There is a wide variety of meanings attached to the term group; different kinds of reality are imputed to the concept by psychologists and sociologists of different schools. To some the group is a primary concept in the study of human behavior; many sociologists say that the individual has no reality, aside from his biologically defined body, except as a carrier or crystallizer of meanings that are derivative of group action and interaction. To others, however, the individual remains as the sociologically primary entity and groups are the more or less artificial constructs which result when individuals, viewed as essentially complete physical and psychological entities, come into contact with each other. For the former sociologists a child can hardly be said to have social reality except in so far as there is in prior existence a supporting family or social agency substituting for the family and a fairly well defined set of rules of behavior defining the relation between the child and such a family. In much the same sense there would be no such individual as a musician except in so far as there are such groups as conservatories, historically determined lines of musicians and musical critics, dancing, singing and playing associations of varying degrees of formal organization and many other types of groups whose prior definition is needed to make the term musician actual. For the latter sociologists the child and the musician exist as given types of individuals, whether they are so born or so conditioned; and the groups which the sociologist discovers as operative in the behavior which actualizes such individual terms as child or musician are merely ad hoc constructions due to the specific experiences of individuals either
(179) within a given lifetime or over many generations. The difficulty of deciding whether the group or the individual is to be looked upon as the primary concept in a general theory of society is enhanced by fatal ambiguities in the meaning of the term group.
Any group is constituted by the fact that there is some interest which holds its members together. The community of interest may range from a passing event which assembles people into a momentary aggregate to a relatively permanent functional interest which creates and maintains a cohesive unit. The crowd which forms when there is an automobile accident, drawn together in the first place by a common curiosity, soon develops certain understandings. Its members may feel themselves to be informally delegated by society to observe and eventually report or to help with advice or action or, if there has been an infraction of the traffic rules, to constitute a silent or audible image of criticism. Such a group cannot be despised by the sociologist for all its casualness of form and function. At the other extreme is such a body as the United States Senate, which is fixed as to numbers, principle of selection, time of meeting, function and symbolic importance in a representative capacity. The former consists of individuals who do not feel that they are assuming a known or imputed role when they become members of the group; the latter is constituted by political and legal theory and exists in a sense in advance of the appearance of specific members, so that those who actually take part in deliberations of the Senate are something other than or beyond themselves as individuals. There is in reality no definite line of division anywhere along the gamut of group forms which connect these extremes. If the automobile accident is serious and one of the members of the crowd is a doctor, the informal group may with comparatively little difficulty resolve itself into something like a medical squad with an implicitly elected leader. On the other hand, if the government is Ping through a great political crisis, if there is little confidence in the representative character or honesty of the senators or if an enemy is besieging the capital and likely at any moment to substitute entirely new forms of corporate authority for those legally recognized by the citizens of the country, the Senate may easily become an unimportant aggregation of individuals who suddenly and with unexpected poignancy feel their helplessness as mere individuals.
Sociological theory can hardly analyze the group concept into its various forms unless it uses definable principles of classification. The primary principle of classification may rest on the distinction between physical proximity on the one hand and the adoption of a symbolic role on the other. Between the two extremes comes a large class of group forms in which the emphasis is on definite, realistic purpose rather than on symbolism. The three major classes of groups are therefore those physically defined, those defined by specific purposes and those symbolically, defined. Examples of simple physical groups are a bread line, a little crowd milling in the lobby of a theater between the acts of a play, the totality of individuals who look on at a football game, a handful of people going up in an elevator and a Saturday afternoon crowd on Fifth Avenue. Groups possessed of a relatively firm organization and of a real or imputed specific purpose are, for example, the employees of a factory, the administrative personnel of a bank or stock company, a board of education, a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, the taxpayers of a municipality, a trade union viewed as. an agency for securing certain economic advantages to its members and a state legislature viewed simply as an agency of government. Groups off the third type differ from those of the second in that to external organization and one or more well defined functions there is added the general symbolic function of securing for the individual an integrated status in society. Examples of such symbolicly defined groups are the family-; the membership of a particular church or of a religious denomination; a political party in so far as it is not merely a mechanism for the election of political officers; a social club in so far as it means more than a convenience for luncheon or an occasional game of billiards; a university group looked at as something over and above an instrumentality for specific types of education; the United States Senate as a responsible spokesman of the American government; a state as, the legalized representative of the nation; a nation as a large aggregate of human beings who feel themselves to be held together by many ties of sentiment and which believes itself, rightly or wrongly, to be a self-sufficient social entity in the world of physical necessity and of human relationships.
