General Sociology

Chapter 33: The Spiritual Environment; Contacts; Differentiation; Group; Form of the Group; Conflict; Social Situations

Albion Small

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I. THE SPIRITUAL ENVIRONMENT.—For reasons similar to those alluded to in chap. 30, under the title " Physical Environment," we might pass the present title as too commonplace for mention. Of course, human association is the association of human beings. Everybody knows this, and nothing more or other than this can be connected truthfully with any phrase which may be chosen to express the facts.

While this is true, yet attention to the truth in this case, as so often with the commonplace, leads- to discovery of details or relations otherwise neglected. This particular commonplace is to a considerable extent an unknown quantity, or a miscalculated quantity, in social valuations.

Provided human beings are a little removed from us in time or space, we begin to think of them as something more or less than men. Ancestors have only to be dead a little while to acquire heroic and godlike proportions in the folklore of any nation. On the other hand, to the Turk the Christian is a dog, and to the yellow man all other races are pigs. The foreigner has always been somewhat of a monster, and is today, even in the most enlightened nations of the earth. The stranger does not belong in the same species with ourselves. Even different strata of the same society fail to understand that they are of one flesh and blood and mind and heart.

The point to be urged is that a man is a man the world over and the ages through. Catch your specimen on State Street in Chicago, in a Louisiana rice field, or in the jungles of India, and he is essentially the same order of unit. Only the coefficients and the exponents vary. If we can get at the essentials in any human being, we have at the same time

( 483) the ground plan of every other human being the world has ever produced. It makes no difference whether our sample man is selected from the masses building the pyramids, or from the present British royal family, or from the New York Four Hundred; their springs of action are fundamentally the same. This is not to assert either of the exploded doctrines about an equality that never did and never can exist; but the thesis is a literal expression of life, by no means common in our theories of how the social world came to be what it is, or how it is likely to reshape itself in the future. To take the most ready and familiar illustration : We regard the Greeks of Homer's time as entertaining children for believing that the men of far-off times had any more intimate transactions with the gods than they could hold themselves; yet every one of us was taught to believe that certain representatives of the Hebrew race had different means of communicating with God from those that are available today. We consequently accepted a version of Hebrew history which made out of it a fantastic tradition that only began to take on the semblance of reality within the recollection of living men.

Or let us take an entirely different illustration. We read in our newspapers of the murder of Jews in Russia. We thereupon denounce the Russians, and we moralize endlessly upon the inhumanity which puts them in a different class from ourselves. In point of fact, we can almost any day see Chinamen treated on the streets of Chicago in a way that shows the same elemental traits which came out in larger type in the riots at Kichineff.

Our present thesis by no means ignores or denies the count-less gradations of individual and social standards. We do not forget that snuffling of primal motives and mixture of their quantities make one man incapable of exactly replacing another. Of course, we all know so much, and it would be waste of time to debate it. But the point is that, whether we are dealing with a Nero or a Gladstone, with a community of Quakers or a horde of bashi-bazouks, their actions must all be

( 484) analyzed at last in terms of the same motor principles. One type has a plus of this and a minus of that; another has the proportions reversed; others have permutations of the same elements till the variations are incalculable; but in principle every spring of action that is in any man today was in every man on the stage when the curtain rose upon history. To understand human actions, past or present, we must rid our-selves of superstitions about a discontinuous world—whether along chronological or geographical lines of cleavage. We must throw away all conceptions which do not in a certain sense interpret all men by ourselves, and ourselves by all men. We must learn to explain what other men have done and are doing as expressions of the same sort of response that we ourselves make to the same sort of stimulus to which we are exposed; or an expression of the same reaction which would be produced in us if, under like circumstances, we were exposed to the same kind of stimulus.[1]

The propriety of viewing these facts of common human nature as elements of the concept "the spiritual environment" depends upon the perception that, "held together in social relationships, men modify each other's nature."[2] This proposition presents the social fact in its most evident form. It involves one of the primary problems of sociology, viz.: What are the details of the modifications which men's natures undergo through reciprocal influence? As Professor Thomas has said in his paper "The Gaming Instinct": [3]

Psychologically the individual is inseparable from his surroundings, and his attitude toward the world is determined by the nature of suggestions from the outside. The general culture and social position of his parents, the ideals of the social set in which he moves, the schools he attends, the literature he sees, the girl he wants to marry, are among the factors which determine the life-directions of the youth. From the complex of suggestions coming to him in the social relations into which he is born

( 485) or thrown, he selects and follows those recurring persistently, emanating from attractive personalities, or arising in critical circumstances.

