The Woman Movement from the Point of View of Social Consciousness

III. A Social Theory of Self As the Ground of the Woman Movement

Jessie Taft

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The clash of home and outer world which so disturbs the feminine mind today, as well as the struggle of labor and capital, might be avoided to a large extent by mere change in the external working conditions, by a lessening of the hours of labor, by a minimum wage, by improved housing and sanitation, by a scientific co÷perative housekeeping. But in the last analysis, the basic conflict on whose solution even the improvement of external conditions depends, the conflict between the narrow self and the wide social environment, can be adjusted only on the sup-position that personality or selfhood is made, not born, and that a less conscious form of personality may evolve into a more conscious form under conditions which are neither mysterious nor absolute but can be understood and made use of. The criticisms and analyses of the modern woman which we have examined all point to a personality inadequate to the life into which social and economic changes have plunged her. If the crux of the matter lies here, the fundamental purpose of the woman movement must be to correct this state of affairs by helping to bring into being a more conscious womanhood and by arousing society to an awareness of its need for such a womanhood. To believe that this is possible is to imply certain things about the nature of selves, personality, or self-consciousness (the terms are used interchangeably in this discussion). If we conceive of the self as something which is given, static, present from the beginning both in the individual and the race, or, what is practically the same thing, as something which develops absolutely, reaching its full growth regardless of any known conditions, then we have put the self outside of our own world, have made it mysterious and unknowable, and by so doing have given up the hope of social reconstruction, for there is no reconstruction of society without a reconstruction of selves. We can get no hold on a self that is static nor on one that develops absolutely. If social problems are ever to be solved like other problems in our world, selves must be thought of as existing in grades and degrees, evolving gradually in the individual and in the race, with certain definite conditions of growth which can be discovered and used. When we understand how consciousness develops into more and more adequate forms, then we have turned our once mysterious and unknown phenomenon into yielding, pliable material for a genuine social science. Control of physical objects was impossi-

( 37) -ble as long as physical facts were accepted as fixed, mysterious, or absolute. Just so, social control is impossible as long as the self remains an unknown quantity.

If the knowability of the self is assumed, there follows the necessity of indicating at least the type of condition which determines its appearance and growth as we should do in the case of the physical fact.[1] There would seem to be a clue in the very general tendency of modern thought to conceive of the self as social in character.[2] The relation between ego and alter is quite generally recognized as essential by philosophers, sociologists, and psychologists alike, yet, even such thinkers as Royce and Baldwin, who have done so much to show the dependence of the self on other selves, assume a consciousness of self arising, first of its own accord, i. e., absolutely, and then projecting itself into others who there-upon are perceived as selves likewise.

This is to make the self social in name only. It remains just as mysterious and unapproachable as before. There is no real interdependence of self and other. To escape from the absolute self, to make the self genuinely social and thus to keep it within the range of possible social control, we are convinced that we must take the final step proposed by Professor Mead of conceiving the self to appear and develop as the result of its relations to other selves. We must postulate a social environment as an absolute prerequisite for consciousness of self and assume that the self thus developed continues to take on more highly conscious forms according to the increasing extent and complexity of the social relations which it actively maintains.[3] According to such a theory, it is the, necessity of dealing with a social environment that brings the normal human being to a consciousness of himself as over against other selves. The self which he acquires must, in the nature of the case, be no richer nor more complex than the other selves in relation to which it

( 38) is formed and developed. Physical environment alone is incapable of supplying the kind of stimulus requisite for calling out the social reaction and it is just through the social attitude that the human being finally becomes aware of himself. In dealing with inanimate objects attention can safely confine itself to the object; there is no necessity of the agent's being aware of his own attitude towards it. Attention is naturally at home with the stimulus and unless it is compelled by some-thing in the situation to turn in upon the subject it tends to remain there. The necessity on the part of the subject of becoming aware of his own responses as such, arises in dealing with the social object. Only when one human being is acting as stimulus to another have we a situation where the behavior of the agent must in time become as important for attention as the changes in the social object to which he is reacting, for only in such a case does his own act determine the stimulus to which he will have to respond. The man who survives in a social group must attend to the form of his act sufficiently to know what effect it will have on the person towards whom it is directed; that is, his own act must take on for him a meaning in terms of the sort of reaction it is likely to call out in the other and he must be able to interpret and anticipate the response of the other in the earliest stages, while it is still mere gesture or attitude, in terms of the action he must make in reply.

