Quotations about   society

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Civilization will cease without civility.

Helen Hayes (1900-1993) American actress
Loving Life (1987) [with Marion Glasserow Gladney]
Added on 29-Nov-21 | Last updated 29-Nov-21
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If I let myself believe anything on insufficient evidence, there may be no great harm done by the mere belief; it may be true after all, or I may never have occasion to exhibit it in outward acts. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards Man, that I make myself credulous. The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them; for then it must sink back into savagery.

William Kingdon Clifford (1845-1879) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Ethics of Belief,” Part 1 “The Duty of Inquiry,” Lecture, London (11 Apr 1876)
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No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.

Nye Bevan
Aneurin "Nye" Bevan (1897-1960) Welsh politician
In Place of Fear (1952)

Bevan was the key politician responsible for the 1946 founding of the UK's National Health Service.
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Yet if states were destroyed, local institutions corrupted, and economic incentives directed towards murder, few of us would behave well. There is little reason to think that we are ethically superior to the Europeans of the 1930s and 1940s, or for that matter less vulnerable to the kind of ideas that Hitler so successfully promulgated and realized.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, “Conclusion” (2015)
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The ideal capitalism envisioned by advocates of the free market depends upon social virtues and wise policies that it does not itself generate.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, “Conclusion: Our World” (2015)
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Cultures are cunning tailors. They cut garments from convenience and then work hard to reshape individuals to fit them.

Charles King
Charles King (b. 1967) American historian, political scientist, academic, author
Gods of the Upper Air (2019)
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If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living in truth. This is why it must be suppressed more severely than anything else.

Havel - main pillar system living a lie not surprising fundamental threat living in truth - wist.info quote

Václav Havel (1936-2011) Czech playwright, essayist, dissident, politician
The Power of the Powerless, title essay (1979)
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We can’t function as a society unless we have norms of how to behave. You can’t pass enough laws to take care of every human interaction.

Jerry Springer
Jerry Springer (b. 1944) Anglo-American broadcaster, actor, producer, politician
Interview by Stephanie Ruhle, MSNBC, @1:12 (1 Nov 2019)
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Society is like the air, necessary to breathe but insufficient to live on.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason, Vol. 2: Reason in Society, ch. 8 “Ideal Society” (1905)
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“What is truth?” Sometimes people ask this question because they wish to do nothing. Generic cynicism makes us feel hip and alternative even as we slip along with our fellow citizens into a morass of indifference. It is your ability to discern facts that makes you an individual, and our collective trust in common knowledge that makes us a society.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, ch. 10 (2017)
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Perhaps the hardest thing for humans to do is to imagine the world as it is imagined by others. We tend to confuse acting in accordance with the goals and values of the society in which we live with rationality; we tend to confuse intelligence with thinking in accordance with those goals and values. And, of course, we are always inclined to see events as predetermined — and we are almost always wrong.

Masha Gessen (b. 1967) Russian-American journalist, author, translator, activist
“The Fundamental Uncertainty of Mueller’s Russia Indictments,” The New Yorker (20 Feb 2018)
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Americans today often speak of racial prejudice as a thing that simply exists — like air — with no nod to the actual work it takes to create and maintain systems based upon prejudice.

Annette Gordon-Reed (b. 1958) American historian, law professor, author
“The Captive Aliens Who Remain Our Shame,” New York Review of Books (19 Jan 2017)
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His father wasn’t the monster he could have been with the power he held over his slaves. He wasn’t a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) American writer
Kindred, ch. 4, sec. 6 (1979)
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Added on 13-May-21 | Last updated 13-May-21
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A society is most vigorous, and appealing, when both partisan and critic are legitimate voices in the permanent dialogue that is the testing of ideas and experience. One can be a critic of one’s country without being an enemy of its promise.

Daniel Bell (1919-2011) American sociologist, writer, editor, academic
The End of Ideology, Introduction (1961 ed.)
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Added on 5-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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But, however tardily, I nonetheless caught myself and realized I had always devoted my time and attention to people who fascinated me and were pleasant, who engaged my sympathy, and that as a result I was seeing society like the Moon, always from one side.

