The Housing Question And Scientific Reform -- By: William Caldwell
BSac 54:214 (Apr 1897) p. 366
The Housing Question And Scientific Reform1
IT seems fitting that a Conference like the present should, be conscious to some extent of the relation of the special topic of its consideration to social science as a whole, and to the whole course of contemporary social evolution, and to the science of reform—if there be such a science—to scientific reform. The very fact that this conference is held under the auspices of a University Settlement, and of settlement workers, and philanthropists, and public officials, is enough to prove to the general public that the topic of our consideration is a rational one, one that is thoroughly in line with the best modern tendencies of economic and social reform. The people who meet here to consider this topic of the Housing of our Working-Classes cannot, by their very existence, be mere visionaries, or mere revolutionists, or mere sentimentalists, or mere busybodies and agitators. Taking-, then, all this for granted, I wish, ladies arid gentlemen, with your permission, to bring before you some—I do not say all—some of the principles of social evolution and reform on which this movement for the better housing of working-people may be said to rest. A movement that could not bear inspection in the light of scientific principles of human nature, and that might be out of harmony with social evolution,—which is a thing we
BSac 54:214 (Apr 1897) p. 367
may help to mould, but not wholly or arbitrarily control,— would be condemned as irrational, unreal, unworthy of the consideration of scientific and serious people, as not destined to have a future.
But the first thing that may be said about the proposal to insure better homes for people in the crowded part of our cities is, that it strikes a fundamental note, so far as both human nature and social science are concerned. It proposes, that, if any tiling is to be done for the people in crowded districts of cities, we should proceed by trying to organize or reorganize civic life by taking hold of the fundamental unit of society—the family. No person outside the family life, no person who has nothing at stake in the process of social evolution, can understand that very process. No person who is unacquainted with the evolution of the family in the social process and progress of humanity can have an adequate idea of the importance of this movement of modern cities to strengthen the very roots of family life by seeking, in a measure, to insist that families shall live in places where family life can take real roots. It may be that some people in our midst think, with some socialists, and some utopists, and some would-be devotees of the ideal of complete personal freedom, ...
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