An Event-System Theory of Collective Action
Floyd Henry Allport
School of Citizenship and Public Affairs,
A. INADEQUACY OF PRESENT FORMULATIONS
There is need in social psychology and the social sciences for a better understanding of what takes place when a number of people act together so that a definite end result is produced. No problem in the entire field of societal relationships is more universal than this. The goal sought when human beings act together has so occupied the center of attention that there has been little study of the process of collective action itself. For this reason loose terms and antiquated, mystical theories of agency, of a type which would appear droll in the physical sciences, have been allowed to persist in our social thinking and planning. One of the most common usages is the theory of a collective agent, sometimes personified in human form, and sometimes left under such vague names as corporation, committee, group, nation, or state. It is implied in this usage that the end result of combined action in the fields which these terms connote is due to the activity of super-individuals or collective agents. Thus the corporation is said to pay its debts, the committee is said to decide a question, and a government or state to agree to a treaty, adopt a foreign policy, maintain its honor, or declare war. Such statements, though verbally convenient and useful for control are, as descriptions of what happens, false, inadequate, or misleading. Through their wide use, moreover, many writers seem to have deceived themselves into accepting them as indicating realities. Some-times the reification metaphor takes the form of "institutions," conceived as structures which operate to produce the end goals of society. This formulation is equally devoid of possibility for empirical investigation and description (1, Ch. I).
Another formulation is in terms of the "cause and contributing factor"
theory, in which societal events are traced to specific causes or to causes
acting in combination. Here again we see the difficulty of using words which are
not sufficiently explicit in denotation to point out objects amenable to
investigation. The notion of causation itself is in peed of critical
overhauling. Unless a collective situation is looked at as a system (and its
system-character determined) its variables cannot be sufficiently controlled to
secure workably adequate prediction in terms of one variable. Contributing
factors or partial causes are then invoked to satisfy verbal demands for
retrospective explanation; but the contribution of these factors to the end
result as a whole cannot be measured (for there is interaction, not simple
accretion) ; nor can prediction be consistently or substantially improved, in
the absence of control of other variables, by talking in terms of these
contributing factors. The meliorative goal as a substitute for fact finding is
partly responsible for this backwardness in social science. We have not been
sufficiently interested in understanding collective phenomena, but only in using
them to gain end goals. We have not wanted to understand how the result has been
obtained so much as to obtain a more socially desirable result. For the purpose
of scientific generalization, there is no difference in desirability between
good societal results and bad. Either type of situation affords us an
opportunity for studying the process by which collective effects are produced.
B. DEFINITION OF EVENT-SYSTEM
It is the thesis of this paper that collective action, when it takes the form of organization can be understood in terms of a system of events or happenings between explicitly denotable things, for example human beings; and that, beyond this conception, no "collec-
(419) -tive entity" terms whatsoever are needed if we observe and describe the situation with sufficient thoroughness. First, we need to get a clearer notion of what is meant by a system. Technically stated, a system is an interaction of things in terms of their mutually dependent variables. One element of the field changes with changes in the other elements in a fairly predictable way. The intrusion of an independent variable tends to destroy (or at least modify) the system. An end result is produced from the mutually dependent action of these variables. Systems are found universally in nature. In fact, our awareness of specific natural laws often comes to us through the discovery of their operation in systems. (This is at the base of the issue between the "class theory" advocates and the "field-theory" of the topologists. ) We may cite as inorganic examples of event-systems the rhythmic activity of intermittent geysers, and the cycle of atmospheric evaporation of water and its re-precipitation as rain. Within organisms, systems are familiar in the principle of homeostasis of energy, and in the mutually dependent relationships of lungs, heart, kidneys, and other organs. Systems, however, are perhaps most familiar to us in machines. The principle of mutual dependence of the inter-working of parts is here too well known to require illustration.
Machines are telic systems as well as energy systems. Unlike our other inorganic examples, the end result of their operation is the
(420) provision of something for human beings to use.
When the term "telic" has been stripped of its animistic connotations, it will
be seen that the fact that human or humanly constructed systems have a telic
aspect does not destroy their character as systems. We might imagine, for
example, that the parts of some machine and its energy-source had gotten
together purely by "accident," i.e., as in the unpredictable changes through
which geysers, planetary systems, tides, etc., were established. The mutually
dependent parts would then operate and the end result would be produced just as
at present, regardless of the presence or absence of any human use to which it
could be put.
C. STRUCTURE OF EVENT-SYSTEMS IN GENERAL
Event-systems in general comprise the following elements and properties: (1) Nodes. A node is an explicitly denotable thing whose action or movement produces some change which is predictably related to the action of another such thing. (2) The change produced at or by the node is called an event. Events are of two kinds: (a) motion event (that is motion of the node itself), and (b) object-change event. Motion events may be further subdivided into (i) simple movement events and (ii) behavior events. Object-change events are also characteristically produced through-behavior, as for example when some material is altered by a worker in the process of manufacture. Events may thus be functionally described as inter-nodal.
One indispensable condition of an (inter-nodal) event is time-space coincidence, or at least availability, for nodal action. In any pair of nodes in a sequence, the change produced at or by the first node must be present in a space and at a time in which it can be related to the operation of the second node. When the second node has operated with regard to the event produced by the first, the change of matter in space (event) which it produces will then
(421) be acted upon by a third node, and so on throughout the entire system. Since the system is functional rather than topographical, the same node may, at least in human event systems, operate more than once in the process. The sequence of events, or changes between nodes, is known as an event succession. In multi-individual event-systems (whose nodes are organisms) it is a telic event succession. Each change produced at or by a node within the system is called an in-series event. The event produced at or by the last node is called the end event. In multi-individual or machine systems this is a telic end event.