The examples have been purposely chosen to suggest doubts and multiple interpretations. Some degree of physical proximity is either required or fancied in order to make for group cohesiveness; some degree of purpose or func-
( 180) -tion can be found in or rationalized for any conceivable group of human beings that has meaning at all; and there is no group which does not reach out symbolically beyond its actual composition and assigned function. Even so wide a group as a political party needs from time to time to give itself the face to face psychology of a mere physical gathering, lest the loyalty and enthusiasm which spring from handshakes, greetings, demonstrations, speeches and other tokens of immediate vitality seep away into a colorless feeling of merely belonging. The members of a church, standing obviously as a symbol of the relation between God and man, carry definite purposes of a practical sort, such as the securing of burial rights. Symbolisms of a potent sort may be illustrated in groups which are most readily classified under the first and second rubrics. Thus, a passer by may be attracted to the casual crowd brought together by an automobile accident not because he thinks he can be of any particular assistance nor because he is devoured by curiosity but merely because he wishes half unconsciously to register his membership in the human universe of potential suffering and mutual good will. For such an individual the nondescript group in question becomes the mystic symbol of humanity itself. Thus defined it may be more potent in a symbolic sense than the nation itself. So clearly defined a functional group as a board of education has or may have a symbolic significance for its community that far transcends its avowed purposes. Nevertheless, there are few groups of human beings that cannot be readily classified as coming primarily under one or the other of the three indicated heads. This tripartite classification is easiest to apply in the modern civilized world. In less sophisticated folk cultures and to an even greater extent in primitive societies the possibility of allocating groups to one rather than another of the three types becomes more difficult. Physical contact, a bundle of common purposes and heavy saturation with symbolism tend to be typical of all groups on these more primitive levels.
The suggested classification is based on an analysis of groups from an objective standpoint; that is, from the standpoint of an observing nonparticipant or the standpoint of humanity or the nation or any other large aggregate in which the significance of the individual as such tends to be lost. The interpretation of the various types of groups from the standpoint of individual participation offers new difficulties, and new principles of classification may be ventured. Individuals differ in the degree to which they can successfully identify themselves with the other members of the group in which they are included and in the nature of that identification. Such identification may be direct, selective or referential. Direct participation implies that the individual is or feels himself to be in a significant personal relation to all or most of the fellow members of the group with whom he comes in contact. For such an individual the reality of a committee, for instance, is not given by its external organization and assigned duties but rather by his ability to work with or fail to work with particular members of the committee and to get his own purposes accomplished with or in defiance of their help. A selective type of participation implies that the individual is able to identify himself with the group only in so far as he can identify himself with one or more selected members of the group who stand as its representatives and who tend to exhaust for the individual the psychological significance of the group itself. Or the selection may act negatively, so that the significance of the group is damaged for the individual because of feelings of hostility toward particular members of the group. This type of group identification is common in the workaday world. Referential participation implies that the individual makes no serious attempt to identify himself with some or all of the actual membership of a group but feels these fellow members to be the more or less impersonal carriers of an idea or purpose. This is essentially the legalistic type of approach.
The type of individual participation in the group and its purposes has something to do with its unconscious classification, so that the objective and subjective points of view are not in reality distinct. It is well to keep them apart, however, and to look upon them as intercrossing classifications. The least significant type of group psychologically would be the mere physical group with referential participation of the individual. The group so defined is little more than a statistical entity in the field of population. At the other extreme is the symbolically defined group with direct individual participation. Great art brings to the interpretation of symbolically defined groups, which tend to be somewhat colorless as human entities because of their indefinite membership, the touchstone of direct participation. In Hauptmann's Die Weber (Berlin 1892; tr. by M. Morison as The Weavers, London 1899), for instance, German labor, a symbolically defined group as conceived by the
( 181) dramatist, is made doubly significant because of the illusion of direct participation in its membership.
The nature of the interest which lies at the basis of the formation of the group varies indefinitely. It may be economic, political, vocational, meliorative, propagandist, racial, territorial, religious or expressive of general attitudes or minor purposes, such as the use of leisure. To go into the details of the organization and purpose of such specifically defined groups would be tantamount to a description of the institutions of society. A popular classification of groups has been into primary or face to face groups and secondary groups. This is a convenient descriptive contrast but it does not take sufficient account Of the nature of individual participation in the group. The distinction becomes of greater value if it is interpreted genetically as a contrast between those types of participation, which are defined early in life and those which come later as symbolic amplifications or transfers of the earlier participations. From this point of view membership in a labor union with a dominant leader may have the value of an unconscious psychological recall of one's childhood participation in the family. Still another type of classification of groups which can readily be made is that based on the degree to which groups are self-consciously formed and group) membership is voluntary. From this point of view the trade union or political party contrasts with the family or the state. The individual enters into the latter type of group through biological or social necessity, while he is believed to align himself with a trade union or political party without such necessity. This distinction is misleading, for the implicit social forces which lead to membership in a given political party, for instance, may for many individuals be quite as compulsive as those which identify him with the state or even the family. To make too much of the distinction is to confuse the psychological, realities of various forms of participation with the roles which society imputes to the individual. The plurality of groupings for any one individual is a point that sociologists have emphasized. If one looks beyond the groups which are institutionally defined--in other words, beyond associations in the narrow sense of the word--any society, above all the complex society of modern times, has many more groups of more or less psychological significance than it possesses individuals who participate in these groups.
