Is it not possible that the persecution of Jews and the driving out of dissenters will have a similar effect upon parts of Europe which this same policy had upon the Spanish civilization in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, or the effect caused by the proscriptions and banishment in ancient Greece and Rome? Only the future can tell, but from the point of view of an outsider, more harm is being done to society than good.Next Page
But will not the effect be greater opportunity for the many born into the lower classes? For once in human history large numbers of the lower orders, if loyal and ruthless, can become powerful over their fellows. However, the social cost of their "social mobility" has not yet been calculated. Furthermore, it is not yet certain (1) that the system will prevail, or (2) that such percolation upward will continue after another generation, in which case the era of "opening opportunity" will close again. classlessness, as a social system, is exceedingly hard to envisage even though once set up as an ideal. It might not be able to create enough social stability to permit the carrying on of civilized life.
War. The present era of human history is characterized more by war than by fascism. As has been noted, war is frequently credited with the power to create, through conquest, a new social class structure. It was not until World War I that authorities generally came to realize that war is often the destroyer of social class structures. World War II is rapidly confirming that belief. The impending social revolution, even the one now in progress in the air raid shelters of London, may strike down the barriers of social prestige and inherited social honor upon which the social classes are based.
War's consequences are many and varied, not the least of which is its effect upon the social classes. The chances of rising above the status into which one is born, for many draftees for instance, may today be quite similar to those in primitive times when "perhaps the most usual means of elevation from one class to another is prowess in war." 30 Total war brings with it mass mobilization and "trained" officers; it increases compulsory regulations in civil life with regard to business and professional activities; it increases the army of civil servants and gives them much power. Spencer believes that war brings about "a return towards that coercive discipline which pervades the whole social life where the militant type is predominant." 31
The disciplines of total war necessarily undermine privileges, as in an earlier age when "war was a great leveler. When a man rode at another brandishing a heavy iron mace, any feeling of social superiority had a tendency to disappear . . . . " 32 Today this same tendency is at work in conscription, in the turning of estates into home gardens and orphanages, in the life of the shelters, and by the general regulations affecting all alike. It is especially felt in the persecutions of the middle and upper classes by the conqueror.
War results in inflation and in the destruction of wealth, in the abandonment and loss of homes, in the lack of privacy in personal and family affairs, in the breaking down of deference and prestige forms. Ultimately it leaves the upper and middle classes with none of the means of associative forms and rituals with which they can maintain their close family relationships. It undermines both the material and psychological base upon which their status depends. It exposes them to all the hates, brutalities, distempers, and mass psychoses that only war can create. Deference for respectability gives way to envy of and hate for the respectable.
In Britain working men are learning to fly planes, an honor long retained by the upper classes, and Eton has given up its Toppers. "There are queer little indices of revolutionary change which strike deeper than the storming of Bastilles and the executions of kings." 33
30. Gunnar Landtman, The Origin of the Inequality of the Social Classes (Chicago, 1938) p. 308.
31. Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Sociology, vol. I (New York, 1880) p. 587.
32. Paul Van Dyke, The Story of France (New York, 1928) p. 73.
33. M. Samuel, "British Social Barriers Broken Down," New York Post, October 19, 1939.