The Concept "Social Forces" In American Sociology

Section VII: Theories of Social Causation More or Less Inconsistence with the "Social Forces" Concept as Developed by Ward and his Followers

Floyd Nelson House
University of Chicago

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Three classes of sociological systems having little or no place for the social forces concept.—There are three types of sociological theory which are either logically incompatible with the use of the social forces concept as developed by Ward and his followers, or do not find such a concept useful: (1) monistic theories, illustrated in part by the work of Giddings, Cooley, and perhaps by Hayes's attack upon the social forces concept; (2) theories which conceive the social process as so indefinitely variable that no universal categories of forces can be identified; and (3) theories emphasizing the immediate, concrete factors of particular situations so strongly that no place is left for the use of general categories of motives or social forces. Giddings' sociological theory has been considerably modified by his latest writings, and he would perhaps now be placed in the second class rather than the first. Ellwood appeared to be moving in the direction of the third class in his first publication, but has changed in the direction of the social forces doctrine in more recent writings. Ross's "theory of the worries" and passages from Dealey and Todd are notable as variants on the types of classifications and treatments previously noted. Bernard's treatment of Bushee's classification of social forces can be taken as an exhibit of the latest type of criticism.

It is no more than would naturally be expected that in a moderately complete survey of the literature of sociological theory in the United States since the time of Ward and Spencer we should discover formulated theories of social causation which could not be entirely reconciled with the "social forces" concept as Ward and his successors in this regard have developed it, and that there should be some direct attack upon the concept and whatever doctrine it is held to imply. In fact, we do find just such divergencies. These conflicting, antagonistic, and divergent doctrines can be classified roughly under three headings: (I) strongly monistic theories, inconsistent with the conception of a plurality of social forces because of this very fact of their monism; (2) theories which con-

( 764) -ceive of the social process as so completely and indefinitely variable in its ongoing and in response to indefinitely variable environmental conditions that any general classification of social forces or of human motives which shall be universally valid is held to be impossible, and the attempt to establish such classifications is deprecated; (3) theories, not in principle inconsistent with the last-mentioned type, nor, perhaps, with the "social forces" concept, but given to such emphasis upon the immediate, concrete factors in a particular local and temporal situation that no attention is left over for an analysis with reference to postulated universal forces or motives. This third classification is intended to apply especially to the social theory of the "institutional economics," and to the theory of social forces which seems to underlie much of the literature of social work and social reform; this material we have set aside for separate examination in the following section of this paper. Under the first two categories suggested above might be grouped most of the material which we propose to deal with in the present section.

When criticism of the social forces concept is in order, it is appropriate to begin with Professor Hayes's article on "The Social Forces Error," which was one of the earliest of such criticisms and attracted considerable notice from sociologists when it appeared.[1] The essence of his criticism is contained in the following passages:

I wish to protest against the idea that we can explain social phenomena by referring them to various "social forces." The habit, almost universal among sociologists, of referring frequently to "social forces" I believe is a bad one that ought to be broken. The temptation to use it lies in its metaphysical quality of drugging the mind's hunger for explanation with a false satisfaction by yielding the complaisance of understanding without the labor of obstinate analysis. . . . Explanation of the phenomenon X (in the case of sociology oftenest a prevalent mode of activity) consists in showing the phenomenon X in its relations to the conditioning phenomena a, b, c, etc., in the presence of which X emerges, by the increase of which X increases, and by the diminution of which X diminishes . . . . Sociological explanation can relate prevalent modes of activity to the conditions by virtue of which they become prevalent at one place and time and not at another, with the increase

(765) of which, in passing to another place or time, they increase in prevalence, and with the diminution of which they decrease in prevalence.[2]

Now as often as we come across a kind of phenomena the conditioning of which we do not understand, we are tempted to say it is caused by a force. It is indeed caused by the force [allusion to preceding paragraphs, in which is developed a brief account of the metaphysical concept of "force" underlying physical science; "energy" would be nearer the correct term—F. N. Н.], as all phenomena are, if we accept the metaphysics just outlined; but what we are tempted to say is that any particular phenomena the conditioning of which we cannot unravel are caused by a force. And if there are many kinds of phenomena which we cannot explain, we suppose a large number of forces, one for each great unsolved problem in causation. This is the second meaning of the word "force," and the one to which I object. Every time that we solve one of the problems we get rid of a supposed force and replace it with a statement of the recognized combination of conditions under which the one force operates in the causation of the phenomena thus explained.