Alexander Solzhenitsen (1918-2008) Russian novelist, emigre [Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn]
The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2 (1974) [tr. Whitney]
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Added on 31-Mar-21 | Last updated 31-Mar-21
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And what is an authentic lunatic? He is a man who has preferred to become what is socially understood as mad rather than forfeit a certain superior idea of human honor. In its asylums, society has managed to strangle all those it has wished to rid itself of or defend itself from, because they refused to make themselves accomplices to various flagrant dishonesties. For a lunatic is also a man whom society has not wished to listen to, and whom it is determined to prevent from uttering unbearable truths.

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) French playwright, actor, director
Van Gogh, the Man Suicided by Society [Le Suicidé de la Société] (1947) [tr. Watson]
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Alternate translation:

And what is an authentic madman? It is a man who preferred to become mad, in the socially accepted sense of the word, rather than forfeit a certain superior idea of human honor. So society has strangled in its asylums all those it wanted to get rid of or protect itself from, because they refused to become its accomplices in certain great nastinesses. For a madman is also a man whom society did not want to hear and whom it wanted to prevent from uttering certain intolerable truths.
Added on 3-Mar-21 | Last updated 3-Mar-21
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But since, as Plato has admirably expressed it, we are not born for ourselves alone, but our country claims a share of our being, and our friends a share; and since, as the Stoics hold, everything that the earth produces is created for man’s use; and as men, too, are born for the sake of men, that they may be able mutually to help one another; in this direction we ought to follow Nature as our guide, to contribute to the general good by an interchange of acts of kindness, by giving and receiving, and thus by our skill, our industry, and our talents to cement human society more closely together, man to man.

[Sed quoniam, ut praeclare scriptum est a Platone, non nobis solum nati sumus ortusque nostri partem patria vindicat, partem amici, atque, ut placet Stoicis, quae in terris gignantur, ad usum hominum omnia creari, homines autem hominum causa esse generatos, ut ipsi inter se aliis alii prodesse possent, in hoc naturam debemus ducem sequi, communes utilitates in medium afferre mutatione officiorum, dando accipiendo, tum artibus, tum opera, tum facultatibus devincire hominum inter homines societatem.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 7 / sec. 22 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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Original Latin. Referring to Plato, Epistle 9, to Archytas: "No one of us exists for himself alone, but one share of our existence belongs to our country, another to our parents, a third to the rest of our friends, while a great part is given over to those needs of the hour with which our life is beset." [tr. Bury (1966)]

Alternate translations:

"But seeing (as is excellently said by Plato) we are not born for ourselves alone; but that our native country, our friends and relations, have a just claim and title to some part of us;" and seeing whatsoever is created on earth was merely designed (as the Stoics will have it) for the service of men; and men themselves for the service, good, and assistance of one another; we certainly in this should be followers of Nature, and second her intentions; and by producing all that lies within the reach of our power for the general interest, by mutually giving and receiving good turns, by our knowledge, industry, riches, or other means, should endeavour to keep up that love and society, that should be amongst men.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

But, according to the excellent observation of Plato, "since we were not born for ourselves alone, our country and our friends have separate claims upon us." The produce of the earth, according to the Stoics, is intended wholly for the use of man; but men were designed for the service of men, by being made able to communicate reciprocal benefits to each other. In this view we ought to follow nature as our guide; and, by the exchange of services, by giving and receiving, to bring forward general advantages for the common good. We ought, by knowledge, industry, and wealth, to bind closer the society of men with men.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

But (as has been strikingly said by Plato) we are not born for ourselves alone, and our country claims her share, and our friends their share of us; and, as the Stoics hold, all the earth produces is created for the used of man, so men are created for the sake of men, that they may mutually do good to one another; in this we ought to take nature for our guide, to throw into the public stock the offices of general utility by a reciprocation of duties; sometimes by receiving, sometimes by giving, and sometimes to cement human society by arts, by industry, and byh our resources.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

