Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Santayana on caste

Aristocracy logically involves castes. But such castes as exist in India, and the social classes we find in the western world, are not now based on any profound difference in race, capacity, or inclination. They are based probably on the chances of some early war, reinforced by custom and perpetuated by inheritance. 

A certain circulation, corresponding in part to proved ability or disability, takes place in the body politic, and, since the French Revolution, has taken place increasingly. Some, by energy and perseverance, rise from the bottom; some, by ill fortune or vice, fall from the top. But these readjustments are insignificant in comparison with the social inertia that perpetuates all the classes, and even such shifts as occur at once re-establish artificial conditions for the next generation. 

As a rule, men’s station determines their occupation without their gifts determining their station. Thus stifled ability in the lower orders, and apathy or pampered incapacity in the higher, unite to deprive society of its natural leaders.

George Santayana - The Life of Reason

I particularly like the last paragraph. Amateur posh boys spring immediately to mind. Plus photogenic young ladies parachuted in over more experienced heads. 


Anonymous said...

So far Santayana has failed my 'Oxfam Bookshop' test. With 'Life of Reason' sitting at £39 on Amazon I regret he will stay unknown for now, January Sales perhaps.

Anonymous said...

BTW, others have claimed that UK society has become more stratified due to the lack of 'assortative mating'. The idea being that now people only mate within class/education bands whereas in the things were more mixed.

The role of vigorous young coachmen being especially important among the aristocracy - allegedly.

A K Haart said...

Roger - £2.46 for the Kindle version.

I think the restricted mating idea may be sound. As you say, when personal servants were much more common, so was mating across the social divide.

James Higham said...

Restricted mating? Let's just go the whole hog to eugenics.

A K Haart said...

James - restricted by a social trend.