It is in this way that we pass from what Comte called the metaphysical to what he called the positive stage of explanation. We are in the metaphysical stage as long as we imagine a number of forces about which we know nothing save that each is the supposed cause of a kind of phenomena, the real causation of which we do not understand. We are in the scientific stage when we have replaced these "forces" with explanations stated in terms of antecedent phenomena, or when we have at least gone far enough to become convinced that such explanation is possible, so that we give up talking about the supposed force which we had used as a false denial of our ignorance and offered as a stone to the hunger of the mind . . . . Thus sociology will pass from the metaphysical to the scientific stage when it ceases to talk about social forces and becomes convinced that social phenomena can be explained in terms of logically antecedent phenomena .[3]

The present writer is forced to admit that he has never been able to ascertain definitely to what or whom Hayes was referring in this article. When one examines his argument carefully and considers its possible relevancy to the use of the term "social forces" by Lester F. Ward and some of the other writers whom we have quoted in the present study, one is tempted to accuse Hayes of setting up a straw man in order that he may knock it down. Certainly it does not seem that Ward was guilty of multiplying "forces" simply in order to account for all the divergencies and complexities of

( 766) social phenomena which he could not otherwise explain; although it is true that Ward wrote in such a style that he gave a false appearance of finality and completeness to his works. That which, in the first passage we have just quoted, Hayes states as the ideal of sociological explanation, seems to the present writer to be almost exactly what could be given as a generalized statement of the ideal of the writers who have striven to formulate lists of universal "social forces." Indeed, it will be noted that we have stated the general nature of the social forces concept in Section I of this paper in terms which correspond very closely to those used by Hayes in his criticism, and we may volunteer the information that the passage in the present paper was written without the writer's having Hayes's comment in mind at all.[4] It has been true, however, that sociology has, through the years of its early development, been much handicapped by the tendency of its proponents to resort to "metaphysical" explanations, . e., as we understood the Comtean sense of the term, and as Hayes seems to have intended it, the metaphysical tendency consists in identifying certain phenomena as representatives of a class, and postulating some force or principle with a long name as the cause of the class of phenomena. Ward was the chiefest of sinners in this direction, though the tendency is not so strikingly manifested in his theory of the social forces as in some other features of his sociology. Mention might be made in this connection of the tendency, which is mainly of recent manifestation, to postulate a specific "instinct" as the motive of every common feature of human behavior. In so far as Hayes's criticism probably has aided to correct a real fault of early sociology, we must give him credit for making a contribution to the science with this article, even though we cannot concede that it was altogether valid as an attack upon the social forces concept in the sense in which we are concerned with it in this paper.

It will be interesting to examine, in connection with Hayes's criticism, a passage in which Ellwood has commented upon Hayes's article:

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The only sense in which the term "force" can be used in the social sciences is in the sense of an active element or factor in social situations. There are grave objections to the use of the term "force" at all in the physical sciences, and these objections are intensified when there is any assumption of a peculiar social force or forces. As Professor Hayes has insisted, the assumption of peculiar social forces is as metaphysical as the assumption of a peculiar vital force in biology. However, just as in biology there is no objection to speaking of the special forces or factors which have shaped a given situation, so in sociology there is no objection to speaking of the concrete factors which are at work in a given situation as social forces, provided we simply mean by such an expression that they are the active elements or factors in the situation.[5]

Reading this passage from Ellwood carefully, and re-examining the quotations from Hayes in the light of Ellwood's comment, we can find some ground for the belief that the criticism was directed more particularly against the use of the term "social forces"—or often simply "forces"—by the social workers and reformers in the manner which we shall note in the following section of this paper. There has been some disposition, on the part of persons having practical interests in social and economic problems, to apply the term "forces" to existing institutions and features of the social process in such a way as to imply that these factors of concrete situations were metaphysically absolute, not subject to voluntary human influence or direction. The "supply and demand" of the earlier economists and contemporary popular writers of a certain bias would be perhaps an illustration of the sort of thing to which Hayes objected. In part, of course, Hayes may have been influenced by the point of view which assumes that valid science must remain purely descriptive—that there are no valid generalizations which hold universally. To this attitude there is no effective counter; adherence to it is a matter of temperament and of personal judgment concerning the pragmatic value of generalizations in a science, and in social science in particular. If it is believed that there are generalizations which have such value to sociological research and to the cause of social reform, then Hayes's attack is unconvincing as against any and all uses of the social-forces concept,

( 768) and has apparently been so regarded by many sociologists since he wrote.

We have taken as one of three general types of sociological theories which are more or less inconsistent with the social forces concept, monistic theories. It must be admitted that this category has more theoretic than practical value in connection with the present survey, as it is a class to which no American sociologist can be assigned without reservations. Lester F. Ward is without doubt the outstanding monist among the number, and he is, curiously enough, the principal originator of the category, "social forces." As was suggested in the opening paragraph of this section, the philosophic monist is likely to be prejudiced in advance, by the very nature of his metaphysical assumptions, against any theory of social causation which gives a place to a plurum of social forces. Ward, however, apparently held his philosophic monism as a species of scientific creed or profession of faith; he felt himself constrained on philosophical grounds to proclaim his adherence to the dogma, but he was a thinker of such caliber that he did not allow his creed to stand in his way when it came to a question of setting forth a theory of social causation which was perhaps not entirely consistent with his creed. It was, in substance, his method to push out as far as he was able the logical implications of the theses to which he adhered, and to leave it to others to reconcile the seeming discrepancies.