These characteristics may be illustrated by a watch or doorbell circuit. In the watch the spring-drive part and the various wheels are nodes. The motion produced at one of these nodes is transmitted to the next; that is, the next node operates. The movement of each node is an in-series event. The end-event is the turning of the pin moving the hands. There is thus brought about a result which a human being is trying to accomplish, namely, the provision of an indicator showing him the time of day; the system, therefore, has a telic aspect. In a doorbell circuit the conducting wires, battery parts, bell, clapper with spring, alternate contact pins, etc., are nodes. The motions or changes in these parts as they operate one against another are the in-series events. The ringing of the bell is the end event, again telic in meaning. In both these examples it will be noted that presence of the-nodes and their action in a particular instant of time is an indispensable condition of the system (time and space availability or coincidence). It will be noted also that there is, in these cases, a practical simultaneity of in-series and end events. For this reason the word end in "end-event"should be understood in a functional, rather than a temporal, sense.
Another property of the qualitative aspect of event systems is their circularity. There is always a cycle between "no qualitative happening," through the qualitative happening, and back to "no qualitative happening." The doorbell is not ringing, it rings, and then it is not ringing. This cyclical phenomenon, though universal, can be fully understood in multi-individual event-systems only through its adjustive or telic significance. A visitor approaches a door, pushes the button, thus calling attention of the occupants of the house, and then returns to his former condition of not pushing the button. The circle is thus completed when the individual has
(422) secured the result he was trying to obtain. In the use of a watch a telic circle can be completed at any moment when its owner looks at it. Telic circularity is therefore a property of all human event-systems.
The above described properties, which may be called qualitative, are but one part of the characteristics essential to an event-system. We turn now, to another consideration which is purely quantitative. In the operation of any event-system there must not only be nodes, so structured as to act in a specialized manner, but energy changes involved in their action. Energy must be (a) supplied, (b) made available for nodal action, and (c) used. In the electrical circuit it is supplied by intra-molecular or intra-atomic activity within the battery materials. In the watch the energy is supplied originally by the human organism who winds it, and is stored as potential energy in the coiled spring. Every motion of A bode productive of an event involves the making available and the dissipation of stored energy. The successive dissipation of energy from the action of one node to the next may be called an energy gradient, or energy transmission series. There is a threshold of required energy, both at each node and in the system as a whole, below which the production of the in-series and end-events will not occur. In the energy aspect also there is a kind of circularity which is more familiarly known as energy balance. The counterpart of telic circularity is the principle of conservation of energy. Potential energy liberated through the system is dissipated only in the sense that it is no longer in a form serviceable for the operation of that system. The battery of the doorbell circuit must be recharged. The energy cycle is thus one of serviceability to non-serviceability, and back to serviceability. Where an organism is involved, as in the man who winds the watch, this becomes the well-known physiological principle of homeostasis. Energy lost in winding the watch must be later replaced by food, etc.
Still another property of many event-systems is the fact that they are composed of a number of sub-systems. Each of these sub-systems may be described in exactly the same terms as those used above; but they are related to one another in a special manner, so that from the operation of all together, there emerges the end-event of the whole, or grand, system. More specifically, the relationship is such that a certain node, or nodes, belong not only in one sub-system but also in another; and the same may hold for one or more of the
(423) in-series events. Sub-systems, in other words, are tangential to each other.
For example, in an automobile, we may regard the motor itself as one sub-system (the most elaborate and important one). The transmission mechanism is another sub-system, and the differential drive mechanism is still another. We may regard the end-event of the motor system as the turning of the crankshaft with the driving part of the clutch attached. The driving part of the clutch attached to the crankshaft is thus the last node of the motor sub-system. In order to understand how the power is transmitted to the rear part of the car, we have to consider, however, another sub-system (namely the transmission mechanism). The nodes of this sub-system may be stated in order as follows:
1. Driving part of the clutch.
2. Driven part of the clutch with main driving pinion attached.
3. One or more gears.
4. Sliding gears with jackshaft attached.
5. Gear with transmission shaft and propeller shaft attached.
6. Universal joint mechanism with rear part of propeller shaft attached.
It will be noted that the first node of this new sub-system, namely the driving part of the clutch, is really the last node of the motor sub-system, and its end-event (rotation) is really the first in-series event of the new sub-system by which transmission is effected. If we observe, in order, the in-series events at, or between, these respective nodes, we have the following: (1) the driving part of the clutch rotates; (2) the driven part of the clutch (connected with the driving part when the system is "closed"), rotates, turning the driving pinion; (3) the gear, or gears, with which the driving pinion engages, rotates; (4) the sliding gear (when the car is thrown into gear through a lever by human agency), rotates; (5) the gear with the transmission shaft (coupled onto the propeller shaft) rotates; (6) the rear part of the propeller shaft, which is coupled by the universal oint with the forward part, rotates. The sub-system of transmission is thus completed upon the completion of one rotation of the propeller shaft. Such rotation is a definite function of a turning of the crankshaft and clutch face of the motor, according to the gear which is employed. The turning of the rear part of the pro-
(424) -peller shaft is, therefore, the end-event of the transmission sub-system.
But here again, we encounter a new sub-system. The turning propeller shaft imparts motion to a differential mechanism by which power is conveyed to each of the rear wheels, revolution being in a plane at right angles to the plane of revolution of the propeller shaft. We could again name the parts of this sub-system as the nodes whose actions are the successive in-series events. The final, or end, event, is the turning of the wheels. As in the previous case, it will he noted that the last node of the preceding sub-system (transmission), that is, the rear end of the propeller shaft, is the first node of the next sub-system (differential), and the end-event of the first sub-system (turning of the propeller shaft) is the first in-series event of the sub-system following.