In just this sort of interaction of selves are found the common roots of self-consciousness and consciousness of meaning. Both require a situation in which attention is forced to the side of the response and in which two attitudes are necessarily held in suspense within one mind, a proposed action of the agent and the probable response of another or others into whose place the agent is able to put himself in imagination. It is this necessity for playing many parts, for building up and taking over the selves of others, that gives the individual the basis for his own consciousness of self and it is the connecting of his own suspended act with the attitude of the other by means of some gesture which represents it that he gets his first grip on meaning.

The earliest and most imperative demand for the child is that he shall adjust himself to social objects. His knowledge of himself is not nearly as important for him as his knowledge of the adults around him on whom he depends for survival. He must be able to put himself in their places, to take on their attitudes, to play their parts, to get enough of an idea of them as persons that he may in a measure anticipate their responses to his own acts. All this necessarily precedes his discovery of himself and conditions it. Take as an illustration the case of a child

( 39) who reaches for the largest piece of cake at a party. The action is a perfectly natural one and there is no innate reason why it should be restrained. But the child is not an isolated being, he has been brought up within a family circle where father and mother have taught him that taking the largest piece is wrong and selfish. As the child instinctively starts to take the cake, there may come a check in the sudden realization of what his mother's attitude would be. This may be symbolized in his own mind by a visual image of her frown or by words of reproof that she has used. Whatever the content of consciousness, it serves as a symbol for his inhibited action; that is, he gets a consciousness of meaning and momentarily he takes on the self of his mother and feels her disapproval of the act he was about to perform. If he had rushed into action with no inhibition, there would have been no chance for consciousness of meaning or awareness of self, but in holding on to the two attitudes, his own instinctive one and the opposing attitude of his mother, he experiences the sort of tension and contrast that leads him to feel one of the attitudes as his. The emotion aroused by the thwarted desire has time to be felt as his emotion and the very fact that he has a symbol which enables him to keep his action in the attitude stage gives him the prerequisites for the meaning relation. He may feel that he, is one with his impulsive tendency and in that case the self of his mother will be set over against him as an other, but if he is a very well trained child he may identify himself with the mother attitude. In the latter case, he becomes a new self looking with scorn upon that other self which would have been guilty of such an act. In either case, his sense of self is constituted and enlarged by this taking on of the ideally constructed self of another.

Consciousness of meaning, then, and consciousness of self are possible only as one first builds up a consciousness of the meaning and selves of others to whom one must respond relevantly in order to maintain existence. To become conscious of self is to become conscious of one's attitudes, that is of the meaning of the act one does not carry out and of the emotion that accompanies it as one's own. The individual is enabled to do this only by first becoming aware of the attitudes of those about him and transferring them in turn to himself as interpretations of his own actions and their probable effect on others. The meaning of his own acts comes to him in terms of the social reactions they call out. The condition of attaining to self-consciousness is, therefore, a social environment, and the degree of complexity or the completeness of self-consciousness attained will vary with the complexity of the social organi-

( 40) -zation of which it is a part. A simple form of society with simple problems in which necessary social attitudes are comparatively few, unorganized, and simple, will build up undifferentiated, narrow, selves whose meanings and emotions are limited to a narrow range of objects and which are not highly conscious of those meanings as peculiarly a part of the self.

Out of this background of social interaction and dependent upon it, reflective consciousness is evolved, from the first grasp on meaning that comes with the use of symbols, through the gradually acquired skill in the analysis of the static nonpersonal object, to the point where analysis is turned upon the thinking process itself. At this point, thought recognizes the part it has played in constructing the very object which thus far it had only analyzed. Now, consciousness not only reflects, it understands the method of its reflection and thereby gains its control over the physical environment. But all this appears to be an abstract process and is so considered. Its social character and its relation to concrete personality are for the most part ignored. Here we have a purely intellectual form with a perfectly definite though unacknowledged social content; a process that is constituted by the relations between human beings and that is one with the very process whereby personality is built up. As long as the intellectual side of the self remains in this abstract form, control of the nonpersonal object may be perfected; but the final goal will be reached only when, through recognition of the social character of these seemingly abstract, intellectual systems, the process by means of which the self comes into being and develops is also recognized and personality takes its place in the mobile, reconstructable world. What really happens is, not so much that we gain a new control over the social object as distinct from the physical, as that all objects are seen to be social and subject to the same sort of control that hitherto has been limited to physical, or at least to nonpersonal objects and systems.