But since, as it has been well said by Plato, we are not born for ourselves alone; since our country claims a part in us, our parents a part, our friends a part; and since, according to the Stoics, whatever the earth bears is created for the use of men, while men were brought into being for the sake of men, that they might do good to one another, -- in this matter we ought to follow nature as a guide, to contribute our part to the common good, and by the interchange of kind offices, both in giving and receiving, alike by skill, by labor, and by the resources at our command, to strengthen the social union of men among men.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]
Added on 22-Feb-21 | Last updated 22-Feb-21
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The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003) American politician, diplomat, sociologist
Godkin Lecture, Harvard (1985)
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As reprinted in his book, Family and Nation (1986).
Added on 19-Feb-21 | Last updated 19-Feb-21
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In our time, as in times before, creep on the insidious forces that, producing inequality, destroy Liberty. On the horizon the clouds begin to lower. Liberty calls to us again. We must follow her further; we must trust her fully. Either we must wholly accept her or she will not stay. It is not enough that men should vote; it is not enough that they should be theoretically equal before the law. They must have liberty to avail themselves of the opportunities and means of life; they must stand on equal terms with reference to the bounty of nature. Either this, or Liberty withdraws her light! Either this, or darkness comes on, and the very forces that progress has evolved turn to powers that work destruction. This is the universal law. This is the lesson of the centuries. Unless its foundations be laid in justice the social structure cannot stand.

Henry George (1839-1897) American economist
The Law of Human Progress, Book 10, ch. 5 “The Central Truth” (1879)
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Now, that man is more of a political animal than bees or any other gregarious animals is evident. Nature, as we often say, makes nothing in vain, and man is the only animal whom she has endowed with the gift of speech.

[διότι δὲ πολιτικὸν ὁ ἄνθρωπος ζῷον πάσης μελίττης καὶ παντὸς ἀγελαίου ζῴου μᾶλλον, δῆλον. οὐθὲν γάρ, ὡς φαμέν, μάτην ἡ φύσις ποιεῖ·]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 1, ch. 2, sec. 10 / 1253a.7-11 [tr. Jowett (1885)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "And that man is a social animal in a fuller sense than any bee or gregarious animal is evident; for nature, we say, makes nothing without an object, and man is the only animal that possesses rational speech." [tr. Bolland (1877)]
  • "The gift of speech also evidently proves that man is a more social animal than the bees, or any of the herding cattle: for nature, as we say, does nothing in vain, and man is the only animal who enjoys it." [tr. Ellis (1912)]
  • "And why man is a political animal in a greater measure than any bee or any gregarious animal is clear. For nature, as we declare, does nothing without purpose; and man alone of the animals possesses speech." [tr. Rackham (1932)]
  • "That man is much more a political animal than any kind of bee or any herd animal is clear. For, as we assert, nature does nothing in vain; and man alone among the animals has speech." [tr. Lord (1984)]
  • "It is also clear why a human is more of a political animal than any bee or any other gregarious animal. For nature does nothing pointlessly, as we say, and a human being alone among the animals has speech." [tr. Reeve (2007)]
  • "It is clear that man is a political animal, more than every bee and herd animal: for nature makes nothing in vain and man alone of living things has reason." [tr. @sentantiq (2011)]
Added on 12-Feb-21 | Last updated 12-Feb-21
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I don’t long for the good old days when there was no servant problem. Back in those days, I’d have been a servant.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
(Attributed)
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The ability of the rich and their acolytes to see social virtue in what serves their interest and convenience and to depict as ridiculous or foolish what does not was never better manifested than in their support of gold and their condemnation of paper money.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went, ch. 9 (1975)
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Good government makes everything well ordered and fit,
And at the same time it throws shackles on the unjust.
It levels out the rough, stops insolence, and weakens arrogance.
It causes the growing blossoms of blindness to wither.
It straightens crooked judgments and it levels out over-reaching deeds.
It stops the acts of civil conflict and
It stops the anger of grievous strife and because of it
Everything among men is wisely and appropriately done.