There are many other sub-systems in the automobile, such as, for example, the generating system, the motor-cooling system, the timing- gear system, etc. In each case the sub-system, has some node, or nodes, identical with the main "gas-cylinder-piston-crankshaft" sub-system; in other words, it is tangential at some point, or points, to that sub-system. The end-event of each of these sub-systems in some way contributes to the operation of the entire mechanism by time and space coincidences. For example, the current in the generator-battery system is available as needed for ignition (in-series event). The distributor system has, as an end-event, a timed electric spark which plays an indispensable part in an in-series event in the motor sub-system, namely, in the explosion of the compressed gas in a cylinder. All of these sub-systems operate together to give, as the grand end-event, the continued and rapid motion of the entire vehicle over the ground.
Like all machines, however, the automobile is not wholly autonomous. There must be points at which human behavior enters into its operation, in other words, other event sub-systems in which a human being acts as one of the nodes. The end result of such sub-systems is the end which this particular (individual) node wants to attain. In such sub-systems, for example, as that used in starting the car, the nodes would be the driver, the parts of the starting motor, the crankshaft, pistons, cylinders, ignition parts, etc. When the system is closed, if all the parts are in order, the motor starts. The individual, being no longer needed as a node in the system, withdraws and lets it operate autonomously until he is ready to
(425) stop it. It will be seen that the sub-system of individual, starting-motor parts, and crankshaft and pistons is likewise tangential to the motor sub-system. Similarly, when the individual wishes to stop the car, sub-systems, consisting of the individual, clutch lever, ignition switch, etc., bring about an end to the operation of the motor sub-system, by a process we may call "negative causation." Here again, the human sub-system is tangential to the motor sub-system; but it works, this time, not by activating or suppling a necessary node, but by removing one functionally from the system. For ex-ample, it throws a required gear out of mesh, or removes an electric contact from a circuit. The motor being stopped, another tangential, negatively causal, sub-system in which the individual again is a node (brake mechanism), brings the vehicle to a stop. This description of tangential sub-systems in a machine, or as between a machine and a human being, will help us better to understand the relation of sub-systems in fields of collective human action.
D. SPECIAL ASPECTS OF MULTI-INDIVIDUAL EVENT-SYSTEMS: EXAMPLES OF HUMAN SYSTEMS
So far our analysis has followed rather familiar ground. We come now to the task of considering whether the event-system notion is applicable to collective phenomena. The reason for the failure hitherto to envisage its applicability to the societal field lies probably in the extraordinary complexity and fluidity of that field. "Society" and "institutions". are terms which have been defined in many ways; and it has not been easy to find explicit referents for these terms. There is here no one clear-cut object-arrangement, as in the doorbell circuit, but rather a vast complication of human relationships, interlapping in hopeless confusion. It is now suggested that we can gain a new perspective by reversing the customary procedure. Instead of looking for a definite structure (or setting one up, by definition, through the concept of society or institutions) and then trying to describe its operation in producing the end-event, we may start with the end-event itself. We may then look back for the parts of the structure and discover them one by one, through their in-series functioning. Last of all, we shall arrive at the completed structure, and be able to chart or diagram the entire event-system. The fact is clear that human beings, unlike the parts of a watch, may be in many systems at once. This fact, however, merely
(426) makes the essential structure of a particular system difficult to deter-mine. It does not prove that there is no system-structure; nor does it not disqualify "systems" as a method of descriptive analysis. Such a method remains open to us if we treat the matter functionally, rather than structurally, at the start.
In realizing this objective, our first task is to point out certain peculiarities which result from the fact that our nodes are now not inorganic things, but human organisms. At the outset a useful distinction may be made between the whole individual and his specific and functionally predictable behaviors. These specific behaviors do not, of course, occur in isolation from others or from the totality of the individual's action pattern. If they are sufficiently regular and predictable, however, they may be conceived independently in describing their rôle toward the production of an end result. In collective or "institutionalized" action we do see individuals behaving in a fairly stereotyped and functionally predictable manner. The passenger entering a street-car drops a coin of particular denomination in the fare-box. The bank teller counts out dollars to agree with the figures on a check. Workers come to a factory within a narrow range of time. Drivers of motor vehicles stop at red intersection lights. The workers at machines pull particular levers or guide material in the machine in a repeated uniform manner. The driver of a locomotive does predictable things at specific signals. The merchant orders stock, or presents a bill in standardized terms. The foreman in a factory or office facilitates or enforces the performance of fairly uniform orders. The judge and attorneys in a trial follow traditional and required procedures. From this standpoint we con-template the operation, as it were, only of "functional segments" of individuals. We do not consider the entire person. The entire person of course is present, because the functioning organism cannot be anatomically divided. Though functionally specialized within an event-system, his action is physiologically integrated. The organism acts as a whole. For this reason the word "segment" is undesirable and will not be used. The concept of specific predictable behaviors of individuals, treated functionally in a collective situation, nevertheless remains tenable for our use.
When outside these specialized functional contexts, the individual acts in a less predictable manner, i.e., potentially, at least, as a "whole person." That is to say, almost any one of a vast number
(427) of possible behaviors may he expected. After work hours he may go home, eat, rest, sleep, make social calls, play games, and indulge in innumerable other pursuits widely different from those system-functioning aspects of his behavior described above. This reality of the total integrated organism is a fact which has an important bearing upon human event-systems in contrast with those of machines. It does not, however, preclude us from employing the more specialized, functional, and predictable parts of his behavior wherever that aspect truly promises to be useful in description. From a functional standpoint we may say, therefore, that human beings, as nodes of a multi-individual event-system, are conceived as operative within that system only in a partially inclusive sense; whereas their behavior at other times may be treated as more nearly totally inclusive in character. It will be seen that these distinctions are methodological in character.