The discovery of the social character of even the intellectual processes and the relation of these processes to the building up of a self gives a breadth and comprehensiveness to personality that it has never before attained in history. At a very early period it is possible for consciousness to take on the form of a self through building up the selves around it and playing various parts without having reached the point where it is capable of subjecting to analysis the self thus attained. It is also possible for consciousness to advance to the stage where it can turn in upon itself and dissect the self in a highly sophisticated way without even then realizing that it is part of a social process and that its intel-

( 41) -lectual activities, however expressed, are just as much a part of the personality and just as social as the feelings or the will. The final step of seeing the self as a process whose law can be stated and of finding in the self and in all social relations material that admits of reconstruction and scientific handling, just as in the case of supposedly nonsocial objects and relations, marks the highest point of growth in self-consciousness as yet developed in our experience.

All this is not to deny that the human mind supplies an element which must always be an unknown quantity, that after all it is the potentiality which is capable of developing self-consciousness, but it is to say that the material which this potentiality requires for its unfolding is social in character. When external conditions change the sweep and nature of social relations so rapidly that the social character of many of them is obscured for the time being, it will be possible to get a situation such as we have outlined in the preceding section, where the individual has not yet caught up with his enlarged environment, is using social relation-ships in a purely mechanical way, and is not constituted a self by them, and where the only cure for the disorder and unrest thus produced lies in the possibility of the individual's finally waking up to the social character of the new connections and building up another and more perfectly conscious self to correspond. Reform, even of external conditions, must receive its impulse from selves that have become reflectively self-conscious to the point of realizing the social nature of the apparently abstract relations which are crushing the individuals at the other end of them and of deliberately assuming towards these relations a personal attitude.

It is evident that such a theory of self-consciousness implies a positive difference in the type of personality that it is possible to develop at different periods in history. Not that great personalities are not to be found in every period, but it nevertheless remains true that the individual or the society that is conscious of the method by which personality is built up and is aware of the social content of all activities and all systems has the power to go farther in realizing all the possibilities of personality than the individual or the society which is unconscious of these implications. With the former, the process is controlled and voluntary; with the latter, it is necessarily haphazard because it is only partially conscious?[4] Just how far the individual shall go, then, in the direction of reflectively conscious personality cannot rest entirely with him or his own genius but must depend to a large extent on the period in which he

( 42) lives. The process in time, which through increasingly complex social conditions and accumulated experiences finally forces the individual into the center of the stage yet ultimately connects him once more with his fellows, is a very gradual and prolonged affair, but whoever is born in the later stages gets the benefit of all that has preceded. The introspective attitude which was slowly and painfully acquired by the race, the power to analyze process and method as well as objects, which came only after centuries of conflict and effort at adjustment, can be gained easily today in part of the individual's lifetime because he is born into a world where scientific method is an established habit. In the attainment of personality as in the pursuit of science, the individual stands today on the shoulders of past generations and may begin where they left off.

Only on such a basis is there any happy outcome to be looked for in the conflicts between the individual and society which are overwhelmingus today. If the Greek philosopher, or the mediŠval lord, or even the thinker of the Kantian period reached the limit of human development in the direction of self-consciousness, then there can be no salvation for us. Nothing short of the birth of a new man with a higher type of personality can offer a solution for the social evil, the woman problem, child labor, and industrial slavery. History shows that this is not only possible but actual. We are, in fact, seeing the birth of a new type of consciousness as far in advance of the consciousness of the period of the French Revolution as that was in advance of Greek consciousness at its best.