The issue here involved has been very well summed up by Small in a few sentences, as follows:

In point of fact, all the philosophers in the world today are dualists in the sense indicated above [especially with reference to the mind and matter problem.—F. N. H.]. The fact that a few will not admit the impotence of their formal monism does not affect the proposition. That is to say, no matter how prominent the assertion of fundamental unity may be in our philosophy today, there is practically no difference of opinion as to the methodological necessity of recognizing a phenomenal duality. The diversity of matter and spirit must be admitted by all to this extent, namely, whether we assert an underlying unity or not; we cannot successfully express what we see in the objective world without describing elements that seem distinct in quality. That which is phenomenally psychic is not reducible by any means at our disposal to terms of physics .[6]

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By a little straining of the category, Giddings can be classified among the monistic sociologists. The following passages exhibit his tendency in this direction at the time he wrote his first great book:

Social evolution is but a phase of cosmic evolution. All social energy is transmuted physical energy. The conversion of physical into social energy is inevitable, and it necessarily occasions those orderly changes in groupings and relationships that constitute development. Or, if the statement may be made in slightly different terms, the original causes of social evolution are the processes of physical equilibration, which are seen in the integration of matter with the dissipation of motion, or in the integration of motion with the disintegration of matter.[7]

All the energy expended in the growth and activity of a population is derived from the physical world. It is physical energy. Here let me explain what I mean by social energy. Throughout this work society has been regarded as essentially a phenomenon of thought and feeling. Now thought and feeling, merely as states of consciousness, are not energy. Apart from energy, however, they can do nothing. They can manifest themselves in external action only through the physical energy of nerve and muscle. Therefore all that is done in society, or by society, whether consciously or otherwise, is accomplished by physical energy. Neither in society nor elsewhere is there any other kind of energy. Accordingly, if we speak of psychical energy, we use for convenience a term that can denote nothing more than a special form of physical energy; namely, the nervous energy that is directly associated with consciousness. Briefly, then, although social phenomena are for the most part conscious phenomena, there is no social activity that is not physical activity .[8]

Giddings is best known to contemporary students of sociology through his earlier writings, as an example of the "sociologist of one idea," a general type which was quite prevalent in the early history of the science. His Principles of Sociology and his Elements of Sociology set forth a theory which centers in his concept, "consciousness of kind," which in turn rests upon the conception of "like-mindedness." It is plausible to suppose that the monistic predisposition should operate also as a predisposition to evolve theories of explanation in particular fields of science which should depend chiefly upon some one principle of explanation. The monist is probably, as a rule, a type. of person who is temperamentally given

( 770) to an intellectual craving for simple, unified explanations of things. Be that as it may, a number of sociologists of the nineteenth century wrote sociological treatises in which the emphasis was laid upon some one principle in each case; Tarde, with his sociology of imitation, is an outstanding example, and Ward's strong emphasis of the idea of teleology is in so far another case. Giddings' consciousness-of-kind doctrine is briefly stated in the following:

Since contract and alliance are phenomena obviously more special than association or society, and imitation and impression are phenomena obviously more general, we must look for the psychic datum, motive, or principle of society in the one phenomenon that is intermediate. Accordingly, the sociological postulate can be no other than this, namely, The original and elementary subjective fact in society is the consciousness of kind. By this term I mean a state of consciousness in which any being, whether low or high in the scale of life, recognizes another conscious being as of like kind with itself. Such a consciousness may be an effect of impression and imitation, but it is not the only effect that they produce. It may cause contract and alliance, but it causes other things as well. It is, therefore, less general than impression and imitation, which are more general than association. It is more general than contract and alliance, which are less general than association. It acts on conduct in many ways, and all the conduct that we can properly call social is determined by it. In short, it fulfils the sociological requirement; it is coextensive with potential society and with nothing else.[9]

A critique of Giddings' consciousness-of-kind concept and the extended use he makes of it would fall outside the scope of this study; it is sufficient for our purposes to note the fact of a divergent theory of social causation which has no place in it for a theory of "social forces," and to place on exhibition the author's own statement of his conception. We are under the same logical limitation in the case of Giddings' theory as modified in his latest book, Studies in the Theory of Human Society (1922). We have noted in Section II, preceding, that Giddings gave brief passing recognition, but no emphasis, in his Principles to the idea of Ward that the social forces are the "desires of men." In Studies in the Theory of Human Society he has expanded this topic considerably, but has developed it into a theory of struggle for existence like that used by the economists, rather than into a doctrine of social forces like