Another difference between human and non-human event-systems is in the character of the events. The events in human systems are those not of simple motions in space, but of complex patterns of movement, known as behavior. They are nevertheless basically similar in their results, i.e., the productions of changes of matter in time and space. Two forms of behavior events must be distinguished: (a) the non-object behavior event, usually verbal or communicative, in which the individual (node) does nothing that can be teleonomically described with any intervening object, but acts directly upon the next node (as for example in the giving of an order to another) ; and (b) the object-change event, in which one individual (node) by his act makes a change in an object, and this changed object is then in turn reacted to by the next node, who produces still another change, and so on through the event succession to the final object-change (end-event). Object-change events again comprise two classes: (a) those which change the form or state of the object, as in manual fabrication, and (b) those which change the time-space position of an object, making it available at a certain time or place as required. This latter group includes both personal -service and carrying objects. These two classes of behavior, to-
(428) -gether with the action of machine nodes, and the use also of "counters" as objects (money transfer events), comprise what is familiarly termed the "economic system."
Let us pause a moment for a more general consideration. In addition to the peculiarities of human event-systems described above, there are certain elementary characteristic arrangements which are found in all human aggregates. Every human situation may be placed in one, of two classes.. Either the individuals concerned are merely co-present (or co-acting) with one another, or they are reacting directly to one another in the accomplishment of an objective of one or more of them. In the first case their behavior is similar, as, for example, passengers in a street-car sitting on the same seat and reading an advertisement. In the second case their behavior may be different, as when two passengers turn to talk to each other (i.e., different content of the talking) ; or it may be similar and mutually adjusted, as in shaking hands. In the second case, also, the behavior of one individual varies continually and intimately with the behavior of the other. Weshall call the first of these types of situation the co-acting arrangement and the second the reciprocal arrangement. "Co-adjacence" and "confrontation" are synonymous, but somewhat more specialized terms. Space does not here permit the definition of these concepts with the precision they require. When individuals are co-acting toward the accomplishment of a common end, as, for example, when a number of men are pushing a large stone, we may call the situation one of concert. Complex situations frequently show the presence of both concert and reciprocal arrangement, as, for ex-ample, in the divisions of an orchestra or companies in a regimental drill. There is here a reciprocal action between leader and followers, and concerted action among followers. This combination of concert and reciprocation affords the basic human arrangements in every field of social organization. Nodal action, as described up to this point, is reciprocal. We shall see that it also may involve co-action or concert.
We are now ready to apply our analysis of event-system structure and dynamics in the human field. A factory affords a clear example. In a steel mill a foreman receives orders (in-series Event 1) from the manager (Node 1) to have some raw material put through the process of making steel plates. The foreman (Node 2) gives suitable commands (in-series Event 2) to certain workers (Node 3) and these transport the material and place it in the furnace (in-series Event 3). An attendant of this furnace (Node 4) controls the temperature device until the metal is properly heated (in-series Event 4). It is then taken by other workers (Node 5) by conveyances (in-series Event 5) to where another worker (Node 6) dumps it (in-series Event 6) by moving certain controls, into containers where
(430) it is allowed to cool; and then another worker (Node 7) manipulates machinery controls (in-series Event 7) which run the pliable metal between moving rollers where it is pressed out. Other workers (Node 8) then take away the flattened steel on carriers (in-series Event 8), which transport it to the next process, . . . etc., until the finished steel plates are stored, the material, in completed form (end event), now going back into the hands of the factory manager ready for shipment. Telic circularity is thus completed, as in the illustration of ringing the doorbell, except that this time the nodes have included human beings manipulating raw materials and machines as in-series events. In such an in-series succession energy has been used in changing the form of the objects, dissipated, and re-turned later through refueling the machinery. There is, how-ever, a further aspect of the energy problem, namely, the consideration of energies used by the human beings. To this problem we shall presently return.
An event-system can be similarly described in the construction of a house, in the harvesting or threshing of a crop, and in many other situations that will come to mind. We do not need to limit ourselves to the economic field. Event-systems are also found in purely communicative behavior, where the in-series events are the articulation or putting into writing of words. In a committee or legislative body we find a succession of speakers (nodes) and in-series events
(431) (words) continuing until the question with which the discussion was launched has been returned to the leader (or participants) with an answer, such, for example, as a negative or affirmative vote. Here, however, the functional behaviors are less predictable as to content because they are subject to greater intrusion from other aspects of the individual's total personality (tending toward total inclusion.) The execution of the forward pass by a football team also illustrates a human event-system, predictable as to the various possible forms of the end-event, but unpredictable as to the details of its content. It may be questioned, however, whether these latter instances are true systems in that they are unlikely to recur upon repetition in the same order or content of nodes and in-series events. Perhaps "event-situation" would be a better term for such cases.
The qualitative aspect of multi-individual event-systems has a further important characteristic. In the telic circle we often find that there is another dimension : instead of single nodes there may be several, or many, all playing the same nodal rôle. In the rolling-mill there may be many men working together (our concept of concert) in tending a single machine; or there may be several machines exactly alike, each with an attendant, for producing several cases of one particular type of in-series event. This is in fact a condition highly typical of modern industry. We thus have plurality of the node. The event succession for each occurs independently, but a combination of their in-series events goes toward a totaling-up process in the end-event. Sometimes the plural in-series event-successions later merge and are acted upon by single nodes, as illustrated in the work of an assembler. There may also be plurality of nodes in non-object behavior systems, as in the parts played by the "public" and by different types of officials in government. It is apparent in all these cases that the units of the multiple in-series event must be closely similar. Plural node behaviors must be aligned to perform the same function in the same way, otherwise the system will be "thrown out of gear." Regimentation and standardization are therefore required, a consideration which leads us to the whole problem of conformity. A beginning of scientific measurement in conformity situations has been made by the use both of telic and empirical continua. Characteristic J-curves of aligned behavior in organizational fields have been discovered (3, 4, 5).