It is, of course, not possible to indicate perfectly differentiated and isolated levels of consciousness in history. One period melts into another. The later development is foreshadowed in the earlier and the earlier is present in and alongside of the later, but it is possible to point out in a general way, at least, three fairly distinct and characteristic stages in the development of consciousness of self appearing within the historical period. There is first the type of consciousness which we shall designate by the term objective consciousness of self, which colors Greek life and thought, although with the Greeks and through the Middle Ages it is already in the process of evolving into the second stage, which may be labeled subjective consciousness of self, and reaches its climax in Kant and the personalities of the French Revolution. Lastly comes what we have termed the period of reflective or social consciousness of self which is just now making its appearance and is indicated in the tremendous increase of social responsibility and awakening of social consciousness in all classes and .countries. Although a great European

( 43) war is still a possibility for our civilization, the attitude of public opinion towards such a war, at least in this country and Britain, could hardly have been comprehended a century ago, so greatly have our feelings of common brotherhood and interdependence increased and extended.

Greek consciousness, even at its best, illustrates the objective character of the earlier forms of self. It deals marvelously well with the world of objects and ideas. It is at ease with universals, with truth, reality, beauty, virtue, all located in an external world, but it is never quite fully aware of itself and its own importance. The Greek thinker was eternally seeking truth, wisdom, and reality but he seldom thought of looking for them within. Their validity would necessarily lie in their independence and objectivity. So strong is this tendency of earlier Greek thinkers to find truth only in the objective that when they did begin to turn analysis towards the subjective and to discover the relation of the individual mind to the objective world, they felt themselves to be destroying objective validity, for recognizing the part played by the private experience of the person usually meant for them a giving up of the universal, hence the real, and ended in scepticism. The bottom seemed to drop out of reality for the Greeks when they were forced to admit the part taken by the particular mind in knowledge. To prevent this fatal result, they often removed the stigma of particularity and rein-stated the universal by making the rational element in the individual not a personal or private affair but part of the world reason. The Greek type of self, therefore, tended to become a split up metaphysical object, made up of the various absolute qualities in which it shared, and valued for their sake. Personality was not a supreme category for the Greeks as it is for us, nor was the individual necessarily conceived of as having certain inherent rights and value just because he was a human being.

It was possible in consequence for the Greeks to present as ideal the high-minded man of Aristotle[5] who not only may but even must ignore entire classes of people because they are supposed to have no share, or a very small share, in the universal qualities which give the self its worth and reality. Despite the fact that Aristotle calls man "a political animal" and recognizes in a measure his innate social impulses, his state leaves mechanics, artisans, husbandmen, slaves,[6] children, and, even women,[7] as alien, unassimilated elements, lacking in virtue almost entirely or else possessing a subordinate variety quite different from that

( 44) of the real citizens. "The only parts of the state in the strict sense are the soldiery and the deliberative class." "The citizens ought not to lead a mechanical or commercial life; for such a life is ignoble and opposed to virtue." With such a theory and such a state it is made impossible from the start that the finest and most highly developed person in it could ever become conscious of more than a very limited number of social relations, for his relations to all the working classes are held to be abstract, necessary, it is true, but not implying any social connection. Ability to put himself in the place of the artisan, to feel sympathy for his ends, would imply a lowering of his own standard of virtue. There could never be, by any possibility, real community or feeling of social dependence between them. Likewise, with his domestic relations. There is no reciprocity of relationship between him and his wife and children. It is a one-sided affair, dependence on the one side, authority on the other. They are formed by him but he is not formed by them. They depend on him, he is independent of them. We cannot conceive of him as attempting to look at any question from the child's or the wife's point of view, however much it concerned them, or of feeling that it was as important for him to be able to put himself in their places as for them to understand him, because to do so would be to assume a less rational, less virtuous attitude with which he could have nothing in common as long as he maintained his own superior character.

Plato, on the other hand, one would say at first thought, surely was a modern. There are very few of our up-to-date theories that are not suggested in the Dialogues. Plato's treatment of the position of women is startlingly advanced. He makes very little sex distinction in work and education. Women stand on an equal footing with men in the Republic as far as their innate abilities permit. Plato, nevertheless, illustrates the failure of the Greek mind to appreciate the meaning and value of personality, to estimate properly the innate worth of the individual, much less to comprehend the essential character of social relationships. Women, as a sex, it is true, are not slighted in the scheme of Plato, but human beings, men and women alike, are disregarded. The citizen, first of all, exists for the republic not the republic for the citizen. Again the reality lies in the universal, the idea of the state. Beyond Greece, moreover, are only the barbarians. The essential connection with other races is not yet felt or understood. They are merely not Hellenes and exist chiefly for purposes of war. So with the lower classes. While Plato does not explicity exclude them from citizenship as does Aristotle, he ignores them. They form no part in the consciousness of the guardian