Professor Ross has used the term " social ascendency " for the whole sum of facts in a society by which tradition and derived standards impose themselves upon the individual. This social ascendency is partly by means of social machinery, like the industrial and the governmental systems. It is partly by means of ideas, customs, standards of taste, form, morals, which most of the persons affected by them do not express in words. They are an invisible presence, but they often dictate the course of social events as absolutely as a physical cause procures its effect. Perhaps the best illustration for Americans is the race-sentiment in the South, as contrasted with the promiscuity of sentiment on the same subject in the North. A visitor from the North goes to a southern state, and before he has been there an hour, if he mingles with the people, he detects a something in the social tone which he has read about, but never before directly experienced. He finds him-self among some of the most genial, warm-hearted, high-minded people he has ever seen; but he finds them governed by a code of sentiments toward the colored man which seems to him unintelligible and inconsistent. The northern man does not know how to draw the distinctions in his conduct toward the black man which the southern man draws instinctively; and, on the other hand, the northern man will draw lines at points where the southern man does not feel the need of them. Here are two different spiritual environments. The southern man lives in an environment of race-distinctions. The northern man lives in an environment of merely personal distinctions. To the northern man personal likes and dislikes, social inclusion or exclusion, will depend on the individual. His being a negro makes no more difference than his being a Spaniard or Italian or Russian or Englishman. To the southern man the idea of a socially acceptable negro is a contradiction in terms.

No argument on the merits of the case is implied in the

( 486) illustration. The point is that these familiar mental attitudes are convenient evidences of the universal reality; viz., a spiritual tone, atmosphere, perspective, standard, which sets the limits of action for individuals in the community.

It is necessary to emphasize the fact of the spiritual environment, partly because we have that familiarity with it which breeds contempt. It is so commonplace that we think it may be ignored. It is necessary also because in other cases the fact is like the pressure of the atmosphere. Each of us is affected by it most intimately, but few of us have discovered it. Just as every portion of space has its physical atmosphere, so every portion of society has its thought-atmosphere. This mental envelope largely explains habit and custom, impulse and endeavor, power and limitation, within the society. To know the act, the person, the episode, the social situation, the social problem, the social movement, in any single case, we must know the thought-environment or the spiritual environment in which it occurs. This is a requirement that is universal and without exception.[4]

2. CONTACT.— Reference to De Greef's thesis, that the distinguishing factor of society is contact, will assist in defining the content of the present concept. In dissent from De Greef's proposition we have urged that " it would be more correct, though still vague, to say that sociology deals especially with the phenomena of contact. The reactions which result from voluntary or involuntary contact of human beings with other human beings are the phenomena peculiarly ` social,' as distinguished from the phenomena that belong properly to biology and psychology." [5]

This claim may be expanded as follows : In the first place, we want to indicate, not the essence of the social, but the location, the sphere, the extent, of the social. If we can agree where it is, we may then proceed to discover what it

( 487) is.[6] In the first place, then, the social is the term next beyond the individual. Assuming, for the sake of analysis, that our optical illusion, " the individual," is an isolated and self-sufficient fact, there are many sorts of scientific problem that do not need to go beyond this fact to satisfy their particular terms. Whether the individual can ever be abstracted from his conditions and remain himself, is not a question that we need here discuss. At all events, the individual known to our experience is not isolated. He is connected in various ways with one or more individuals. The different ways in which individuals are connected with each other are indicated by the inclusive term "contact." We will not now extend the meaning of this term to other contacts of persons than those with other persons. If we did, we should thereby take our-selves into a still more general field, within which the laws of the social are subordinate orders. Starting, then, from the individual, to measure him in all his dimensions and to represent him in all his phases, we find that each person is what he is by virtue of the existence of other persons, and by virtue of an alternating current of influence between each person and all the other persons previously or at the same time in existence. The last native of central Africa around whom we throw the dragnet of civilization, and whom we inoculate with a desire for whiskey, adds an increment to the demand for our distillery products, and affects the internal revenue of the United States, and so the life-conditions of every member of our population. This is what we mean by " contact." So long as that African tribe is unknown to the outside world, and the world to it, so far as the European world is concerned the tribe might as well not exist. The moment the tribe comes within touch of the rest of the world, the aggregate of the world's contacts is by so much enlarged; the social world is by so much extended. In other words, the realm of the