The possibility of sub-systems operating within a larger system is
(432) an important part of the hypothesis as applied to multi-individual situations. A factory industry, for example, may have within it many sub-systems whose end-events (products) become the materials to he altered by the first node of another sub-system as in the illustration of the automobile. Equally important is the fact that the particular factory system itself is a sub-system of a greater industrial system. To return to the example of the rolling-mill, obviously the telic circle of raw materials sent out from the manager and coming back to him as steel plates cannot be considered all by itself. In the more familiar language of economics, these plates must find a market. This means that the manager himself is not merely a node in the system we have described, but is a node in another system as well. At the request, for example, of the manager in another system (Node 1) (in-series Event 1) he (as Node 2 in the new system) transfers the steel plates (for money) (in-series Event 2) to the plant of the new system, where a worker (Node 3) begins the first step of a succession of in-series events upon it within the new system. The end-event of this new system may be the emergence of the plates of a railroad car, a bridge, or the hull of a battleship. We have thus, as it were, two circles which are tangential to one another at the node of the rolling-mill manager. Through a similar inter-locking by a common node (a manager) this second system may link up with a third, having an end-event, for example, of overland transportation, or the destruction by naval armament of the ships or fighting personnel of another country. 'War events, from an event-system standpoint, are in the same class with the more familiar productive event-systems of economic society; for these systems are based not upon the principle of wealth production familiar to economists, but wholly on the completion of telic circularity whether the end-event be constructive or destructive or productive or consumptive in the ordinary sense.
Similarly, we might proceed in the other direction from the rolling-mill system, and find that there was here also an interlocking with event-systems from which the raw materials for the plates (pig iron, ingots, etc.) had emerged.
'We thus move toward a conception of a vast grand-system of telic circles, tangential to one another, one extending (diagramatically) in a plane which is at an angle to the plane of another. Altogether, these circles may be conceived as included in the volume of a great
(433) cylinder which describes this aspect of event-system, or economic, space. The study of collective action in its largest, nation-state, or perhaps world sense, would thus entail the unravelling of a vast number of tangential sub-systems of which the grand-system is composed. It may be objected, of course, that society is far too vast and complex ever to be charted by this method. It is necessary, how-ever, to remember that our approach is purely exploratory and inductive. 'We make no assertion about society as a whole, nor do we assume that it is all a grand event-system. We assume, in fact, no ultimate unity of the social order. Our problem is simply to find what we can. One thing is certain, we do have collective end-events. Through their unfailing presence and definiteness of location we may be able, at least, to find our way into the problem.
We return now to the problem of energy in the multi-individual event-system. Energy changes are here of two sorts: (a) those involved in the object change and afforded by non-human means, such as fuel or electric power, and (b) those released in the activity of human beings themselves. This latter class of energy changes are, of course, not found in machines. The nodes within a machine operate by imparted energy supplied by a special source and often transmitted by the nodes themselves (for example the spring of a watch or the battery of the electric circuit). In the multi-individual system, however, each node is in itself the seat of energy changes; and this fact has important consequences for us in explaining the peculiarities of human, as contrasted with inorganic, event-systems. On the principle of homeostasis, energy expended by an organism in action must be replaced by food and rest if the organism is to continue as a node. But in modern social organization the individual nodes are dependent for these necessary bases of organic existence upon the end-events of the very system, or sub-system, in which they operate. Since this is true the operation of the event-system has an enormous importance to these nodes, for it means their existence and activity, not only in the partially inclusive aspect of their nodal rôle, but as whole individuals. Prepotent and powerful emotional responses may thus be released in defense of this system or toward its modification when it has proved ineffective for their needs. Similarly, from a negative standpoint, the "whole individual" may also act upon the event-system energy base according to his emotions. He may refuse altogether to act within the event-system when
(434) its end-events do not guarantee his organic integrity, or when some proposed extension of it opposes his deep-seated emotional bias. Or he may elect to release his energy into the system more or less rapidly, that is, through more or less intense action within it, according as he sees the relation of a greater or lesser amount of the end-event to his needs as a whole individual, or as his emotional tone is altered by attendant circumstances. Because the energy base which supplies all the activities of the individual is ipso facto the source from which the energies for his nodal action within the system must come, and since the individual has the power to shift upon occasion from his purely nodal rôle in a system to some other form of behavior (total inclusion), it follows that one of the most important characteristics of human, as distinguished from inorganic, event-systems is the possibility that the system itself may be changed from within. Examples of such energy shifts may be readily found in current industrial problems.
Our reference to the intrusion of the whole individual thus leads us to the definition of agent. An agent is an individual who is operating at the moment not as a node, but as an independent variable capable of producing alterations in an event-system. Thus agent and node are categorical opposites. Not all who might desire to turn from nodal behavior and become an agent find it possible to do so. When occasion does make it possible, the individual may be said to achieve and incur responsibility. Responsibility exists when an individual, by altering his behavior or by controlling the behavior of others, makes an event-system operate more slowly or rapidly, makes it expand or contract, or stops or starts it.
A word may be said at this point as to the relation of political phenomena to the event-system process. These have to do with agent behaviors. Sometimes the control or change of existing event-systems is produced democratically, that is, by discussion and vote of the people who operate in the system, or of their elected representatives. The process by which this takes place has itself some-thing of the character of a system in which the in-series events are verbal. The end-event of the process directly alters in-series event behavior or objects in the previously existing event-system. In a dictator situation these event-system changes are enforced directly by one or a small number of individuals. Leadership may be defined as agent-control producing changes in an event-system of which the
(435) leader is also a node. Extent of leadership may thus be measured as degree of voluntaristic nodal prediction (i.e., what the leader can accurately predict about the changes in the system from his own wish and intention). Some systems of course scarcely admit of these leadership changes. Sometimes the leader's ability to predict (effect) changes is limited to energic (morale), rather than telic or qualitative, alterations.