( 45) or warrior class. Social divisions are cut and dried, classes are distinct Relations are external and artificial and not based on mutual interests and understanding of each other's attitudes and desires. The socialized person would have been an impossibility in Plato's Republic, nor, had he existed, would he have been considered a desirable citizen. Jowett sums it all up when he says of the Republic: "The citizens, as in other Hellenic states, democratic as well as aristocratic, are really an upper class, for although no mention is made of slaves, the lower classes are allowed to fade away into the distance and are represented in the individual by the passions. Plato has no idea either of a social state in which all classes are harmonized, or of a federation of the world in which all nations have a place."[8] A personality developed under such conditions could never come up to our ideal of the wise man whose ability to take on the attitude of many people and classes of people enables him to bring together within one consciousness all the various points of view, all the impulses and tendencies that have to be considered if a satisfactory solution for social problems is to be reached, and furnishes him with the background requisite for a real judgment on the problem in question; the man for whom all relations are social, even the most abstract, and for whom no social relation, however familiar or habitual, is without need of perpetual reflection and reconstruction; the man whose self includes so many and such varied "others," and who is so aware of his dependence on these "others," that it is impossible for him to act without reference to them.

At a period of history where the first level of consciousness predominates, where truth, reality, and order, so far as valid, lie outside the consciousness of the individual, where the individual's thinking has no power over the real, and ideals and standards are of no value unless given apart from human agency, control must of necessity be external. Authority comes from without, as in the case of the child, in the shape of custom, law, ideas, religion, the Logos. If this extraneous authority breaks down under criticism and there is nothing at hand to substitute, chaos ensues. All human beings must have gone through this stage, phylogenetically and ontogenetically. But at any level of racial history there will always be found some individuals who never pass beyond the childlike condition, for whom authority must always be external, and to whom complete self-consciousness never comes. Moreover, women as a class are likely to remain at this level longer than men, since they are subject to a twofold restraint: that by which men are bound, and the author-

( 46) -ity of husbands and fathers as well. Their activities and social relations in consequence are doubly restricted.

Transition from the first to the second level of consciousness begins to be very apparent in Greek life when the breaking down of the social fabric turns the attention of men from the state, which no longer offers a refuge and an ideal, to the individual himself as the source of his own happiness and salvation. Reason and philosophy fail to satisfy the spiritual needs of the people and eventually religion in some sort is sought as a salvation and guide. Christianity reinforces this emphasis on the individual as the center of experience. The entire universe becomes simply the means whereby mankind works out salvation. If God may reveal himself to the humblest, then every individual is potentially a channel of revelation and his experiences may attain to objective validity. Emotion and feeling, the most essentially subjective in character of all mental faculties, are for the first time conceived of as having worth in themselves. True, the formalizing of Christianity into the dogmas of the church and the preservation of the authority of the church tended to confine revelation to an historic period, but personality has been recognized, the possibility of the reconstruction of the self and of society acknowledged in the doctrine of the new birth, and the external authority of the church condemned by the very theory on which it is built.

The increase of commerce and industry, the discovery of new countries, the sudden advance of science, and the dissatisfaction with the barrenness of scholastic thought, all indicate the steady movement away from the dogmatic authority of the objective to the claiming of objective validity for the experience of the individual as such. The revival of learning, the Reformation, new theories of the state advanced by Hobbes and Locke, the philosophies of Descartes, Leibnitz, Locke, Hume, and finally Kant and Hegel, the French Revolution, all mark the individual's discovery of himself and of his supreme importance in the universe. Kant takes the last step of carrying the entire world of objects over into the subject which becomes the constructive center of the world, the seat of law and order. The tendency is, therefore, to rob external authority of all claim to validity since nothing is valid which does not spring from the very nature of the self. But, as each self is equally the touch-stone of validity, and as there is no essential bond uniting any one self to any other, there seems to be no way of bringing together this world of atomistic individuals unless authority be vested in some external source and the selves be voluntarily limited for the sake of harmony