( 771) that of Ward. We append one of the significant passages (continuing a discussion of Benjamin Kidd's theory of the "super-rational sanction" for progress) :

Obviously, while no family stock or race at any time existing can certainly know, or, while it still remains vigorous, find sufficient ground to believe, that it is doomed to perish, neither can it certainly know that it is indefinitely to survive. It struggles instinctively and it achieves not altogether by knowledge or reason, but also in part by faith. It impulsively goes forward, and it hopes, it expects, to endure. It believes in its future.

Therefore the ongoing drive by which a race, a family, or an individual lives is not anti-rational, nor yet super-rational. It is rather sub-rational or proto-rational. It is deeper and more elemental than reason. It is the will to "carry on" sustained by faith in the possibilities of life.[10]

In the following passage, which carries the same approach still further into details of analysis, there is a noticeable analogy with other writers' lists of "social forces," "instincts," or "interests," but the classification is different, in content and in principle. The basis of classification is biological and mechanical; it is a classification of behavior tendencies with respect to the ends which they are conceived to promote, but the ends are conceived in sweeping biological fashion:

If, then, it is legitimate to use the term "struggle for existence," "in a large and metaphorical sense," as Mr. Darwin says his practice is, the struggle itself obviously consists of four specific and distinct struggles, namely: (1) the struggle to react, to endure heat and cold and storm, to draw the next breath, to crawl the next yard, to hold out against fatigue and dispair, to explore and analyze the situation; (2) the struggle for subsistence wherewith to repair the waste of reaction; (3) the struggle for adaptation by every organism to the objective conditions of its life, and, (4) the struggle for adjustment, by group-living individuals to one another.[11]

This conception of a struggle for existence having certain well-marked phases, however, Giddings evidently takes as entirely preliminary to the explanation of human social behavior as such, or "pluralistic behavior," as he terms it. In this explanation he still retains his "consciousness of kind" concept and its foundation of like-mindedness or like response to stimulus,[12] but he supplements it with a description of interstimulation not unlike that of Le Bon:

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When .... masses of men simultaneously respond to a party cry or symbol, the action for the moment is merely a like responsiveness to the same stimulus. An instant later, when each man perceives that, in this respect, his fellow-beings are resembling himself in feeling and in action, his own emotion is enormously intensified. It is this which gives to all symbols and shibboleths their tremendous practical importance. [13]

Taking this later book as a whole, and comparing one part with another, we can find in it lines of thought which seem to place it in a marginal or transition class with reference to the topic in which we are especially interested. On the one hand, and in certain passages, as we have seen, Giddings seems to cling to his monistic, one-idea sociology of the "consciousness of kind." Other passages taken separately would justify classing this book under the second category which we specified at the opening of this section, theories which conceive of the social process as so indefinitely variable that any valid general classification of tendencies or social forces is impossible.[14] The following passage points especially in this latter direction:

Behavior is a function of two variables, namely, stimulation and the performance of a reaction apparatus. Development of the reaction apparatus, including internal controls, limits and defines the possibilities of behavior. Stimulation is indeterminate, and forever will be.[15]

In this passage there is a noticeable resemblance to Thomas' theory of attitudes and values, or Park and Burgess' correlation of attitude with situation; it also bears a resemblance to Dewey's analysis of human behavior in Human Nature and Conduct.

On the whole, our net finding from the examination of Giddings' writings with reference to his use of the social forces concept must be that while some of his later work seems to place him in a position not absolutely incompatible with the acceptance of the social forces concept, he has never found it particularly useful in the development of his sociology.

It is possible, if we do not press the distinctions too sharply, to classify the sociology of Cooley also under our second category of

( 773) theories not involving the use of the social forces concept; viz., those assuming the social process to be too variable to permit of any valid general classification of social forces. Cooley has never, so far as is known to the present writer, definitely asserted his opposition to the notion of social forces, but he has made no use of it and his doctrine of mind as an "organic whole,"[16] and the inferences he draws from this doctrine do not have the effect of leading him into a classification of universal kinds of social tendencies or forces. It will be sufficient for our purposes to present two passages from his writings as an exhibit of this general trend in his thought:

The study of speech reveals a truth which we may also reach in other ways, namely, that the growth of the individual mind is not a separate growth, but rather a differentiation within the general mind. Our personal mind, so far as we can make out, has its sources partly in congenital tendency and partly in the stream of communication, both of which flow from the corporate life of the race. The individual has no better ground for thinking of himself as separate from humanity than he has for thinking of the self he is today as separate from the self he was yesterday; the continuity being no more certain in the one case than in the other. If it be said that he is separate because he feels separate, it may be answered that to the infant each moment is separate, and that we know our personal life to be a whole only through the growth of thought and memory. In the same way the sense of a larger or social wholeness is perhaps merely a question of our growing into more vivid and intelligent consciousness of a unity which is already clear enough to reflective consciousness.[17]

In the following passage there is a suggestion of the social worker's use of the term "social forces," although Cooley does not employ that particular term at all; his notion of the "cause" is here a notion of something particular and concrete, not of a general type of human nature tendency:

Everything in life is dependent upon a complex system of antecedents without which it could not have come to pass; and yet it may often be proper, from a practical standpoint, to speak of "the cause" of an event. Commonly we mean by this the exceptional or variant factor in the course of things. There is a sound and regular process of some sort which is broken in upon by something irregular and abnormal, as when a man of habitually vigorous health is seized with weakness and chills which prove to be due to an irruption of the germs of typhoid fever. Something analogous is often found

(774) in social processes, as when poverty and a sequence of other ills are brought upon a normal family by a quite exceptional event, like the failure of a bank, or an unforeseeable accident, and it is right to speak of this as "the cause."[18]

It is quite evident to anyone who is familiar with the writings of the two authors that Cooley has been considerably influenced and inspired by the earlier work of J. Mark Baldwin, and by his general conception that "a man is a social outcome rather than a social unit."[19] Referring to passages in Baldwin's writings in which he sets forth this fundamental thesis, Small has made a very pertinent statement with regard to the needs of sociology as a separate discipline, which we may very aptly place in juxtaposition to our materials from Cooley:

At the same time, there should be no difficulty in getting it understood that, while biology and psychology have to do with the individual when he is in the making, sociology wants to start with him as the finished product. There is a certain impossible antinomy about this, to be sure; for our fundamental conception is that the individual and his associations are constantly in the reciprocal making by each other. Nevertheless, there are certain constant aspects of the individual which furnish known terms for sociology. They are aspects which present their own problems to physiology and psychology on the one hand, and to sociology on the other; but in themselves they must be assumed at the beginning of sociological inquiry.[20]

This is just where the "social forces," "wishes," "interests," and similar doctrines come into the literature of sociology. They are based on the assumptions that (1) though we may grant that the individual is as much a social outcome as a social factor, we do not find it misleading, but on the contrary, very helpful, to assume that he is a social factor; and (2) that human nature presents certain "constant aspects," some of which are in the nature of motives, cravings, or demands upon the social milieu, some expression or realization of which is essential to wholesome group life, the alternative being social unrest and disorganization.

We have now to notice several different developments in American sociological theory which are interesting in connection with the

( 775) subject of this study especially because they offer substitutes, in effect, for the sort of social-forces doctrine which we have been surveying in its various expressions in sociological literature. If they do not directly and explicitly offer a substitution for that particular doctrine, then they seem to leave it more or less superfluous in the conception of their authors.

We have noted in Section II, preceding, that Professor Ellwood, in some of his more recent writings, seems to have become an adherent of a social-forces doctrine much like that of Ward. In his Introduction to Social Psychology (1917), he gives an outline of "original active factors of human association" and "derived, complex factors." In his Prolegomena to Social Psychology (1899), however, he had taken, on the whole, quite a different line. At that time he was more or less under the influence of Dewey,[21] and in the Prolegomena he works out, along lines doubtless suggested by the latter, an interpretation of human behavior in terms of functional co-ordination of behavior elements with reference to objects, phases, or aspects of the environment not unlike that given by E. B. Holt in The Freudian Wish. It is obvious that this particular development of psychological theory has a tendency, on the face of things at least, to locate the causes determining and differentiating human behavior outside the person, in the material or social environment, presumably capable of indefinite variation, and to leave no apparent place for a theory of persistent, universal human-nature cravings—desires, wishes, attitudes, interests—as forces giving some sort of general direction and limitation to the social process. It seems to the present writer probably true that there is no absolute logical incompatibility between the notion that behavior is co-ordination of responses with reference to objects or aspects of the environment, and the notion that there are universal and important desires or interests; writers greatly interested in the former theory, however, appear to have been typically uninterested in the latter at the time. It was not until Ellwood lost much of his interest in the idea of behavior as co-ordination of responses with reference to the environment, as he seems to have done in the preparation of

( 776) his Introduction to Social Psychology, that he became more interested in the doctrine of social forces as desires and interests.