The changes in social groupings, studied partly through historical evidence, partly through the direct observation of contemporary tends, constitute a large part of the history of society. There are changes in the actual personnel of groups resulting from realignments brought about by such factors as economic change and changes in the means of communication, changes in the deepening or the impoverishment of the symbolic significance of the group and changes in the tendency to a more or to a less direct participation of the individual in his group. These types of change necessarily condition each other in a great variety of ways. An example .of the first type is the gradual increase in the total potential membership of the political parties ,)f England and the United States. The fact that individuals without property and women now share in the activities of the parties means that their present symbolic significance is different from what it originally was. Examples of the second type of change are provided by the universal tendency for groups which have a well defined function to lose their original function but to linger on as symbolically reinterpreted groups. Thus a political club may lose its significance in the realistic world of politics but may nevertheless survive significantly as a social club in which membership is eagerly sought by those who wish to acquire a valuable symbol of status. The third type of change is illustrated by the recent history of the American family, in which on account of many disintegrating influences direct and intense participation has become less pronounced. As far as the relation of brothers and sisters is concerned, for instance, the participation frequently amounts to hardly more than a colorless awareness of the fact of such kinship. Developments in the family illustrate the general tendency in modern life of secondary and voluntary groupings to assume the dominant role as against the primary and involuntary ones. Closely connected with this is the greater mobility of group membership due to a variety of factors, among which are increased facilities of transportation, the gradual breakdown of the earlier symbolic sanctions and an increasing tendency to conceive of a group as fundamentally defined by one or more specific purposes. Groups that are relatively permanent because they are needed to carry out important purposes tend to become more and more institutionalized. Hiking clubs, for instance, have replaced the more casual association of three or four men for the purpose of walking together in the country.
In the discussion of the fundamental psy-
( 182) -hology of the group such terms as gregariousness, consciousness of kind and group mind do little more than give names to problems to which they are in no sense a solution. The psychology of the group cannot be fruitfully discussed except on the basis of a profounder understanding of the way in which different sorts of personalities enter into significant relations with each other and on the basis of a more complete knowledge of the importance to be attached to directly purposive as contrasted with symbolic motives din human interaction The psychological basis of the group must rest on the psychology of specific personal relations; no matter how impersonally one may conceive the behavior which is characteristic of a given group, it must either illustrate direct interaction or it must be a petrified "as if" of such interaction. The latter attribute is, however, not the peculiar property of group psychology but is also illustrated in the relations of single human beings toward one another. It is only an apparent contradiction of this point of view if the individual, as he so frequently does, allows himself to be controlled not by what this man or that man says or thinks, but by what he mystically imputes to the group as a whole. Group loyalty and group ethics do not mean that the direct relationship between individual and individual has been completely transcended. They mean only that what was in its origin a relation of individual dominance has been successively transferred until it is now attributed to the group as a whole.
The psychological realities of group participation will be understood only when theorizing about the general question of the relation of the individual to the group gives way to detailed studies of the actual kinds of understanding, explicit and implicit, that grow up between two or three or more human beings when they are brought into significant contact. It is important to know not only how one person feels with reference to another but how the former feels with reference to the latter when a third party is present. A latent hostility between two persons may be remedied by the presence of the third party, because for one reason or another he is an apt target for the conscious or unconscious hostility of both. His presence may serve to sharpen hostility between the persons because of his attractiveness for both and the consequent injection of a conscious or unconscious jealousy into the relations that obtain between them. Precise studies in the psychology of personal relations are by no means immaterial for the profounder psychological understanding of the group, for this psychology can hardly be other than the complex resultant of the pooling, heightening, canceling, transfer and symbolic reinterpretation of just such specific processes. As psychology recognizes more and more clearly the futility of studying the individual as a self-contained entity, the sociologist will be set free to study the rationale of group form, group function, group changes and group interrelationships from a formal or cultural point of view.