( 488) social is the realm of circuits of reciprocal influence between individuals and the groups which individuals compose. The general term "contact" is proposed to stand for this realm, because it is a colorless word that may mark boundaries with-out prejudging contents. Wherever there is physical or spiritual contact between persons, there is inevitably a circuit of exchange of influence. The realm of the social is the realm constituted by such exchange. It extends from the producing of the baby by the mother, and the simultaneous producing of the mother by the baby, to the producing of merchant and soldier by the world-powers, and the producing of the world-powers by merchant and soldier.[7]

The most general and inclusive way in which to designate all the phenomena that sociology proper considers, without importing into the term premature hypotheses by way of explanation, is to assert that they are the phenomena of "con-tact" between persons. It is an open question, to be sure, whether it is worth while to keep both the concepts "contact " and "process " in commission. The latter is so much more vital than the former that it may deserve exclusive monopoly as a primary notion. We think, however, that the claim is excessive.

In accordance with what was said about the division of labor between psychology and sociology,[8] it seems best to leave to the psychologist all that goes on inside the individual, and to say that the work of the sociologist begins with the things that take place between individuals. This principle of division is not one that can be maintained absolutely, any more than we can hold absolutely to any other abstract classification of real actions. It serves, however, certain rough uses. Our work as students of society begins in earnest when the individual has become equipped with his individuality. This stage of human growth is both cause and effect of the life of human

( 499) beings side by side in greater or lesser numbers. Under those circumstances individuals are produced; they act as individuals; by their action as individuals they produce a certain type of society; that type reacts on the individuals and helps to transform them into different types of individuals, who in turn produce a modified type of society; and so the rhythm goes on forever. Now, the medium through which all this occurs is the fact of contacts, either physical or spiritual. In either case, contacts are collisions of interests in the individuals.

There is no mystery or abstruseness about the simple fact which finds an important meaning at this step of our analysis. We are not now dealing with a pedantic abstraction, but we are applying a convenient general name to the simplest social occurrence. This event repeats itself in myriad forms wherever there are people. It is namely the prime fact that individuals run up against each other, and have to make place for each other, and to give way to each other, more or less, in every condition of life. These contacts and these adjustments are the whole of life, so far as outward phenomena go. To understand and interpret life, however, we have to get into the deeper meaning of what appears outwardly in this simple form. This is another way of expressing the task of all social science. At present we are concerned not with the later task of explanation, but with the preliminary work of presenting the facts to be explained.

We have used the terms "conditions " and "elements" of society.[9] We have spoken of nature on the one hand, and people on the other, as among those conditions and elements. Then we split up this human element into its working factors, i. e., interests; and we noticed how these working elements construct themselves into the make-up of individuals, who are the cast of the play whose plot we are trying to understand when we study the social process. We are now observing the further condition, viz., that the action of this drama, human

( 490) association, consists in contacts between the individuals in the cast; i. e., exchanges of energy in the reciprocal effort to satisfy interests.

Again we might be accused of exploiting the common-place, and there is no defense against the charge, except that the only escape which modern science has found from the illusions of scholastic, speculative knowledge is to look literalness straight in the face, no matter how commonplace it 'may be, and to build up our ideas by putting together these realities, instead of deceiving ourselves with projections of our fancy.

We start, therefore, with the truism that all the incidents in the life of the human individual are contacts of some sort with physical conditions or with other individuals. We are trying to confine attention as closely as possible to the latter class of contacts. These contacts in turn may be either physical or mental, but in either case they are conditions to which individuals adapt their actions. These adaptations constitute the phenomena of society.