( 47) and the safe enjoyment of partial freedom. Typical was the difficulty which Hobbes faced. There is no natural basis for the state when individuals are all laws unto themselves and exist originally as independent atoms. It is easy to perceive that each atom has rights, but its rights will be obtained only at the expense of another atom's rights. Rights of individuals are as antagonistic as they are inherent and valid, and satisfaction for one individual's rights must needs mean suppression for the equally valid rights of the next one. Rights are thought of as independent entities, as hard and fixed as the individual himself, and they are treated as if they enjoyed some kind of absolute existence apart from their exercise in the actual social institutions of the time. Their dependence for reality on a social order and concrete social organization is overlooked to a large extent.

About the time of the French Revolution, the contagion begins to reach women and following in the steps of the men a few groups here and there demand the rights that inhere in every human being for women also. The leaders of the Revolution give them no encouragement. Special limitation by God and Nature is the ground on which women are for-bidden to appeal to the doctrines on which men base their claims. Nevertheless, the appeal is made by women like Olympia de Gouges and Mary Wollstonecraft, and is supported by such men as Condorcet and John Stuart Mill. It is not strange that the woman movement in its first stages followed the general line of development in philosophical and social doctrine and voiced the same cry for abstract rights inhering in women as individuals apart from their relations as mothers, wives, and daughters. Theoretical recognition of their equality with men and of their natural rights similar in every particular to those possessed by men seems to be the goal of their efforts. The fact that rights to be real and actual involve the concrete freedom of realizing to the utmost their fundamental relations to society, that they mean not bare, abstract assent but definite social channels through which they become effective and thus real, that the supreme right is the right to function normally as an organic part of the social whole, is not yet conscious with the majority of the progressive women any more than it is with the men. Emphasis on bare rights apart from obligations and responsibilities leads us to a species of anti-social, man-hating individualism on the part of the pioneers in the woman movement. The satisfaction they demand for their own rights seems to involve taking away from others. If women gain rights, men must lose them. There arises an atmosphere of hostility; every woman for herself and against every man. This finds expression in

( 48) declarations of rights such as the one given out by the first Women's Rights Convention in the United States, in 1848, beginning, "The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man towards woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her." All of this only reflects the principle of such a theory as that of Hobbes in which there is no basis for the union of individuals except through external authority and in which common ends are inconceivable because each man can seek only his own satisfaction. Just this conception of the individual was used to oppose the entrance of women into wider fields of activity long after it had ceased to be applied to men. The interests of women and of men were assumed to be mutually hostile and exclusive. If society were to be maintained in harmony, women must voluntarily submit to having their rights curtailed.

The third level of consciousness which is but now being glimpsed by the advance guard of civilization is that of the recognition of the social character of all-experience, cognitive as well as emotional and affective. Methods of control have been worked out in the realm of the sciences, but they were supposed to concern objects quite different from those involved in social interaction in the obvious sense. Now that abstract intellectual processes of science are seen to be built up like the rest of the self through social consciousness, the entire social organization and the selves within it are perceived to be equally objective and real, and to offer problems that can in time be solved by a reflective process which is not alien but flesh of their flesh.[9] It is beginning to dawn on humanity that selves are made, not born, and that it is possible to exert some control over the conditions which determine personality since they can in a measure be stated. People are realizing that the kind of selves that are found in the slum districts of big cities make undesirable citizens and will continue to do so; that punishment as such does not change the criminal;that prostitution is in fact a social evil and that its existence under any regulations, however strict, is a direct influence on the formation of the selves of the community and that it cannot be isolated because, so long as it affects part, the whole is formed with reference to that part.

The third level sees that there was no basis for the state in the conception of humanity as composed of atomistic individuals; that if we start with separate units we can never hope to put them together.