The energic cycle of changes between leaders or officials and citizens helps us toward an event-system interpretation of "public opinion." This concept really refers to the relation of the "whole individual" to an event-system in operation or undergoing preparation or change. In this connection a leader may do at least four types of things: First, he makes, by planning and instruction, the changes he desires in the type of operation of the nodes, that is, the changes for altering or extending the system and its end-events; second, he maintains those qualitative behaviors that fulfill his purpose in status quo, by exhortation, rewards, and sanctions; third, he makes available the energies of individuals for the system (so that they become nodes) by so appealing to them that they will release their energies in these particular acts; and fourth, through prepotent or emotional appeals he raises the level of energy at the nodes to the point required to produce the desired volume of end-event. Though the leader is interested only in that which the nodal actions of the individuals achieve, he of course formulates his appeals in terms of the behavior and interest of the "whole individual."He deals with his followers as one man to another. All these processes may be readily illustrated from current political happenings. The peculiarly dynamic character of "public opinion" is explained by the above considerations. The concept of nodal threshold again becomes relevant at this point. Both telic and energetic thresholds must be crossed before the event-system can operate.
One further difference must be pointed out between multi-individual and inorganic event-systems. This difference, is expressed in
(436) the concept of storage, and is a further corollary of the
partially inclusive and functional character of the human system. It will be .
noted that in machines there is usually no delay between the operation of one
node and that of the succeeding node. In some instances, in fact, the two
operations are simultaneous. End-event time (from the start of the cycle) is
equal to the time required for the actual movements involved in the in-series
events. It may be represented as te where there is
simultaneity, and te1 + te2 + te3 . . .
etc., where there is temporal succession. In the multi-individual system, on the
other hand, there may be a considerable delay between the operation of one node
and that of the next. The nodal act is not necessarily altered or abolished
because the energy required for its release is stored for a while within the
organism. During the organism's delay potential energy may also remain stored in
the objects or materials to be employed when the nodal act finally takes place.
Objects are sometimes "held" by the node and not made available at once for the
action of the next node. We may speak of "object-storage" in such cases.
Finally, in the "economic" system, counters (money) are frequently stored (at
times when there is object and energy storage), a fact which is basic in our
understanding of economic depressions. End-event time where storage occurs is
Te + T3, where Te is the inclusive
event-time of the system and T3 is the sum of the storage times at
the different nodes.
E. EVENT-SYSTEM CHANGES: CONTINUOUS CHANGES
Thus far we have dealt mainly with a constant structure and dynamics of the event-system. We come now to the description of possible changes in the event-system itself and the problem of how they occur. There are two main classes of event-system change : ' first, those of a continuous sort, where the end-event gets larger or smaller in volume per unit time; and second, all-or-none changes, that is, where an end-event as such occurs or fails to occur. We shall discuss first the continuous changes. In order to understand this problem we must first envisage the different dimensions along which changes can occur, in other words, the character of event-system space. There are in event-system space at least six dimensions. These may be geometrically pictured as comprised in two equal cylinders, each having equal diameter and height, which intersect one another (lie within each other's space) throughout their
(437) extent, at right angles. Each cylinder has a cylindrical hole through it, about its axis, of variable diameter; and each has three dimensions: longitudinal, radial (distance from the outer surface to the inner, or face of the hole), and circumferential. This conception of a hollow cylinder with a thick wall affords us a spatial analogue for showing the relationships of event-systems we have described above. The first cylinder, which we may call the telic cylinder, represents the locus of all the tangential telic circles (or ellipses) which we have already described as the sub-systems of the most inclusive grand-system which can be empirically discovered. Let us picture this cylinder as standing upright on one of its bases. The radial dimension of the telic cylinder represents the amount of plurality in the 'nodes. Event-system changes here may consist either of expansion, that is, increase in nodal plurality, or shrinkage (decrease). Art example of shrinkage and its amount would be the number of machines of a particular sort made idle during a business depression, or the lay-off of portions of the workers within classes of operations respectively. Radial expansion would, of course, be the opposite. The circumference dimension in any telic cylinder indicates the number of nodes or in-series events it comprises in order to complete the telic circle; for example, the number of separate types of process in which workers operate in a factory. Here also expansion or shrinkage may occur: technological development usually produces expansion; consolidation of a number of successive in-series events in the hands of one node produces shrinkage. The longitudinal dimension represents the number of telic circles, or sub-systems, present in the whole grand-system ; for example, the number of organized business enterprises, government bureaus, army units, educational institutions, hospitals, etc., which are involved. Business depression and expansion may be regarded as in part equivalent to shrinkage or expansion upon this dimension. The number of nodes in the grand-system will obviously depend upon the inter-relationship of these variables. And the number of end-events produced in
(438) the grand-system will be a function of the time during which these nodes are operating.
We now come to the second of the two cylinders. This is used to indicate the field in which the circle is not a telic one consisting of the production of some desired end-event by the nodal action of individuals, but represents, rather, the usage of the end product by the individual as a whole person. For there must, of course, be usage; otherwise the end events will not continue, since the organisms operating as nodes; in telic circles cannot maintain .their, energy balance. We may call this, therefore, the individual energy or usage cylinder. Usage, though necessarily maintaining homeostasis, also means the providing of individuals with objects with which to carry out their characteristic human activities. Usage entails the continuous and progressive destruction of the object for further usage. It should not be confused, however, with the economists term "consumption," since the latter enters also into the telic circles of our first cylinder. Usage, or energy changes, in individuals are circular. There is a passage from energy reduction to energy restoration, then back to energy reduction, and so on. In the event-system space, also, this involves a circular relationship. A first individual, as node in one telic circle, is given (buys or barters for) some of the end product of another telic circle for his use. A second individual, in this second telic circle, is given some of the end product of still another circle; and so on until we come to an individual who receives some of the end product of the telic circle in which our first individual is operating. An "exchange circle" is now completed.' Counters (money) flow in the same circle, but in reverse direction.
