This book contains essays on such aspects of social questions as tend to be ignored in the clash of politics. It emphasizes the dangers of too much organization in the realm of thought and too much strenuousness in action. It explains why I cannot agree with either Communism or Fascism, and wherein I dissent from what both have in common. It maintains that the importance of knowledge consists not only in its direct practical utility but also in the fact that it promotes a widely contemplative habit of mind ; on this ground, utility is to be found in much of the knowledge that is nowadays labelled "useless." There is a discussion of the connection of architecture with various social questions, more particularly the welfare of young children and the position oi women.
Passing further away from politics, the volume, after discussing the characteristics of Western civilization and the chances of the human race being vanquished by insects, concludes with a discussion of the nature of the soul. The general thesis which binds the essays together is that the world is suffering from intolerance and bigotry, and from the belief that vigorous action is admirable even when misguided ; whereas what is needed in our very complex modern society is calm consideration, with readiness to call dogmas in question and freedom of mind to do justice to the most diverse points of view.
Of the other essays in this volume, some are new, while others, which have been already published in magazines, are here reprinted by the kind permission of the editors.
"In Praise of Idleness" and "The Modern Midas" appeared in Harper's Magazine ; "The Ancestry of Fascism" (under a different title) appeared in The Political Qjuarterly in England and The Atlantic Monthly in America ; "Scylla and Charybdis, or Communism and Fascism" appeared in The Modern Monthly ; "Modern Homogeneity" in New York in The Outlook (now The New Outlook) ; "Education and Discipline" was published in The New Statesman and Nation. I have also to acknowledge the assistance of Peter Spence in suggesting and discussing many of the subjects.