( 49) The foundation of the state is the inherent social impulses and organization of the individuals that compose it. There need be no contradiction in the seeking of a common end by many individuals. When ends are conceived of as objective and real, not as mere subjective states of satisfaction, it is evident that they must be sought in common if they are to be completely realized. Individuals are so interrelated and dependent that each one depends on the rest for obtaining his own ends. No person can seek his own health as his object excluding all reference to the health of his neighbors. Unless health is a common object of desire in a community and is sought for by each person with regard to all others, no one individual is safe from infection. The same is true with reference to protection and education of children. No one can be sure of gaining for his own family any advantages which conditions do not make secure for the majority. If my neighbor is not safe, I am in danger; if his children can grow up in ignorance, mine also run a risk, for individual fortunes come and go. Rights, too, are recognized as concrete functions in an organized society dependent for existence upon that society and are no longer thought of as absolute entities inhabiting an absolute self. My rights, unless realized along with those of other people through the forms of a social order, are nothing but abstractions.

There is no doubt that humanity is actually seeing the birth of the third stage of consciousness, but men are very slow to realize the full import of its social character. They continue to accept their social relations unreflectively, as they always have. They are conscious of the more obvious ones in a way, but many that are not so apparent they fail to recognize as social at all. What a comparatively modern movement is the study of the child and his relationships to parents and teachers from his own point of view! Here was one of the fundamental social relations, taken as a matter of course for ages, and only in our own times subjected to reflection and brought to consciousness. The habitual, automatic character of sex relations is only now being shown up in the efforts to spread information regarding the most ordinary, normal phenomena of sex life and in the blind resistance such efforts are meeting in many quarters. Eugenics marks the birth of sex conscience with regard to the unreflective exercise of a basic social impulse. The beginnings of organized efforts to understand the social evil are likewise the result of this attempt to comprehend and bring to light all the hidden meanings and far-reaching influence of the sex instinct. All this is far from being conscious with the mass of people and still further removed is any adequate consciousness of those far-reaching social connections

( 50) which are obscured by distance, lack of direct personal contact, and the abstract character of the economic interests involved. But even here awakening is promised in such phenomena as labor unions, the Consumers' League, the Trade Union League, laws for factory inspection and the protection of women and children who labor, workmen's compensation acts, and the birth of a new political party which tries to represent this consciousness. .

Full self-consciousness will never be approached, however, until all social relationships are recognized and understood in all their bearings and the self of the individual is consciously built up with reference to them. A father is only nominally such if he has not a personality which corresponds to and is formed by his relation to his children and consciously so. A man may have begotten many children, but if he does not know them, never sees them nor has any connection with them, he is not a father for he possesses no father self. Just so, when our consciousness of social relations becomes more sensitive and complex, we shall not know what it is to treat any social relation abstractly. The man to whom we sell or from whom we buy, the man who works in our factory or for whom we work, although we are removed from direct personal contact and the relation seems to be purely economic, will be for us an "other" and our relationship to him will be known for what it is, a truly social affair, and will correspond to and constitute a phase of our sell-consciousness.

In the meantime, partially unconscious social relations or relations whose social character is not perceived, continue to affect the individual and society whose responses to them are entirely inadequate. Where an individual is treating a social situation abstractly as if it were purely economic for example, he is bringing about certain results which he does not foresee, which are not part of his conscious purpose, and which are therefore entirely uncontrolled in their reaction upon himself and upon society at large. Since the social factors in the situation are - overlooked, since there is no social self corresponding to them, no evaluation of them, the sell and society are being determined in a purely accidental and external way with regard to them. Internal control will be possible only when the self that reacts to the situation is conscious of the real nature of all the relations involved and presents a self organized with reference to them.

On the first level of consciousness, control is bound to be from the outside in the form of arbitrary authority. Thought is not sufficiently aware of its own method to feel any assurance even over against the

( 51) physical object which it still accepts as something given. In all social institutions, government, the church, the family, authority is the key-note. It is the period of unquestioning obedience on the part of the subject to the lord, wife to husband, children to parents, apprentice to master, slave to owner. Lack of freedom is softened by the social impulses which act as a check on egoistic tendencies and which cannot fail to be aroused when social life is so simple, direct, and personal.

In the second stage, when society flies apart into hostile individuals, thought recognizes its own power in handling the physical world, but social control must still be an external affair although it is no longer a matter of arbitrary authority. Instead there arise the theories of competition and contract. Control will be chiefly such as results from the natural friction among the atoms, a mechanical pull and haul. Each individual is to be left to get what he can for himself with only enough interference to make organized society possible. Each atom retains all the abstract freedom which was not sacrificed to the government as essential to orderly living.