[Εὐνομίη δ’ εὔκοσμα καὶ ἄρτια πάντ’ ἀποφαίνει,
καὶ θαμὰ τοῖς ἀδίκοις ἀμφιτίθησι πέδας·
τραχέα λειαίνει, παύει κόρον, ὕβριν ἀμαυροῖ,
αὑαίνει δ’ ἄτης ἄνθεα φυόμενα,
εὐθύνει δὲ δίκας σκολιάς, ὑπερήφανά τ’ ἔργα
πραΰνει· παύει δ’ ἔργα διχοστασίης,
παύει δ’ ἀργαλέης ἔριδος χόλον, ἔστι δ’ ὑπ’ αὐτῆς
πάντα κατ’ ἀνθρώπους ἄρτια καὶ πινυτά.]

Solon (c. 638 BC - 558 BC) Athenian statesman, lawmaker, poet
Fragment 4.32-39 W [tr. @sententiq (2015)]
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Solon's description of eunomiē (lawfulness). Alt. trans.:
Lawfulness, puts all things into good order and makes them sound,
And often places shackles about those who are unjust.
She smooths what is rough, puts an end to excess, enfeebles arrogance;
She withers the flowers of ruin as they spring up;
She straightens crooked judgments, and overbearing acts she turns to gentleness;
She puts an end to acts of dissension,
Puts an end to the bitterness of painful strife:
Beneath her hand all things among mankind are sound and prudent.
[tr. Miller (1996)]

Good Government displays all neatness and order,
And many times she must put shackles on the breakers of laws
She levels rough places, stops Glut and Greed, takes the force from Violence:
She dries up the growing flowers of Despair as they grow;
She straightens out crooked judgments given, gentles the swollen ambitions,
And puts an end to acts of divisional strife;
She stills the gall of wearisome Hate,
And under her influence all life among mankind is harmonious and does well.
[tr. Lattimore]
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Society is only incidentally and in certain cases regulative, and law is no equivalent to the social order. […] Even in our civilization the law is never more than a crude implement of society, and one it is often enough necessary to check in its arrogant career. It is never to be read off as if it were the equivalent of the social order.

Ruth Benedict (1887-1947) American anthropologist
Patterns of Culture, ch. 8 “The Individual and Culture” (1934)
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Society in its full sense […] is never an entity separable from the individuals who compose it. No individual can arrive even at the threshold of his potentialities without a culture in which he participates. Conversely, no civilization has in it any element which in the last analysis is not the contribution of an individual.

Ruth Benedict (1887-1947) American anthropologist
Patterns of Culture, ch. 8 “The Individual and Culture” (1934)
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Sometimes quoted as "The community is never an entity ...."
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Any power must be the enemy of mankind which enslaves the individual by terror and force, whether it arises under a Fascist or Communist flag. All that is valuable in human society depends on the opportunity for development accorded to the individual.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Press statement, England (15 Sep 1933)
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A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. For the traitor appears not a traitor — he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation — he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city — he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared. The traitor is the carrier of the plague. You have unbarred the gates of Rome to him.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Spurious)

This text, widely passed around on social media, was made up for Cicero in Taylor Caldwell, A Pillar of Iron (1965).
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Modern politics cannot be a matter of genuine moral consensus. And it is not. Modern politics is civil war carried on by other means.

Alasdair MacIntyre (b. 1929) Scottish philosopher
After Virtue: A Study of Moral Theory, ch. 17 (1981)
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Added on 23-Jun-20 | Last updated 23-Jun-20
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He may have gone quite far in our society, but no matter how far one goes, one cannot avoid bringing oneself along.

Peter David (b. 1956) American writer
Babylon 5: Legions of Fire III – Out of the Darkness (2000)
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The certainties of one age are the problems of the next.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, ch. 5 (1926)
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The world is very full of people — appallingly full; it has never been so full before — and they are all tumbling over each other. Most of these people one doesn’t know and some of them one doesn’t like; doesn’t like the colour of their skins, say, or the shapes of their noses, or the way they blow them or don’t blow them, or the way they talk, or their smell or their clothes, or their fondness for jazz or their dislike of jazz, and so on. Well, what is one to do?

