In works on sociology and politics it is a commonplace to use language derived from medicine when the writers are referring to features of society which are regarded as abnormal. When Mr Tawney, wishing to emphasise the unsatisfactory aspects of the social conditions of our civilisation, speaks of “ the Sickness of an Acquisitive Society,” or when we speak of the paralysis of a social institution or the convulsions of a revolu tion, we are using similes derived more or less directly from pathological states of the individual to denote states of society. In general such usage is only regarded as meta phorical, and so long as there is nothing more than an employment of metaphor and simile, no problem of importance is raised. I pro pose in this lecture, however, to deal with the question whether it may not be possible to use such terms in more than a metaphorical sense so that the words will carry over into their new application a significance definitely connected with that which they bear when
they are used of the individual. The problem I wish to raise in this lecture is whether it is possible to use some part, at any rate, of the terminology of the medicine of the individual for the description and classification of states of society and for the methods by which these states may, when necessary, be treated by the statesman and social reformer. The problem before us will be whether it is pos sible, and if so whether it is expedient, to introduce into the science of sociology the concepts and terminology of disease.