Review of Social Psychology Interpreted by Jesse W. Sprowls, Introduction to Social Psychology by Radhakamal Mukerjee and Narendra Nath Sen-Gupta, An Outline of Social Psychology by J.R. Kantor, Social Psychology: The Psychology of Political Domination by Carl Murchison
The activity of social psychologists is familiar to those who read the technical journals whose pages make available the scores of reports every year. The need for a synthesis of this material is obvious, and textbooks are always welcome, on the assumption that they will organize for students and other readers the advances that have been made. Unfortunately, the writer of a book often proceeds in ignorance of what has been done, in which case there is little more than an organization of his own opinions. The present phenomenon of the rapid multiplication of texts in this field is, however, gratifying as symptomatic of the interest in the subject.
Professor Sprowls has done a very distinctive piece of work in Social Psychology Interpreted. Nowhere can a better grasp be secured of the important work on social psychology which has hitherto been published. It is a concise, careful, and conscientious summary of the present points of view, sympathetic toward those with whom the author agrees as well as those with whom he is forced to take issue. Beginning with the German antecedents the story is brought down to date with a concise recapitulation at the end of each chapter of the essential points, with critical and warning statements to the young student which ought to lead him to think for himself.
In two chapters, "Social Movement" and "The Psychology of Inter-action," Professor Sprowls has inserted some very interesting and relevant material of his own, analyzing and interpreting it with economy and skill. The bibliography is very good, indeed, though one notices regret-
( 305) -able omissions. No notice is taken of Mead's important contributions. On the whole the book seems an excellent performance of a task which is distinctly different from any previous work in the field. Whether it would be the best book to put into the hands of a beginning student is problematical. It would certainly be of great value to anyone who, having read widely in the field, wished to have it organized for him. It is a pity the book could not have been sold for less money. The reviewer knows of one contemplated adoption which was abandoned on account of the price, which was thought to be excessive.
The book by Mukerjee and Sen-Gupta seems to have been renamed at the last minute. Professor Yerkes wrote his introduction referring to it under the title of Mind in Society, now relegated to an inconspicuous subtitle. It really would have been more happily named if they had held to their original purpose. It is a definitely synthetic statement in which the authors choose from the various points of view in the field and make their own combinations. For instance, they like the stimulus and response formula of behaviorism but do not care to go all the way with the behaviorists. Again, they are not willing to follow the psychoanalysts but do assume a relation between mental states and behavior which is "similar to the psychoanalytic theory." And so on.
The reviewer took up the book eagerly, expecting to find much material from the Orient, but references to the life in India are wholly casual and incidental. The book is written from the standpoint of the current literature in English, and represents the thorough westernizing of the scholarship of India. There can be no quarrel with this fact, but one wonders whether the Orient doesn't have some distinctive contribution to make to our knowledge of mind in society, since Indian scholars have reflected on the nature of life for many centuries. The style of the book is admirable, and for those who care to introduce the students to the out-standing problems without any particular emphasis on any of many competing points of view it should make an acceptable text.
In the Outline of Social Psychology Professor Kantor has chosen to emphasize his disagreement and difference with all the current systems. This disagreement is more apparent than real, however. It consists chiefly in a confusing alteration of terminology. There are two ways in which such an alteration is employed. The first consists in taking a current notion which has acquired a definite meaning and discussing it under the caption of a neologism; for example, the cultural background of social life is treated under the term "anthropic." Another device is the opposite of the first. A familiar word is adopted but an entirely different meaning is assigned to it. Thus the word institution, which for a long time has been
( 304) used with a very specific denotation, is now altered to an extent which makes it unrecognizable. The author uses it as equivalent to object or social object. "Any thing, condition, person or situation endowed with stimulational qualities which serve as common stimuli is an institution." The resulting loss in such a procedure is greater than at first appears. Not only is the reader constantly confused by trying to rid himself of the accepted meaning and adjust to an entirely new connotation, but even more serious than this is the resulting loss of valuable distinctions. There is a large literature on institutions, and we know something of how they arise and of their rigidity and lag when the conditions change which brought them into being. Moreover, many of our interests and activities are not institutionalized as yet. It follows that if the word institution be applied to everything from the Fourth of July to a package of chewing gum this distinction is lost, and we shall need to manufacture a new term to designate what was formerly called an institution. This is clearly a waste of effort, and the co-operative enterprise which we call science would almost cease to exist if the practice became general. The writer who hopes to influence his colleagues and make his contribution to the cause of science must learn to take account of their vocabulary and to co-operate with them in a helpful spirit. Science is neither the opinion of professors nor is it a game of solitaire with privately invented rules. It is interesting to notice that the author's love for unfamiliar words sometimes leads him into harmless but humiliating errors, as when he revives the word instauration with a meaning which has long been obsolete.
