During the first forty years of this century, the concept of a living organism was discussed widely and publicly by biologists and philosophers. Two questions in particular excited discussion. In what ways should organisms be considered different from or the same as dead matter? And what can we learn about the nature of human society by regarding it as analogous to a living organism? Inevitably, these questions were closely related; the conclusions to be drawn about the social organism would depend upon the particular properties attributed to the biological organism. In more recent years, discussion of these issues has largely been in abeyance, as biologists have with-drawn from debate over social policy into a more remote academia. A few biologists who still see their work as relevant to a wider social agenda have continued to treat the nature of life as a contentious issue. But the focus of interest has shifted away from the organismic analogy, which concerns the organization of society as a whole, to issues like sociobiology and evolutionary theory, which emphasize social differentiation and the treatment of out-groups and minorities.