For instance, the savage hunting for today's dinner comes upon another savage likewise hunting for today's dinner. Their interests come together. Shall it prove a friendly or a hostile contact? Shall they decide that their chances are better if they help each other; or shall they assume that there is not enough in sight for both, and fall to fighting each other? Here is a typical social problem in the simplest form ; and all others, from the least to the greatest, are like unto it. Individuals come into contact. Their interests assert themselves. The result is fight or help. Whatever we understand by the case of Cain and Abel, it is evidently a picture of contact between agricultural and grazing interests, and a fight resulting in murder. England and Russia are in contact today (1905) in Thibet. Half a dozen candidates for the Senate may be in contact in one of our American states, although they may never have seen each other. The reform and the Tammany interests are in contact in every mayoralty fight in

( 491) New York city. The Church of England and the dissenting interests are in contact in the present educational situation in Great Britain ; etc., etc. From least to greatest, the beginnings and continuings of everything that can properly be called society depend upon this universal condition of contact between the individuals that form the elements of society.

This fact is as obvious as it is important in social analysis. It plays a part which gets recognized gradually as we proceed in study of the social process. The present purpose is served when we have merely registered this concept among generalizations with which we have to deal.

3. DIFFERENTIATION.— We might recall Spencer's formula of evolution, viz.:

Evolution is an integration of matter and a concomitant dissipation of motion, during which the matter passes from an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity, to a definite, coherent heterogeneity, and during which the relative motion undergoes a parallel transformation[10]

Reduced to a single word, this formula would be that evolution is differentiation. The rest of the formula merely characterizes certain features of the differentiation.

The-social process, as a part of the world-process in general, is likewise a collection of differentiations. One way of telling the story of every individual life, or of universal history, or of anything intermediate, would be to narrate the differentiations that occurred from beginning to end of the career. Discussion of this concept could hardly be reduced to a few concise statements. We might choose from numberless societies the material for illustration. For instance, we might adopt Ratzenhofer's classification of the concrete interests differentiated in a modern State.[11]

With the differentiation of each of these forms of interest there naturally follows corresponding differentiation of social structures and functions.[12]

( 492)

Without going into precise or exhaustive discussion of this universal social fact, we may perhaps bring it sufficiently into view in the graphic form in which it has been presented by Professor Vincent. [13]

We have, in the first place, a young farmer with his wife taking possession of a piece of land in Kansas, eighty miles from the nearest settlement. Although in this instance the persons in question are the products of a relatively high civilization, yet they have separated themselves from their fellows, and have started life as pioneers. Both the land where they make their home is in its natural state, entirely undeveloped, and their own occupations are almost without division of labor. They must be tillers of the soil, artisans, physicians, nurses, teachers, priests, and defenders of their lives against climate, beasts, and Indians. In the course of time, neighbors settle within reach. Thereupon stages of individual and group-development follow each other in rapid succession. It is easier briefly to indicate the group-differentiations than the parallel changes that take place in the individuals themselves. The latter, however, are no less real than the former.

In due time children are born to the couple, and forthwith a change occurs in the round of domestic activities. The development of the farm calls for the help of another pair of hands, and a " hired man " is added to the household. The group is thus made more complex. Presently the farmer succeeds in getting from the government a clear title to his land. There-upon he is changed in his whole relation to his surroundings. He no longer is a mere squatter, but there is an element of permanence in his situation.

In a few years, influenced by the homestead law, eleven families in all find themselves in a group around the original

( 493) halting-place of our couple. These families are of various types, in the matter of property, nationality, education, religion, political beliefs, skill, etc. Our illustration would be of a more fundamental sort if we could trace the changes that occur in a group wholly by growth from within. Changes that result primarily from accretions to the group from with-out follow similar laws, however, and a type of case that is familiar to us is doubtless best for our present purpose.

The group being thus enlarged, being no longer a single family, the activities of the group present variations that the family did not and could not show. There is at once a demand for division of labor, and a certain possibility of supplying the demand. While life in one family bears a certain general resemblance to that in another, the American families tend to insist upon certain peculiar customs, and they form a clan by themselves. The like is true of the German and the Irish families. Somewhat later a few families from the southern states enlarge the settlement, and in their turn they furnish their own element of diversification.