The system presented is assumed to be unique and original, but in the opinion of the reviewer it is largely due to the mere change of verbal labels. The author does not call himself a behaviorist, nor refer to behaviorism, but he expressly repudiates anything psychic or mental in his system, and has attempted to state social psychology in terms of reactions. Consistency is, however, a difficult virtue, and repeated references are made later on to ideas, thoughts, beliefs, conceptions, and attitudes. The way of the behaviorist is hard.
The author's attitude toward his predecessors is sometimes quite severe. He speaks of "the whole scandalous history of the quarrel" between environmentalists and the advocates of heredity. In reference to Cooley's valuable insight into the relation between the individual and society, the author, without mentioning Cooley's name, inserts a footnote referring to it as one of the "various well-sounding generalizing metaphors." The style adopted is somewhat prophetic. There is a certain homiletic flavor about the pronouncements: "Observe, too, that the study of institutional mechanisms proceeds historically." In disagreeing with
( 307) the universally accepted position regarding the application of science Professor Kantor writes, "Let it be announced forthwith." The effectiveness of this form of contribution to American scholarship will, of course, appear in the sequel. It remains to be seen how much influence such a method will achieve.
Professor Murchison's book is a brief and vigorous essay devoted to the general theme that political domination is a universal fact. Some groups are stronger than other groups, and some individuals are stronger, more intelligent, and more influential than other individuals. Professor Murchison is certain that the stronger always rule the weaker. If they don't do it sooner, they will do it later. Properly defined this seems irrefragible, for the stronger are those who rule, and therefore those who rule are stronger. In discussing radicalism he remarks that after revolution there is a sudden displacement of economic groups but the fact of the stronger group and the weaker group is in nowise changed. In talking about behavior-patterns he remarks that there is an infinite variety of these, varying in individuals, and there are repeated references to individuals and groups. Chapter xix, however, is devoted to showing that the individual is hypothetical, and chapter xx attempts to prove that the group is an illusion. The most interesting section is Part II on "The Fugitive Nature of Social Behavior-Patterns." He shows that there is little essential difference between slavery, peonage, and employment. The difference may be slight, but, like an inch on the end of a man's nose, it seems to be important what there is of it. There is a similar discussion of infanticide and abortion, in which they are shown to have the same social content as delayed marriage. He insists that delayed marriage and infanticide are based very largely upon the same motives. One wonders that he did not include clerical celibacy and other "behavior-patterns" which result in a decrease of population. The question of motives is important and difficult, but one clear generalization seems to emerge, namely, that even in the same custom there may be seen in various historical stages a transmutation of motives. The book is innocent of footnote or index, does not take long to read, probably did not take long to write, and would undoubtedly have been improved by more industry and circumspection.
The interest in social psychology is very widespread. Men who contribute to our understanding of it do not always use the term, and men who do employ the words social psychology differ sometimes very greatly in their conception of the field. It would seem to be overpresumptuous for anyone to decide on what social psychology is. Clearly the term means what men mean by it. The earliest writers were interested in the
( 308) psychological aspect of peoples. Men were, and are still interested in the collective aspects of group life. If noses were counted perhaps it would be found that most men who write about it now are interested in the social aspect of personality. Time will reveal which conception is the most fruitful or whether a place may be found for all of them. In the meantime men are studying institutions, labor unions, religious sects, boys' gangs, strikes, mobs, and crowds. Others are busily engaged in studying infants, little children, adolescence, normal and delinquent, and collecting facts about the behavior, the responses, the reactions, as well as the experiences, the thoughts, emotions, and desires of men. The workers are many, and their interests are highly diverse. Perhaps the greatest need now is that whoever writes shall take account of what his colleagues are doing so that his contribution may not only advance somewhat our knowledge of this subject but be in turn a stimulus to further investigation and in-sight. Alfred Adler, just after delivering a lecture on individual psychology, was introduced to a professor whose field was social psychology. Dr. Adler remarked, "Well, you see that what I am doing is the same thing." Science has been called funded knowledge. It is always unfortunate if a writer develops a paranoid seclusion.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO