Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/211

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OUR SIX-FOOTED RIVALS.

tion—and, in like manner, e. g., a community of beavers or of rooks—is formed by the aggregation, not of single individuals, but of groups, each consisting of a male, a female, and their offspring. The social unit among vertebrates, therefore, is the family, whether permanent or temporary, and whether monogamous or polygamous. In numberless cases the family exists without combining with other families to form a nation, but we greatly doubt if there exists a single case of a vertebrate nation not formed of and resolvable into families.

Among the Annulosa this is reversed. The family among them scarcely exists at all. Rarely is the union of the male and the female extended beyond the actual intercourse, all provision for the future young devolving upon the latter alone. Among the rare exceptions to this rule, we may mention the burying-beetle, and some of the dung-beetles, both sexes of whom labor conjointly to find and inter the food in which the eggs are to be deposited. Generally speaking, moreover, the young insect never knows—never even sees—its parents, who in most cases have died before it has emerged from the egg. Among non-social insects the earwig and a few other Orthoptera form the chief exceptions. Where a regularly organized society, a nation, or tribe, exists among annulose animals, it is not formed by the coalescence of families to a higher unity. The family, if it can be said to exist at all, is conterminous and identical with the nation. This absence of a something whose claims are felt by all ordinary men to be stronger than those of the state has rendered the successful organization of the "commune" feasible among ants, and among other social Hymenoptera, such as bees, wasps, etc. With them the state has no rival, and absorbs all the energies which in human society the individual devotes to the interests of his family. We thus see that theorists on social reform have been, from their own point of view, logically consistent in attacking the institution of marriage and the whole system of domestic life: they have sought to abolish the great impediment to the commune, and to approximate man to the condition of our six-footed rivals, and to constitute society not as heretofore of molecules, but of atoms.

But it is not enough to show that the failure of communism among mankind and its success among certain Hymenopterous insects are due to the existence and the power of the family in the former case, and to its absence in the latter. We have yet to inquire into the wherefore of so important a distinction. Vertebrate society, where it exists at all, is founded on family life, because every vertebrate animal is sexual, and as such is attracted to some individual of the opposite sex by the strongest instinct of its nature, that of self-preservation alone excepted. Invertebrate society, where it exists in perfection, as among the Hymenoptera, is not formed by a union of families, because the great majority of Hymenopterous individuals (in the social species) are non-sexual, neuter, incapable of any private or domestic attach-