There are two solutions. One of them is the Nazi solution. If you don’t like people, kill them, banish them, segregate them, and then strut up and down proclaiming that you are the salt of the earth.

The other way is much less thrilling, but it is on the whole the way of the democracies, and I prefer it. If you don’t like people, put up with them as well as you can. Don’t try to love them; you can’t, you’ll only strain yourself. But try to tolerate them. On the basis of that tolerance a civilised future may be built.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“The Unsung Virtue of Tolerance,” radio broadcast (Jul 1941)
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Published as "Tolerance," Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
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I see men assassinated around me every day. I walk through rooms of the dead, streets of the dead, cities of the dead: men without eyes, men without voices; men with manufactured feelings and standard reactions; men with newspaper brains, television souls and high school ideals.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
Sunlight Here I Am: Interviews and Encounters, 1963-1993 (2003)
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When asked his reaction to the assassination of John Kennedy.
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Let us shun extremes, not only because each extreme is in itself a positive evil, but also because each extreme necessarily engenders its opposite. If we love civil and religious freedom, let us in the day of danger uphold law and order. If we are zealous for law and order, let us prize, as the best safeguard of law and order, civil and religious freedom.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
Speech on re-election to Parliament, Edinburgh (2 Nov 1852)
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Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

H.G. Wells (1866-1946) British writer [Herbert George Wells]
The Outline of History, Vol. 2, ch. 41, sec. 4 (1921)
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Also attributed to Wells: "Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe. Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide as our circumstances allow. For the truth is the greatest weapon we have."
Added on 6-Jan-20 | Last updated 6-Jan-20
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The security of society lies in custom and unconscious instinct, and the basis of the stability of society, as a healthy organism, is the complete absence of any intelligence amongst its members. The great majority of people being aware of this, rank themselves naturally on the side of that splendid system that elevates them to the dignity of machines, and rage so wildly against the intrusion of the intellectual faculty into any question that concerns life, that one is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
“The Critic as Artist,” Intentions (1891)
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Added on 27-May-19 | Last updated 27-May-19
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I realize that all society rests upon force. But all the great creative actions, all the decent human relations, occur during the intervals when force has not managed to come to the front. These intervals are what matter. I want them to be as frequent and as lengthy as possible, and I call them “civilization”.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“What I Believe,” The Nation (16 Jul 1938)
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The paradox of education is precisely this — that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not. To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity. But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish. The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it -– at no matter what risk. This is the only hope society has. This is the only way societies change.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) American novelist, playwright, activist
“The Negro Child — His Self-Image,” speech (16 Oct 1963)
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Speech to educators, first published as "A Talk to Teachers," The Saturday Review (21 Dec 1963). The thesis above is restatated at the end in these words, more frequently quoted: "I began by saying that one of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person."
Added on 6-Mar-19 | Last updated 6-Mar-19
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CRASSUS: One of the disadvantages of being a patrician is that occasionally you’re obliged to act like one.

Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) American screenwriter and novelist [James Dalton Trumbo]
Spartacus (1960) [novel by Howard Fast]
Added on 2-Oct-18 | Last updated 2-Oct-18
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Good manners — the longer I live the more convinced I am of it — are a priceless insurance against failure and loneliness. And anyone can have them.

Elsa Maxwell (1883-1963) American gossip columnist, author, songwriter, professional hostess
Elsa Maxwell’s Etiquette Book (1951)
Added on 12-Apr-18 | Last updated 12-Apr-18
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Agitation is the marshalling of the conscience of a nation to mold its laws.

Robert Peel (1788-1850) British statesman, Prime Minister (1834-35, 1841-46)
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Sometimes quoted as "conscience of a people." Widely quoted without source in the late 19th Century (earliest ref. 1881).
Added on 2-Apr-18 | Last updated 2-Apr-18
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Man is a social animal who dislikes his fellow man.

[L’homme es un animal sociable qui déteste ses semblables.]

