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ECONOMIC ADAPTATIONS G. F. DRUMMOND D URING periods of acute economic depression there becomes manifest a-general disposition to take stock of our economic organization. Its sudden failure to work smoothly _and its long convalescence become obvious to all of us, for all of us are affected in one way or another.' Many, forced to think of these things for the first time, imagine that all this, is unusual or can be easily rectified. But what really happens during a depression is a painful exaggeration of all the economic maladjustments and stresses that are taking place in lesser degree all the time. It is their magnitude , and their wide-spread impact that alone agitate and bewilder us. In normal times there is poverty and a great deal of it; there is inequality in the distribution of wealth; there is unemployment of a general character as well as that which -applies / to -particular industries; there are bankruptcies and' losses as well as profits. All these are inherent in the way ,our economy works. The depression intensifies just as the boom minimizes them. So when we ask ourselves what ought to be done to correct a depression, 'we are really implying the broader question: what ought to be done to make our economic organization function in such a way as to reduce its pernicious social by-products to a minimum? A very large question indeed. It is a question) however, which is -being answered all the time. It' is being answered piecemeal-in the way that, with the growing consciousness of these evils, society meets problem by problem and attempts to apply 'the n'ecessary correctives. These are sometimes fitful, sometimes ill-advised, some- ECONOMIC ADAPTATIONS times re~ctionary in their effects, but cumulatively they lead to change and are really dictated,by the prevailing economic conditions themselves. There is social and economic introspection all the time. Depressions quicken our consciousness of our economic environment. That introspection~ taken in its broader:' aspects, ttends to lead,either to pessimism or to optimism regarding the ends of our machine culture and whither it is leading 'mankind. For many it requires no depression to spur their speculations about our factory civilization. They see in it the disintegration of all human· values and the apotheosIs of a materialism which will eventually destroy liS. ' Dissenters to the cult of materialism in its modern form, such as Spengler and Dean lnge, have been described as jaundiced philosophers who see our culture as through a glass darkly. Business cycles for tnem are much less important than the historical cycles of cultures, the tidal ebb and flow of ideas and ideals, social forms and social activities. The depression is only another symptom. We are'in a repetitive flux. Like the mayfly we are .permitted only a few gyrations in the sun; the seeds of decay ?-nd death are in the first raptures of conception, and though we die to be born again, there is no assurance that we are reborn into a better world. Our economic sy-stem with all its false valu~s will eventually collapse, and the kind of civilization it has produced will go down with it. The descent may be gradual or as violent as a depression that has no recovery. All values will be confused, and it will be many years before we grope to a new sense of human endeavour and human purposes. According to these pessimists there is no escape for us. We, have progression, they say, without 443 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY _ progress. We -delude ourselves that it is a matter of reculer pour mieux sauter, 'whereas, in all probability, we are like snow-blind men who lose themselves in ' spirals, going but getting nowhere. . Economic t~ends and cycles are, therefore, but miniature experiments in our cyclical development. If there is a trend beneath these cultural periQdicities, the import of it is lost to us. The conception of biological adaptation, which we derive from the theory of evolution, does not necessarily imply adaptations that are more satisfactory for things of the "spirit, that disembody the soul of man from the gross materialism of his universe, that lift him out...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 442-464
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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