John Stuart-Glennie’s Lost Legacy

In Christopher T. Conner, Nicholas M. Baxter & David R. Dickens (eds.), Forgotten Founders and Other Neglected Social Theorists. pp. 11-26 (2019)
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This chapter examines the lost legacy of John Stuart-Glennie (1841-1910), a contributor to the founding of sociology and a major theorist, whose work was known in his lifetime but disappeared after his death. Stuart-Glennie was praised by philosopher John Stuart Mill, was a friend of and influence upon playwright George Bernard Shaw, and was an active contributor to the fledgling Sociological Society in London in the first decade of the twentieth century. Stuart-Glennie’s most significant idea in hindsight was his theory of what he termed in 1873, “the moral revolution,” delineating the revolutionary changes across different civilizations in the period 2,500 years ago, roughly centered around 500-600 BCE. This is the era currently known as “the axial age,” after Karl Jaspers coined that term in 1949. Stuart-Glennie’s theory of the moral revolution is framed within a three-stage view of history, the first of which involved an outlook he characterized as “panzooinism,” and sometimes as “naturianism.” This theory of aboriginal and early civilizational outlooks is also notable and worthy of consideration in contemporary context, and as a contribution to “the new animism.” The chapter concludes by considering whether the moral revolution/axial age, whose effects have continued for the past 2500 years, is sustainable in the age of the unsustainable Anthropocene.

Author's Profile

Eugene Halton
University of Notre Dame


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