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Decline Of Organicism

The rise of modern scientific thought and of moral and political individualism profoundly challenged and damaged the organicist outlook. The tendency to consider nature in mechanistic and evolutionary terms devalues the distinctively organic and purposive character of biological creatures, as does the emphasis on the individual as the building block of social institutions. Organicism has been conflated with methodological holism in logic and metaphysics or, worse still, with collectivism and authoritarianism in politics. Likewise, poststructuralism and other twentieth-century movements in criticism disputed the very uniqueness of the work of art as a cultural form distinct from its surroundings. Still, the popular invocation of phrases such as "body politic" suggests that the inclination to conceive of diversified unities in organicist terms has not completely disappeared from the intellectual stage.


Abrams, M. H. The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1953.

Constable, Giles. Three Studies in Medieval Religious and Social Thought. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Feher, Michael, with Ramona Naddaff and Nadia Tazi, eds. Fragments for a History of the Human Body. 3 vols. New York: Zone, 1989.

Struve, Tilman. Die Entwicklung der organologischen Staatsauffas-sung im Mittelalter. Stuttgart, Germany: Hiersemann, 1978.

Cary J. Nederman

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Octadecanoate to OvenbirdsOrganicism - Logic And Metaphysics, Aesthetics, Theology And Cosmology, Social And Political Thought, Decline Of Organicism