While Ellwood was concerned with the co-ordination aspect of social behavior, his preponderant idea of the objective of social psychology was that it should study the mechanism of social processes. If he had set himself about it at this time to formulate a series of tentative general categories or concepts for dealing with the materials of sociology and social psychology, the terms of that system would have been, presumably, developed by the classification of observable social processes, or process-patterns, under general headings [22] Again, we should notice carefully that it is not clear that this is logically incompatible with the concurrent existence of terms designating general classes of human motives; our point here is one of historical interest simply—that at the time of writing the Prolegomena Ellwood apparently felt no urge to study the latter problem.

Two quotations from the Prolegomena will help to make clear the trend of Ellwood's thought at the time:

We have styled social psychology the science of the mechanism or technique of socio-psychical processes. just as individual psychology does not investigate directly the psychical elements of individual consciousness, but rather the mechanism of psychical processes, so the task of social psychology is to examine, not public opinion, language, customs, institutions, and the like, as products of the collective psychical life, but the mechanism of the socio-psychical processes through which these products arise and change.[23]

Now, the assumption that there are "mental phenomena dependent upon a community of individuals" [reference is to Kulpe's definition of social psychology, quoted in previous passage], presupposes psychical processes which are more than merely individual, which are inter-individual; in the last analysis it implies that through the action and reaction of individuals in a group upon one another there arise psychical processes which cannot be explained by reference to any or all of the individuals as such, but only by reference to the group-life considered itself as a unity. Social psychology, then, if somewhat more strictly defined, has as its task to examine and explain the form or mechanism of these group psychical processes. It is an interpretation of the psychical processes manifested in the growth and functioning of the group as a unity. Whatever psychical phenomena may be re-

(777)     -garded as pertaining to group-life as such, therefore, are the proper subject-matter of social psychology. As such phenomena we may instance, for the sake of provisional illustration, political revolutions, mob action, group action and organization of all sorts, down even to the psychical adjustments which take place in small groups, such as a family or a committee [24]

It may be remarked, in connection with this abstract from Ellwood's early work, that sociologists and social psychologists today would scarcely take serious exception to anything he wrote in the Prolegomena; indeed, the last few years have witnessed a strengthening of interest in the study of the mechanism of social processes. The only question which can be raised by the proponents of the social-forces doctrine would concern the probable need, in any attempt to use in concrete studies, a tentative classification of social mechanisms, of a general classification of motives, interests, or wishes with the aid of which the situation might be classified and the process predicted or controlled. To the present writer, the study of social process and the employment of some classification of social forces are correlative.

In his Principles of Sociology Professor Ross has made a suggestion concerning social causation which deserves mention here, not because it conflicts, in our opinion or his, with the notion of interests, which as we have seen he accepts, but because it might be taken as a variant of the social-forces idea, and a very stimulating one.

Theories of social determinism.—The dominance of now this interest and now that creates the illusion that some one force is the shaper of social destiny. At the moment when the state attains its broadest significance the military-political interest seems to be the swaying force in history. At the moment when religion reaches its broadest significance the religious interest appears as the chief uniter and divider of men. Now it happens that in modern times certain well-understood influences have weakened the political and religious interests, and thereby thrown into relief other interests, chief among which is the economic. Economism, so helpful a key to the evolution of modern society, is now offered as the "open sesame"! to the locked chambers of the past, the one magic formula to the interpretation of history. Its one rival is intellectualism, which pivots the whole social life of an age on its knowledge and beliefs. But these are one-sided theories, and cannot explain the past as successfully as they explain the present.

(778) Theory of the worries as prime determiners of history.—It is reasonable to suppose that men's attitudes and actions depend on what most worries them. When they worry chiefly about what the Unseen will do to them, the course of society will be most affected by developments in the field of religion. When they lie awake far fear their property or their lives will be taken, their attitude toward everything will depend on how it is related to the security-furnishing organization, i.e., the state. When their supreme anxiety is where the next meal is coming from, they will be for everything that promises to promote economic success, and against everything which appears to hinder it. As soon as one worry is soothed it ceases to shape the course of history, and some other worry takes its place. [25]

Professor Dealey has discussed the notion of social forces in two passages which we quote, among others. These quotations are interesting, partly because they exhibit the attitude toward the social forces concept of one of the leading sociologists of today, and partly because they illustrate the use of the term "social forces" with a different meaning than that which Ward gave it, one which, however, Small and Park and Burgess have been somewhat inclined to accept, as some passages in their writings show. Although in the first passage we quote below, Dealey speaks of "progress," the notion of progress is not, apparently, determinative of his thought in the sentences which follow. The thing which we desire to notice is that for him social forces is a term which should apply properly only to forces which make behavior social, i.e., forces which cause individuals to act in and through groups.