Meanwhile differences of occupation are appearing. The farms taken up by the settlers are not equal and alike in natural advantages, and the owners are not equal in enterprise and skill. The first family, in point of time, has the advantage of longer permanent settlement, and the accumulation of improvements and other property; for example, the ferry, which is the only means of crossing the river. The pioneers, therefore, hold a position of economic, and vaguely of social, prominence. They have been able to provide their neighbors with building materials, seed, food, cattle, and other supplies, during the early months of settlement, and have thus added to their own store of wealth, which has been invested in further improvements, such as remodeling the cabin, building a new ferry raft, extending lines of fences, and buying better implements.

But specialization follows quickly. The first settler has horses and wagons, and produces on his farm a, larger surplus

( 494) than his neighbors. He has to find a market for this surplus in the town eighty miles away. On his frequent journeys back and forth he willingly executes commissions for his neighbors. Without forming a conscious purpose to enter upon another occupation, he presently finds that he has become a common carrier for the group, collecting regular charges for his service. Then come quickly the development of barter between the group and the distant town, and, among the settlers themselves, the establishment of a general store, the use of the trader to import simple manufactures which the settlers had previously made for themselves; the setting up of a blacksmith's shop, then a carpenter's shop, and finally a saw-mill. At the same time, developments outside the economic field are going on. Instead of giving the children all their instruction in the household, the neighbors combine their resources and call a professional school-teacher into existence. Later they get the services of an occasional circuit preacher. In cases of severe sickness, they send for a doctor from the town. From these beginnings the process is rapid until, before the death of the original settler, his location has become the center of a fully equipped modern city, with all the appointments and activities of civilization. During this process the settlers themselves have been changed from frontiersmen to sophisticated citizens of the world, carrying on all the different useful and ornamental occupations, as well as those that are useless or worse.

In this instance we have an epitome of what is going on constantly throughout the world. The rate of development is seldom as rapid as that which has been seen over and over again in the last half-century in America, but this does not affect the value of the concept "differentiation" itself. The anthropologists delight to turn our attention to the facts of social growth in the primitive races, and some of them are very shy about admitting that there is anything normal or typical in these modern instances. In fact, the one sort of differentiation is as normal as the other. Essentially the

( 495) same thing is going on when department stores are drawing all the retail trade down town, that takes place when nomads drop some of their wanderings and begin to cultivate the soil. Either case is merely one among the numberless forms of human differentiation which constitute one phase of all social experience. Whether or not this is an important generalization will appear as we proceed.

4. GROUPS.- The fact of social groups is so obvious, and it is so significant, that the concept has been in constant use in the foregoing discussion. The term " group" serves as a convenient sociological designation for any number of people, larger or smaller, between whom such relations are discovered that they must be thought of together. The " group " is the most general and colorless term used in sociology for combinations of persons. A family, a mob, a picnic party, a trade union, a city precinct, a corporation, a state, a nation, the civilized or the uncivilized population of the world, may be treated as a group. Thus a " group" for sociology is a number of persons whose relations to each other are sufficiently impressive to demand attention. The term is merely a commonplace tool. It contains no mystery. It is only a handle with which to grasp the innumerable varieties of arrangements into which people are drawn by their variations of interest. The universal condition of association may be expressed in the same commonplace way : people always live in groups, and the same persons are likely to be members of many groups. All the illustrations that we need suggest may be assembled around the schedule of interests referred to under the last title.

Individuals nowhere live in utter isolation. There is no such thing as a social vacuum. The few Robinson Crusoes are not exceptions to the rule. If they are, they are like the Irishman's horse. The moment they begin to get adjusted to the exceptional condition, they die. Actual persons always live and move and have their being in groups. These groups are more or less complex, more or less continuous, more or

( 496) less rigid in character. The destinies of human beings are always bound up with the fate of the groups of which they are members. While the individuals are the real existences, and the groups are only relationships of individuals, yet to all intents and purposes the groups which people form are just as distinct and efficient molders of the lives of individuals as though they were entities that had existence entirely independent of the individuals.

