E. Belfort Bax

Barbarism and Civilisation

(29 January 1898)

Barbarism and Civilisation, Justice, 29th January 1898, p.2 (letter).
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


I trust our friend Hazell will not think me captious if I venture to criticise an incidental point in his article an Population in Justice of January 1. Speaking of Malthus, he says, “to lend colour to his arguments (as to an individual struggle for food) he took for the purpose of analogy man in a low state of civilisation, sometimes quite barbaric sad near to the level of animals, etc.” Now, as a matter of fact, though it may be true that barbaric man in a certain sense is nearer the criminals than civilised man (in much the same sense as Mühlhausen is nearer Clerkenwell Green than Basel, where I am writing), yet it is true that the social organisation of barbaric man, as Hazell is well aware, involves the principles of Socialism. to an extent which no civilised society has ever done. Barbaric society, within its own boundaries, is co-operative and not competitive. In exact proportion as primitive society and its institutions is displaced by Civilisation, co-operation gives way to competition. As a matter of fact, Malthus wrote in the rising period of English capitalism, and what he had in his mind was the competition he saw going on around. As to his analogies with earlier stages of society, they were necessarily founded on the imperfect knowledge of his day on the subject, and viewed in the light of the erroneous conceptions concerning early man (based largely on Rousseauite notions) current at the end of the last and beginning of the present century.

I have no doubt the remark of Hazell’s I have criticised was only a slip But the economical articles from his pen are generally so thoroughly sound and accurate, as well as popular, that it is a pity for even an incidental error to be allowed to pass, more especially as I hope they will later on appear in book or pamphlet farm.


Yours fraternally,
E. Belfort Bax


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