Perception of social utility.—Now this perception of utility is an essential point in sociological teaching respecting social forces. In passing, it may be said that there are no inherent social forces driving groups irresistibly onward toward progress, but when groups perceive the desires common to men and grasp the idea that men unitedly are in need of social recognition, regulation, and expression, then the conventional term "social force" may properly be used. An individual may see the utility of securing for himself the prime necessities of life, but that does not make his activities social. There may be and are many indirect benefits to society through such purposive acts of individuals, but after all, as Lester F. Ward has so fully shown, so far as society is concerned, such growth is unconscious in kind. It is individual, not social telesis, and should be sharply distinguished in thought, at least, from the conscious, purposive, telic action of social groups. A group as a group should see the utility of its action; it is not necessary that all the members of the

(779)     group see this, or all as clearly as some, but the "mind" of the group, the agreement of the group, should be present, however far apart the individuals Of the group may be in the clearness of their insight. This emphasis is possible only when the group, not society, is emphasized [28]

There is something impossibly intellectualistic in the foregoing; forces can operate powerfully to draw and hold men together in groups, and to cause them to engage in corporate group action very effectively, without any person's seeing the value or necessity of group action—for example, in the case of a lynching mob. The remark may also be made that the passage just quoted is ambiguous, in that it is not entirely clear whether a scientific or an ethical "should" is intended in the closing sentences. In another passage, the author appears to use the term "social forces" in an entirely different sense :

Social forces.—Just as the steering gear of a steamer is useless if there is no steam to regulate, so there can be no social control unless there be something to control. This something in society is the mass of bodily passions, the desires of the human mind, its ambitions and its demands—the social forces. In a weakling individual or group these are feeble, and there is nothing worth controlling. Such people are molded by environment and companionship. As a basis for effective social control, therefore, it is vastly important that powerful desires surge through the individuals of society. An ascetic contempt for the joys and ambitions of life is socially suicidal. Men must wish vigorously and work mightily to accomplish their desires. Through society as a whole there should be a craving for wealth, for bodily comfort, for the satisfaction of conjugal and parental feelings, for altruistic service, for a realization of ideals of morality and beauty, and for a conception of the essential harmony of the universe. A society lacking these is inert and contemptible, and destined to extinction; but with them, though there is the possibility that the violence of its ambitions may work its destruction, it may also become an irresistible factor for progress.[27]

It will be noticed that in this latter passage there is suggested, somewhat indefinitely, a classification of objects of desire in some six categories, resembling Small's interests.

A. J. Todd, in Theories of Social Progress, has been primarily concerned, as his title would indicate, in the survey and criticism of

( 780) prominent or interesting theories of progress and change. In his chapters, however, it is possible to discover quite clearly his own beliefs regarding social causation. What he gives us is a thoroughgoing recognition of the essential complexity of social causation. Не asserts and reiterates that a multitude of factors which enter into the self and into group life must be taken into account in order that we may explain progress. Todd is, in some degree, a disciple of Dewey, and it may be for this reason that he consistently refrains from laying any emphasis upon any concise scheme of social forces arranged in a few general classes. In fact, as the following passage will show, he is rather definitely opposed to the use of the social-forces concept, and we may place his argument in evidence as an example of the attitude of those who do so oppose it.

Sociology must not even accept certain primary impulses (the impulse to self-maintenance, self-perpetuation, self-gratification, altruism, good will) or certain groups of "feelings" or "interests" as final causes or undecomposable forces; or at least not before a persistent attempt to reduce them to lower terms. Hence, it is altogether possible that there is a force for progress, but that if we look closely enough we shall discover certain busy, thinking, feeling individuals grouped into an organic association, and that they, their association, and their doings are the real social forces.[28]

The keynote in the foregoing passage, it will be noticed, is the suggestion that not desires, but individuals are the social forces. The issue involved here is essentially one of psychology rather than of sociology; it may be clarified somewhat by restatement, however. The premise that the ultimate factors of social phenomena are individuals appears to imply some hypothesis like the Freudian one wish. To the sociologist for whom the individual human beings appear to be the ultimate factors, the fundamental unity of the average human individual must in logic be one of the most striking things about him. To those who stress a multiplicity of desires as the components, in some sense, of each and every person, the individual human being is not strikingly a unity to begin with, but the battle ground of divergent, sometimes conflicting forces. Whatever unity and consistency of behavior the person displays to observers is to be regarded as an achievement rather than an original endowment. It is not within the scope of the present study to attempt to

( 781) settle the issue one way or the other. It may be remarked, however, that what is needed for purposes of sociological analysis of concrete problems is not some generalized proposition, true though it may be, which explains everything, but an explanation which accounts for differences, which will help us to see why this situation is different from that, and why the remedy or constructive measure which worked in that previous situation is failing in this. The hypothesis of a number of separate and fundamental human desires, interests, or cravings, no one of which is necessarily satisfied by that which satisfies any or all of the others, appears to meet just that need.