The college fraternity or the college class, for instance, would be only a name, and presently not even that, if each of its members should withdraw. It is the members themselves, and not something outside of themselves. Yet to A, B, or C the fraternity or the class might as well be a river or a mountain by the side of which he stands, and which he is helpless to remove. He may modify it somewhat. He is surely modified by it somewhat ; and the same is true of all the other groups in which A, B, or C belongs. To a very considerable extent the question, Why does A, B, or C do so and so? is equivalent to the question, What are the peculiarities of the group to which A, B, or C belongs ? It would never occur to A, B, or C to skulk from shadow to shadow of a night, with paint-pot and brush in hand, and to smear Arabic numerals of bill-poster size on sidewalk or buildings, if "class spirit " did not add stimulus to individual bent. Neither A, B, nor C would go out of his way to flatter and cajole a freshman, if membership in a fraternity did not make a student something different from an individual. These are merely familiar cases which follow a universal law.

In effect, the groups to which we belong might be as separate and independent of us as the streets and buildings of a city are from the population. If the inhabitants should migrate in a body, the streets and buildings would remain. This is not true of human groups, but their reaction upon the persons who compose them is no less real and evident. We are in large part what our social set, our church, our political

( 497) party, our business and professional circles are. This has always been the case, from the beginning of the world, and will always be the case. To understand what society is, either in its larger or its smaller parts, and why it is so, and how far it is possible to make it different, we must invariably explain groups on the one hand, no less than individuals on the other. There is a striking illustration in Chicago at present (summer, 1905). Within a short time a certain man has made a complete change in his group-relations. He was one of the most influential trade-union leaders in the city. He has now become the executive officer of an association of employers. In the elements that are not determined by his group-relationships he is the same man that he was before. Those are precisely the elements, however, that may be canceled out of the social problem. All the elements in his personal equation that give him a distinct meaning in the life of the city are given to him by his membership of the one group or the other. Till yesterday he gave all his strength to organizing labor against capital. Now he gives all his strength to the service of capital against labor.

As in the case of all the other elements and conditions of society to which we are now calling attention, the complete meaning of this item must be discovered gradually through investigation of the social process. We are now merely recording a convenient term for the observation that, what-ever social problem we confront, whatever persons come into our field of view, the first questions involved will always be :

To what groups do these persons belong? What are the interests of these groups? What sort of means do the groups use to promote their interests? How strong are these groups, as compared with groups that have conflicting interests?

These questions go to one tap root of all social interpretation, whether in the case of historical events far in the past, or of the most practical problems of our own neighborhood. We have to understand the whole tangle of group-interests in

( 498) which the persons are involved, in order to deal with the rudiments of the problem which the group presents.[14]

5. FORM OF THE GROUP.—This conception has been pushed to the front by one of the keenest thinkers in Europe — Professor Simmel, of Berlin.

Simmel distinguishes two senses of the term "society": "first, the broader sense, in which the term includes the sum of all the individuals concerned in reciprocal relations, together with all the interests which unite these interacting persons; second, a narrower sense, in which the term designates the society or association as such; that is, the interaction itself which constitutes the bond of association, in abstraction from its material content." [15]

Using his own explanation :

Thus, for illustration, we designate as a cube, on the one hand, any natural object in cubical form; on the other hand, the simple form alone, which made the material contents into a "cube," in the former sense, constitutes of itself, independently and abstractly considered, an object for geometry. The significance of geometry appears in the fact that the formal relations which it determines hold good for all possible objects formed in space. In like manner, it is the purpose of sociology to determine the forms and modes of the relations between men, which, although constituted of entirely different contents, material, and interests, nevertheless take shape in formally similar social structures. If we could exhibit the totality of possible forms of social relationship in their gradations and variations, we should have in such exhibit complete knowledge of "society" as such. We gain knowledge of the forms of socialization by bringing together inductively the manifestations of these forms which have had' actual historical existence. In other words, we have to collect and exhibit that element of form which these historical manifestations have in common abstracted from the variety of material—economical, ethical, ecclesiastical, social, political, etc.—with respect to which they differ. [16]

"The thesis of Simmel, that sociology must be the science of social forms, has at least this effect upon the present stage

( 599) of correlation, viz.: it makes us conscious that we have no adequate schedule of the forms of social life."

6. CONFLICT.—The facts referred to in secs. 4 and 5 above, and yielding the concepts " differentiation" and " group," have other relations which the present term brings into focus. In a word, the whole social process is a perpetual reaction between interests that have their lodgment in the individuals who are in contact. More specifically, this reaction is disguised or open struggle between individuals. The conflict of interests between individuals, combined with community of interest in the same individuals, results in the groupings of individuals between whom there is relatively more in common, and then the continuance of struggle between group and group. The members of each group have relatively less in common with the members of a different group than they have with each other.

