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H.G. Wells

Preface to Gabriel Tarde's 1896 Underground Man

He rejects the proposition that “society consists in an exchange of services” with the confidence of a man who has thought it finely out. He gives out clearly what so many of us are beginning dimly perhaps to apprehend, that “society consists in the exchange of reflections”. The passages subsequent to this pronouncement will be the seed of many interesting developments in any mind sufficiently attuned to his. They constitute the body, the serious reality to which all the rest of this little book is so much dress, adornment and concealment. Very many of us, I believe, are dreaming of the possibility of human groupings based on interest and a common creative impulse rather than on justice and a trade in help and services; and I do not scruple therefore to put my heavy underline and marginal note to M. Tarde’s most intimate moment. A page or so further on he is back below his ironical mask again, jesting at the “tribe of sociologists”–the most unsociable of mankind.