Our age is witnessing the disappearance of the isolated individual and the growth of an internal control based on the recognition of the dependence of the individual on social relations and his actual interest in social goods and in the discovery that thought is social in origin and can be used to advantage in ,the social as well as in the physical world. The freedom that was supposed to reside in the individual is seen to be realized only through society. The individual is not economically or morally free except when he is able to express himself, to realize his ends through the common life.[10] As an individual, he is powerless to deter-mine his own actions beyond a certain point. He must think with society and make his thought effective through social media or he has no control. Moreover, the hypotheses which he offers as solutions to social problems must include as part of the data to be considered the impulses and interests, the point of view, of all classes of people, if they are to be successful. In other words, not only is thought social in origin, but it keeps a social content and character. The individual must think as a social being, must take over the points of view of all his social "others" if his thinking is to be true in a social order, that is, the value of his thought in handling social questions is tested just as it is in handling physical problems, by the adequacy with which it covers all the data involved. Hypotheses which ignore the interests of entire classes of people, which fail to recognize existing social relations, will not work in the long run.

( 52) The hard and unyielding individual with his boundless, empty freedom is compensated for the loss of his abstract rights by the discovery that concrete freedom, an actual realizing of his own powers, is possible through a social order and through a selfhood that grows in an intelligible way and is, therefore, subject to reconstruction by the same methods that are continually changing the physical world in accordance with human desires.

There is no field in which this attitude is not making itself felt and nowhere more clearly than in the change that has taken place in the character of the woman movement within the last ten years. Even militancy, which seems in its later phases to be a purely hostile manifestation, can hardly be classed with the type of opposition characteristic of the beginning of the woman movement. In its origin, at least, violent and hostile demonstrations were taken up purely as a methodology which was thought necessary to success. It was not in the minds of the originators a blind outbreak of hatred but a carefully thought out plan based on a theory of the useful and peaceful relation which women should bear to the social order. If the suffragettes themselves have come to the point where their acts truly express hostile emotions, then they have lost control of their method and thereby also the end in view. Their tactics must be judged pragmatically and, in so far as they cease to be merely tactics, have on the very face of things failed and have become expressions of an earlier and more limited consciousness. Militant methods are open to criticism not so much because of their militancy, but because of their apparent futility when carried beyond a certain point. In any case, the militant movement represents only a small proportion of the advanced womanhood of today and it still remains true that to clamor for rights, to inveigh against men as the oppressors of the sex, is not only bad taste but beside the mark. What the thinking women of the western civilization, consciously or unconsciously, are asking of society today is not the vote, not economic independence, nor any given right or privilege, but a real hearing, a genuine and thoughtful consideration of their difficulties from the standpoint of the woman herself and an attempt on the part of society at a reasonable adjustment of those difficulties resulting in a reconstruction of the ;feudal ideal of womanhood such that the modern woman will once more be brought into active working relationship with the modern world.


  1. No attempt is made in this thesis to present a theory of personality. The writer merely wishes to indicate the type of theory that seems to her to be essential for a solution of the existing conflicts. For a consistent and detailed statement of such a theory see later references to articles by Professor George H. Mead.
  2. William James, Psychology, chapter on Self; J. M. Baldwin, Mental Development; C. H. Cooley, Human Nature and the Social Order; Josiah Royce, Psychology, chap. xii; Studies in Good and Evil, chaps. vi, vii, viii.
  3. George Mead, "What Social Objects Must Psychology Presuppose?" Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, 1910, Vol. VII, pp. 170-180; "The Mechanism of the Social Consciousness," ibid., Vol. IX, No. 15, 1912, "Social Consciousness and the Consciousness of Meaning," Psychological Bulletin, Vol. VII, pp. 397-405.
  4. Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, chap. xviii.
  5. The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. IV.
  6. Politics, Bk. IV, chap. ix.
  7. Politics, Bk. I, chap. xiii.
  8. Dialogues of Plato, Jowett, 3d ed., Vol. III, p. clxxii.
  9. C. H. Cooley, Human Nature and the Social Order, chaps. v, vi; Josiah Royce, Psychology, chap. xii; J. M. Baldwin, Mental Development, Vol. II, Bk. I; Josiah Royce, Studies in Good and Evil, chaps. vi, vii, viii.
  10. Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, chap. xx.

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