificant.  Important changes in biological types may perhaps have occurred in the history of the world during comparatively short periods, but they must have resulted either from a sudden biological ‘sport’ or from a process of selection fiercer and more discriminating than we believe to have taken place in the immediate past of our own species.  The present descendants of those races which are pictured in early Egyptian tombs show no perceptible change in their bodily appearance, and there is no reason to believe that the mental faculties and tendencies with which they are born have changed to any greater degree.

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Human Nature in Politics from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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