Eugène Delacroix (1799-1863) French painter [Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix]
The Journal of Eugène Delacroix, 17 November 1852 (1951)
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Added on 26-Feb-18 | Last updated 26-Feb-18
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The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Questions (1988) [with Jason A. Schulman]
Added on 10-Jan-18 | Last updated 10-Jan-18
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Conscience and the press ought to be unrestrained, not because men have a right to deviate from the exact line that duty prescribes, but because society, the aggregate of individuals, has no right to assume the prerogative of an infallible judge, and to undertake authoritatively to prescribe to its members in matters of pure speculation.

William Godwin (1756-1836) English journalist, political philosopher, novelist
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Book 2, ch. 5 (1793)
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Added on 20-Nov-17 | Last updated 20-Nov-17
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One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.

Stendhal (1783-1842) French writer [pen name of Marie-Henri Beyle]
On Love, Book 3 “Fragments” (1822)
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Added on 14-Nov-17 | Last updated 14-Nov-17
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Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, but a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
Letters on a Regicide Peace, Letter 1 (1796)
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Added on 7-Sep-17 | Last updated 7-Sep-17
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Back in the nineteen-hundreds it was a wonderful experience for a boy to discover H. G. Wells. There you were, in a world of pedants, clergymen and golfers, with your future employers exhorting you to “get on or get out”, your parents systematically warping your sexual life, and your dull-witted schoolmasters sniggering over their Latin tags; and here was this wonderful man who could tell you about the inhabitants of the planets and the bottom of the sea, and who knew that the future was not going to be what respectable people imagined.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Wells, Hitler, and the World State,” Horizon (Aug 1941)
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Added on 27-Jul-17 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
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We can have no better clue to a man’s character than the company he keeps.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) Italian politician, philosopher, political scientist
The Discourses on Livy, Book 3, ch. 34 (1517) [tr. Thomson (1883)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "There is no better indication of a man's character than the company which he keeps."
Added on 18-Jul-17 | Last updated 27-Jan-20
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As has been pointed out so often, it is characteristic of mankind to make as little adjustment as possible in customary ways in the face of new conditions; the process of social change is epitomized in the fact that the first Packard car body delivered to the manufacturers had a whipstock on the dashboard.

Robert Lynd (1892-1970) American sociologist [Robert Slaughton Lynd]
Middletown, ch. 29 (1929) [with Helen Lynd]
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Added on 30-Jun-17 | Last updated 30-Jun-17
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We’re poor little lambs who’ve lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We’re little black sheep who’ve gone astray,
Baa-aa-aa!
Gentlemen rankers out on a spree,
Damned from here to Eternity.
God ha’ mercy on such as we,
Baa! Yah! Bah!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“Gentlemen-Rankers,” (1892)
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Added on 12-Jun-17 | Last updated 12-Jun-17
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Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005) Austrian-American business consultant
(Attributed)

Frequently attributed to Drucker, but not found in his writings. See here for more discussion.
Added on 8-May-17 | Last updated 23-May-17
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Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again.

William James (Will) Durant (1885-1981) American historian, teacher, philosopher
The Lessons of History (1968)
Added on 10-Apr-17 | Last updated 10-Apr-17
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What has destroyed every previous civilization has been the tendency to the unequal distribution of wealth and power. This same tendency, operating with increasing force, is observable in our civilization to-day, showing itself in every progressive community, and with greater intensity the more progressive the community. Wages and interest tend constantly to fall, rent to rise, the rich to become very much richer, the poor to become more helpless and hopeless, and the middle class to be swept away.

Henry George (1839-1897) American economist
Progress and Poverty, “How Modern Civilization May Decline” (1879)
Added on 22-Mar-17 | Last updated 22-Mar-17
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If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Colonel Charles Yancy (6 Jan 1816)
Added on 20-Mar-17 | Last updated 20-Mar-17
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The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, ch. 24 (1936)
Added on 14-Mar-17 | Last updated 14-Mar-17
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Civilization begins with order, grows with liberty, and dies with chaos.

William James (Will) Durant (1885-1981) American historian, teacher, philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 13-Mar-17 | Last updated 13-Mar-17
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