The concept "conflict" is perhaps the most obvious in the whole schedule. It has not only been a practically constant presumption of nearly all social theory and practice in the past, but it has had excessive prominence in modern sociology.[17] The central conception in the theory of Gumplowicz, for example, is that the human process is a perpetual conflict of groups in which the individuals actually lose their individuality.[18] The balance between " conflict," on the one hand, and co-operation and correlation and consensus, on the other, has never been formulated more justly than by Ratzenhofer.[19] His thesis, as we have seen, is that conflict is primarily universal, but that it tends to resolve itself into co-operation. Socialization, indeed, is the transformation of conflict into co-operation [20] Sociological analysis, accordingly, involves discrimination and appraisal of the kind and

( 500) quantity of conflict present in each society with which it deals.[21]

7. SOCIAL SITUATIONS.— This concept is, of course, essentially psychological. Indeed, any attempt to conceive of association in terms of activity, or psychologically, presupposes the idea for which the term "social situation " is a symbol.

In a word, a "social situation" is any portion of experience brought to attention as a point in time or space at which a tension of social forces is present. More simply, a "social situation" is any circle of human relationships thought of as belonging together, and presenting the problem : What are the elements involved in this total, and how do these elements affect each other? This term, again, like the term "group," carries no dogmatic assumptions. It is not a means of smuggling into sociology any insidious theory. It is simply one of the inevitable terms for the sort of thing in which all the sociologists find their problems. A "social situation" is any phase of human life, from the least to the greatest, which invites observation, description, explanation. For instance, the Hebrew commonwealth, when hesitating between the traditional patriarchal order and a monarchical organization, presents a "social situation;" a quarrel between husband and wife, threatening the disruption of a single family, presents a "social situation;" the existing treaty stipulations between the commercial nations constitute a "social situation;" the terms of a contract, and the disposition of the parties toward those terms, in the case of a single employer and his employees, present equally a "social situation." That is, the term is simply a convenient generic designation for every kind and degree' of social combination which for the time being attracts attention as capable of consideration by itself. The term is innocent of theoretical implications. It is simply serviceable as a colorless designation of the phenomena which the sociologist must investigate.


  1. For development of ideas closely related to the present concept, vide chaps. 12, 31, and 32.
  2. Giddings, Principles of Sociology, p. 377
  3. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. VI, p. 761.
  4. Cf. Dewey, "Interpretation of the Savage Mind," Psychological Review, May, 1902.
  5. Small and Vincent, Introduction, pp. 60, 61.
  6. Of course, the converse is true, with different ratios of content in the terms. The two following sections in this chapter represent the latter factor in the case.
  7. Dietzel's location of the phenomena of "social economics" wherever there are "contacts" of men in economic activities ;(Theoretische Socialökonomik, pp. 28, 29) simply applies in a single sphere the criterion thus generalized.
  8. Chap. 32.
  9. Chap. 30.
  10. First Principles, sec. 145-
  11. Vide above, chap. 20.
  12. The profoundest discussion of this concept is in Simmel's Sociale Differenzierungen, reprinted 1902. Ratzenhofer devotes a chapter to much more concrete description, Die sociologiscke Erkenntniss, chap. 15. Specific phases of differentiation are referred to below (pp. 589 ff.) under the titles "Individualization" and " Socialization."
  13. Small and Vincent, Introduction, Book II.
  14. Cf. reference to Gumplowicz, pp. 86, 87; vide also Ross, Foundations of Sociology, chap. 6, " Properties of Group Units."
  15. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. II,p. 167.
  16. Loc. cit., p. 168.
  17. For list of possible social forms vide American Journal of Sociology, Vol. VI, p. 390.
  18. Grundriss der Sociologie.
  19. Particularly Wesen und Zweck, Part II, secs. 17-27, and Sociologische Erkenntniss, sec. 30.
  20. This thesis is represented in the schedules above, p. 216.
  21. Cf. Ross, Foundations of Sociology, pp. 272 f.: "Group-to-Group Struggle within Society."

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