We shall thus regard our whole individual usage cylinder as the locus of this class of object-energy-counter changes, and conceive it as occupying the same space as the telic cylinder, but lying horizontally at right angles to the latter. Its circumference dimension, which will cut across the planes of the various telic circles of the first
(439) cylinder, represents the variety of different kinds of end-event objects used. It may be necessary in completing the usage circle to cut across the end events of many relic circles (that is, many varieties of product), or of few, thus producing variations of the circumference dimension. The radial dimension, which coincides with the plural node field of the first cylinder (volume of output), represents the quantity, or number, of objects (of each variety) used. The longitudinal dimension, which on the other cylinder is the circumference, may be taken as meaning the number of individuals who are in both cylinders, that is, who ' are acting at all' in the dual telic circle-usage capacity, receiving end products of the telic circles in exchange for counters which they receive for their nodal action in these circles. The sum of the quantities of each variety for each individual, summed up for all the individuals, thus expresses the total volume of our individual usage cylinder, computed from its three dimensions, in terms of end products used.
Here again, expansion or shrinkage may occur in any one or in all of these usage cylinder dimensions; and these fluctuations are intimately related to those within the telic cylinder. The relationships between the two must be such that in their operation the energies of whole individuals, restorable through the usage cylinder, are conserved. The rôle of money-counters in an event-system is to bring about this conservation of energy within the individual. Where storage occurs, this equalization becomes impaired or impossible. When, in the flow within the individual usage cylinder, "adient" energy to individuals is less than "abient," the energy supply of whole individuals will eventually become too small to permit them to function in their special nodal rôle in the telic circles. Continued functioning would then only deplete their energy balance further. They thereupon withdraw: i.e., they become unemployed. There occurs, ipso facto, a corresponding nodal and end-event shrinkage in the dimensions of the telic cylinder. As this is happening a point is eventually reached at which the energy balance of the nodes remaining in the system is adequately maintained; and the system will again work perfectly, except that now there are not so many people provided for within it as before. It will be noted that event-system theory here diverges from the usual statement of the economists. Whereas contemporary economists might say that in a depression the economic system, though fundamentally unchanged, is not work-
(440) -ing well, we here say, in terms of the event-system theory, that the
system is working perfectly but that it has changed. It has shrunk upon the
dimensions of its telic and usage cylinders. The practical task of economists is
to prevent nodal shrinkage within either (which means in both) of the cylinders
of event-system space.
F. EVENT-SYSTEM CHANGES: ALL-OR-NONE CHANGES
We may now consider those event-system changes which occur in to-to, that is, where an agent does something which either starts a system functioning when it was not functioning at all, or completely stops a I system which is functioning. We are here dealing, in other words, with the appearance or the abolition of the end-event. The problem is closely connected with that of prediction and "causation." In a constantly running system we can predict only from the nature of the system as a whole, that is, from the actions of all the nodes working together to give the customary end event. For example, we can predict that at a certain position of the sun the hands of our watch will be at a certain point. This prediction is based on our ,knowledge of, the entire_ system of the watch, and is not made by treating any one wheel (node) as though it were the positive causal agent of the end event. We are here predicting event-system continuance. In systems where there is leadership, that is, voluntaristic prediction on the part of a leader, we can also predict continuous changes in the end-event volume per unit of time. An example would be the change in number of pairs of shoes a factory manager chooses to have produced in the coming year, where this change is dependent upon the manager's wishes. It would be necessary in this case, however, to be able to rule out all other event-system changes, holding all other variables than the manager's wishes constant. In many, perhaps most, multi-individual event-systems this ability to hold other conditions constant is not present. There are sharp limitations therefore, upon our ability to control continuous
(441) event-system changes. This fact throws us back upon the necessity for, the understanding and use of all-or-none change as a possible substitute.
An agent may produce an all-or-none change in a system by the following procedure. In any true system every node is necessary. If a single node is removed the entire system will stop and the end-event be abolished. An example would be the removing of one of the wheels in a watch. Prediction based upon an act of this sort may be termed prediction of stoppage. It may be called negative prediction, or, from the standpoint of the agent, negative causation. Consideration of negative causation is one of the best methodological devices by which we may discover and describe the system itself. That is, we may consider removing a certain node. If we find, or can reliably predict, that its removal will produce stoppage, then we know that it is a node and by that token we shall have been able to chart that much of the system. If its removal does not pro-duce stoppage, it is not part of the system. Negative causation is of two general classes. There is, first, that which is produced by eliminating the qualitative or telic aspect of the in-series event produced by the node,; that is, what the node does. One may do this by effectively removing the node itself. This is easier if it is not a plural node. Materials also with which a node works form a strategic point of attack. Tying up these materials (as in sit-down strikes) or destroying them (sabotage) are effective methods of producing stoppage. "Official" sabotage of all munitions and munition factories would, if permanent, produce stoppage of international war events. The second class of negative causation deals with energy. If the total energy level of the nodes is sufficiently reduced through under-nutrition (as is attempted, for example, in the British blockade of the Germans), stoppage will be produced. If the energy resident in the nodes as "whole individuals," or organisms, is not made available in sufficient degree in the particular system, stoppage will again result. An example of this latter is the dissemination of propaganda for lowering morale among workers in factories or countries at war. An important concept to consider in connection with negative causation is that of replacement, especially in cases of plurality of node. One worker, or a few, if absent from their machines would not produce stoppage; but the entire body of workers (as for example in a strike) would be effective for stoppage if
(442) replacements from the general population were impossible. If a few divisions of an army at war were captured, stoppage would not occur; but if one-half of the army were captured, replacement from the draft population could not restore this plural node to its threshold level ; hence stoppage of war events would follow. The concept of nodal threshold (or minimum event-system element) is thus important in negative causation. Leaders and officials have as part of their task the preventing of negative causation, and the keeping up of the possibility of replacement.
