Source Book For Social Psychology


Kimball Young

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That man was not born to live alone is an old observation of more significance than is usually attributed it in suggesting matrimony to likely bachelors or to marriageable women. In fact, the individual is a concept quite as abstract and quite as open to criticism as the older theological doctrines concerning the origin of species, or the more recent notion that the contribution of heredity may be completely dissociated from that of environment in the make-up of the human adult. The doctrine of individualism, which got such a hold on Western thinking at the close of the Middle Ages and which in our social and economic system is so closely connected with the individualistic motive and with the individualistic notion of personal salvation, has never been given up. The social contract theory that originally man was a lonely, isolated creature roaming over the face of the earth and fighting with beasts and other men for food or sexual satisfactions, has been completely destroyed by logic and anthropology, but is nevertheless constantly being re-affirmed because it is so dear to our belief in independence, in self-sufficiency, and in individual power. According to this social contract notion, society began when two or three persons mutually agreed that they could get more protection and more food, as well as more satisfactions, if they banded together. Therefore, one of them, presumably the stronger, was elected president of the society, and the other two secretary and treasurer respectively, unless the president decided to take the latter office himself. We see so much of this sort of thing going on now in our own civilization that we imagine it to have been so at the outset. Furthermore, popular literature and common parlance about "cave man stuff" and "original nature" help this notion to stick with us.

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As preliminary to the first division of our work, therefore, we have introduced a selection which briefly states a standpoint fundamental to this entire book. For Cooley the essential nature of the social process is the dual relationship of the individual and the social group made up of other individuals representing, as they do, a type of social interplay at various points of contact.

Moreover, the individuals in a group are influenced on all sides by the cultural formulations which have come down to them from the past or which are actually in the making at any particular time or place.

Thus social psychology must take into account this "organic" process of social living. It is false and unsatisfactory to separate the individual from the social milieu in which he lives, moves, and has his being. In subsequent papers we shall see this becoming more evident in the concrete example of life. The reader should consult particularly the papers of Kunkel (no. 6), Chapin (no. 7), and Child (no. 55).

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