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“Social Organism Again,” by Mary Hansen in FREE SOCIETY (February 23, 1902)

Here’s a short article from Mary Hansen on socialism and the idea of social organism. This is from the issue for Sunday, February 23, 1902 (Vol. IX, No. 8, Whole No. 350), right-hand column of p. 3.

Social Organism Again.

That he who uses the social organism analogy does not see clearly, seems plain to me at least. A few weeks ago a prominent Socialist stood before an audience, and by way of proving social interdependence asked: Now if I were to cut off or injure these fingers would not my whole body suffer?” Yes! and following the same line of reasoning, if you injure half your organism the rest would suffer, and this under any circumstances. Now, if society were an organism, the same would be true of it, yet we do not find it so, since the injury done at present to the greater half of society only serves to increase the luxury of the other.

The more workers there are willing to starve on small wages and accept any injury, peaceably, that is caused by the avarice of their employers, the greater the profit and comfort of said employers, and the government officials, who could grow fat at leasure. Surely it would be difficult to show where the injury to society touches them.

Mary Hansen

Hansen was a Danish-American Anarchist who was (along with Voltairine de Cleyre, Natasha Notkin, and others) a regular participant in the Philadelphia Social Science Club and the principal author of the Club’s classic pamphlet A Catechism of Anarchy. Free Society was published in Chicago but became a major venue for many of the Philadelphia Anarchists.

2 Responses to ““Social Organism Again,” by Mary Hansen in FREE SOCIETY (February 23, 1902)”

  1. Ignacio Gallo Says:

    She had a good point.

    But, apart from the obvious objection that the functioning of a “social organism” has analogies as well as differences with a biological one, one could also argue that, though the privileged classes manage to accumulate wealth and luxury, the lives of the rich are usually not harmonious, no matter how much luxury they live in.

    I think that the decadence due to excessive comfort is a good confirmation of the organic interrelatedness of society, and maybe awareness of it could help heal the suffering social organism.

  2. the social organism | populations, function and meaning Says:

    […] simple. The idea of a social organism has been criticized, for example by the anarchist thinker Mary Hansen, as a dialectical device available to upper classes wanting to avoid social change, by saying that […]

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