We may consider this matter also in the reverse direction. Sup-pose that a system has been prepared or restored almost, but not quite, to the point of functioning—that there is still one node or necessary object lacking. This is a critical period for agents interested in completing the system, and is usually fraught with excitement. The supplying or replacing of this last negative causation element is a process to which we may give the name "closure." When closure occurs the system operates. We have now changed from a condition of no end event to the presence of an end event. We are often able in such instances to make a closure prediction, that is, to deal in terms of closure causation. We may also speak of this process as the activation of the system. Examples of closure can be readily found in industrial, political, and military situations. The German invasion of Poland was an event which produced closure of the war-time economic-military system which had for some time been' undergoing preparation in England. It evoked the order of "node Chamberlain" (and members of Parliament) necessary as the first in-series event in that new, enlarged system.
It will thus be seen that war events are not the, rushing forward of a "nation" into conflict, nor even of any considerable portion of the population. War is not an extraneous enterprise which a nation-state conducts. It is really an expansion of the event-system of that country, following the principles discussed, in which telic circles of war end-events (destruction of alien nationals) are added to the telic cylinder of the peace-time event-system of the particular country. It is as though an electric light bulb were wired into the circuit where the end-event was previously only the ringing of a bell. Most of the individuals as nodes in this expanded system be-have in it very much as in peace-time, except that their level of energy available for nodal action may be increased by public appeals and
(443) propaganda. They continue to be supplied as whole individuals with energy for maintaining their energy balance and performing their characteristic human activities, just as they were supplied before by the end-product of the event-system of peace-time. The event-system, whether in peace or war, is always fundamentally the res vivendi of citizens.
G. THE EVENT-SYSTEM IN RELATION TO CONFLICT
The consideration of all-or-none changes in the event-system thus leads us directly to the problem of collective conflict. Probably all organized or "social" conflict may be described as a phenomenon of attempted negative causation applied to the event-system of the opposing faction, thereby producing closure within that latter system of an extended series of new telic circles whose end-events are directed toward removal of the threat. Threatened stoppage of a grand event-system in a country or region is fraught with apprehension of disastrous consequences for the population concerned. Emotions of fear and rage are aroused. Appeals are issued by leaders directly to the citizens who are functioning in the country's event-system to make their energies available for the new nodal actions required, and to release these energies in a degree necessary for the operation of the new extensions of the grand system.
In international situations, the reason for the threatening of stop-page in the event-system of another country is often due to the character of the expansion of the event-system of the threatening population. Thus, increasing German world markets and world trade, for example, threatened shrinkage, and perhaps ultimate stoppage, of the ,British event-system, embracing British foreign colonies and requiring control of the seas. The occurrence of happenings which threaten shrinkage or stoppage, resulting from the operation of a grand event-system in one region, to the event-system of another population may be termed impingement. The situation here resembles the interlocking of the mechanisms of two watches. Shrinkage of either system being ruled out, there is no way for either of the watches to run except by running with sufficient energy to crush themeshing parts of the other watch. In human systems this increase of energy is supplemented by the inclusion into the system of qualitatively new telic circles of destructive end result. Impingement is a concept which may throw light upon our quest for the understanding of modern wars.
This interpretation of international relations, if true, will render obsolete the familiar statements of international diplomacy as well as interpretations of history and political science which are couched in terms of national rights, sovereignty, or other attributes or actions ascribed to a collective agent. Such a phrase as "England (or the government of Great Britain) declares war" must be reinterpreted into the language of a system of events in which the human beings of Great Britain, and of the British government, are the nodes. The same may be said of concepts of "nations making treaties," or "nations supporting other nations," or "fighting other nations." "One nation demanding something of another" would also be a statement lacking in meaning so far as the understanding of collective action is concerned. If the event-system theory holds in inter-national relations, it will be impossible to make any distinction between offensive and defensive war, or to ascribe any serious meaning to the phrase "aggressor nation."
H. CONCLUDING STATEMENT
The hypothesis advanced in this article is that organized collective action, and the end-results of such action, are capable of description in terms of event-systems and their properties, dynamics, and changes. A preliminary statement of these properties, dynamics, and principles of change has been given in the preceding sections of this article. In this statement the formulation has necessarily been tentative and incomplete; it may in some places be inaccurate. The entire hypo-thesis must be empirically tested. For this purpose techniques of broad quantitative sampling, and observation of large fields of behavior, must be devised, and mathematical and cartographic procedures developed which are adequate to handle the relationships involved. Owing to the vastness and complexity of the field studied the relevant data are hard to secure. To describe them with perfect completeness and accuracy would almost require the power of "omniperception." Perhaps some short-cut or adequate substitute, consisting of procedures of sampling and observing the elements necessary for the charting of event-systems, can be developed. In the mean-time it is a help to remember that the approach here outlined is !inductive rather than deductive. It deals with explicitly denotable realities, instead of societal forms, agents or institutions, and can therefore be subjected to direct observation. And finally, it makes
(445) no assumption regarding the totality, or possible unity, of organized society. It deals only with what we are able to find.
(Note: As indicated at the beginning of this article, the event-system hypothesis is not restricted to collective human phenomena, nor to any particular field or level, but is a logical and methodological structure inherent in all fields of science, linking their phenomena together and affording a principle of unity among them. The writer hopes later to show that the behavior of a single individual can be described in terms of event-systems comprising organism and environment. The application of the theory in greater detail to the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, and economics will also be suggested in later articles.)
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3. ———. The J-curve hypothesis of conforming behavior. J. Soc. Psychol., 1934, 5, 141-183.
4. ———. Rule and custom as individual variations of behavior distributed upon a continuum of conformity. Amer. J. Sociol., 1939, 44, 897-921.
5. ALLPORT, F. H., & SOLOMON, R. S. Lengths of conversations: A conformity situation analyzed by the telic continuum and J-curve hypothesis. J. Abn. & Soc. Psychol., 1939, 34, 419-464.
6. BROWN, J. F. Psychology and the Social Order. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1936. Pp. 529.
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