In several of the quotations which have been used in this section we have already noticed the disposition of their authors to shift emphasis from the impulse to the external object or situation which affords the stimulus, and to suggest that the variations of human behavior are to be accounted for primarily as responses to a complex and variable environment. This line of reasoning, as we have seen, tends to lead to the further assumption that no classification of human interests or desires can have universal validity, that all we can classify is the stimuli or situations, and these cannot be classified in any way that has fundamental validity, since the environmental varies indefinitely. An emphatic recent expression of this point of view may be quoted very aptly in concluding this survey of sociologicаl theories more or less inconsistent with the social-forces doctrine. Professor L. L. Bernard, in a recent review of Bushee's Principles of Sociology, from which we quoted near the close of Section II preceding, has this to say about his classification of social forces or desires:

But his concept of social forces is decidedly primitive. It is the psychology of Lester F. Ward and the intellectualistic psychologists and metaphysicians exhumed from the past. He has four fundamental desires—for pelf-preservation, for race continuance, for approbation, and for the consciousness of life—which are basic to all social adjustment and organization. He makes them central to the whole of his treatment of sociology. They are, of course, not desires at all, but classifications of activities from the standpoint of the onlooker. The actor does not conceive of his motives in any such ways. Whoever desires self-preservation or race continuance? What one wants is a steak or a ham sandwich, or to get across a crowded street, or a better income. It is a particular woman or child he is interested in that ap-

(782) -peals. Only philosophers desire such general values, and not even they as a habit and when off duty. Imagine the consciousness of life as a unit object of value or desire! How much better it would have been if the author had dropped the outworn pseudo-psychological cant of desires and had simply said, man is so organized by inheritance and by habit as to respond to certain types of stimuli which relate themselves to such behavior processes as food, danger, sex, association with others, and the multitude of acquired adjustments and values which we call cultural. His psychology is not behavioristic.[29]

And so the debate runs. It might be said that it is shaping itself more and more, in the most recent years, into a struggle of two opposing doctrines. The one may be called agnostic, and asserts the impossibility of classifying human interests, wishes, or desires as social forces. The other might be called pragmatic, and it asserts the extreme usefulness to sociologist and social worker of some such classification, granting that the one we are working with at a given time is probably not accurate and will in time be replaced by a better one. Of course it remains eternally possible that some such classification can be made which is extremely useful for analyzing all the social phenomena of a long epoch, but which is after all in the last analysis only relative.


  1. We have presented in Section III of this paper a statement of Hayes's treatment of "conditioning factors" in his Introduction to the Study of Sociology, published four years later than the article cited above.
  2. E. C. Hayes, "The Social Forces Error," American Journal of Sociology (1911), XVI, 616 (quoting author's previous article, A. J. S., XII, 652).
  3. Loc. cit., A. J. S., XVI, 623-24.
  4. The present writer's inspiration for the passage in Section I, above, can be found in Small, General Sociology, pp. 217-18.
  5. C. A. Ellwood, Sociology in Its Psychological Aspects (1912), p. 278.
  6. A. W. Small, General Sociology, p. 81.
  7. F. H. Giddings, Principles of Sociology, pp. 363-64 (in the following paragraph in the original text the author gives credit to Herbert Spencer for the idea used).
  8. Loc. cit., pp. 365-66.
  9. Giddings, Principles of Sociology (1896), pp. 17-18.
  10. Studies in the theory of Human Society, p. 10.
  11. Ibid., p. 14.
  12. Ibid., p. 16З.
  13. Loc. cit., pp. 165-66 (quoted in another connection in section IV, above).
  14. Giddings' attempt at reconciliation of the two points of view can be found in paragraphs on p. 252, ibid. See also p. 250.
  15. Ibid., p. 141.
  16. Charles Horton Cooley, Social Organization (1909), p. 3.
  17. Ibid., pp. 71-72.
  18. Charles Horton Cooley, Social Process (1918), p. 163
  19. James Mark Baldwin, Mental Development in the Child and the Race (1906), passim; Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Developments (1902), passim.
  20. A. W. Small, General Sociology, pp. 430-31.
  21. Ellwood refers to Dewey's important article on the reflex arc in the Psychological Review for July, 1896, in his Prolegomena to Social Psychology.
  22. Many of the chapter titles of Ross' Principles of Sociology would serve as examples.
  23. A. J. S., III, 105.
  24. A. J. S., IV, 656-57.
  25. E. A. Ross, Principles of Sociology (1920), pp. 57-58.
  26. James Quayle Dealey, Sociology—Its Development and Applications (1920), pp. 104-5.
  27. Loc. cit., pp. 134 35.
  28. A. J. Todd, Theories of Social Progress (1918), p. 103.
  29. A. J. S., XXIX (May, 1924), pp. 755-57.

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