The Individual and Society
or Psychology and Sociology

Social Institutions: the School, the State, the Church

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WE have now found ground for thinking that the communities of interest, and solidarities of organization of actual society replace the individualisms of social theory. The traditional contrast between individual and collective interests is largely artificial and mistaken. The individual is a product of his social life, and society is an organization of such individuals.' There is, on the whole, no general antagonism of interests. On the contrary, there is a concurrence and practical identity, at least in those great aspects of life which constitute the utilities of society, and motive the essential actions of men. This shows itself in relief when we turn

(119) to those outstanding features of the more permanent existence of human society called "social institutions." In them we see the actual working out of the concurrent movement on the part of individual and group.


The institution is only the permanent form in which the organization of members of a group embodies itself for carrying on its social function. The school, the state, the church, are typical institutions, thus understood. The essential thing is not the external form, the means by which it accomplishes its end, but the type of collective interest and action it devotes itself to and fulfils. Further, it employs the individual, not in any singular and relatively unusual personal capacity, but in his more typical and usable activities. So much so that the institution lives on the assumption that

(120) one individual may always succeed another in its management and counsels, and that its utility and principal role is seen, not in any individual's presence or interest in it, but in its collective work. Institutions thus become permanent organs of the social life, drawing upon individuals, but not dependent upon them. "The King is dead, long live the King!"

Thus defined, institutions might be considered and classified from various points of view. Our present discussion leads us to make a relatively simple division of them into three classes —the differences being those which embody variations in the united or concurrent action of group interest and individual interest in one and the same institution.

There are institutions for the preparation of the individual for his social place and role: Pedagogical or Cultural institutions in a broad sense. But while the interest of the individual is thus con-

(121) served, through his training and introduction into society, that of society itself must be considered over against the undue operation of the individualistic factor; hence the institution of Government. It furnishes the control of the individuals, through their own constituted authority. Educational institutions establish and foster social life, governmental institutions regulate and control it. If, then, we consider these two essential utilities subserved in certain institutions described as utilitarian, we may go on to recognize another group of institutions in which the fruitage of it all is reaped and enjoyed—the institutions of sentiment, thought, aspiration, etc., the Church, the League, the Academy. Typical for our present purposes will be the School, the State, and the Church: cultural, regulative, sentimental, respectively.

It is plain that this omits certain great institutions as prominent as these; for

(122) example, the institutions of industrial and commercial life — the factory, the bank, the stock exchange. This is true. But for our purposes these institutions may be passed over, since they do not bring forward the one question with which we are here concerned, that of the relation of the individualistic to the collectivistic motive in society, except in indirect ways. With many others, they are what may be described as institutions of self-maintenance on the part of society, its organs of existence, which are manifold, and which may be indefinitely increased as social life grows more and more complex. Political economy, for example, distinguishes "production," "distribution," and "consumption" of wealth; and each of these economic movements has its varied set of institutions. The same is true of the intellectual and moral life of the community. But these are all institutions of mere function; they merely carry on the life of constituted society.

(123) They have not for us the interest that attaches to the three typical institutions mentioned above.

Let me say a word, then, on the role of each of these typical and fundamental institutions, the School, the State, the Church.

These are all fundamental in the sense that they are requisite to society, however primitive it may be. We may imagine a primitive group getting along without banks, corporations, or the other means to a life of more or less elaborate complexity; but we cannot imagine them surviving without some sort of instruction to the young, some sort of authoritative control operative as government, and some sort of crude sentiment of reverence and fear of the sort that anticipates and creates the institutions of religion.


I wish to point out psychological justification of each of these three funda-

(124) -mental institutions, and also the justification that it in turn gives to social life,[1] considered as both individual and collective.

The institutions of Education are not something simply agreed to and adopted by a society because they seem wise. Not at all. We find in animal companies the beginnings of courses of instruction, so to speak, the first modes of pedagogical leading. The little ones have to absorb the established habits of the species and family, by imitation and practice; and the adults lend themselves to this process by instinctive and acquired activities suited to impress and teach the young.

In human life, also, the family owes

(125) its existence, in part, to its function as an educational institution. The mother is the child's teacher. If the young of generation after generation are to be trained in the requirements of actual life, and made ready for the roles of citizen, parent, wage-earner, etc., they must all be drilled in the essentials of social life and habit. They must learn by processes of social heredity, of handing down, from parent and teacher, the lessons of self-control, tolerance, mutual respect, sympathy, co-operation, by which the status of each in his class and place are established and maintained.

After the family comes the school — primary, higher, professional — and with the school those more conventional and informal, but none the less effective, modes of schooling that result from play, imitation, rivalry, social intercourse, and the varied sorts of give and take which actual life affords. All this is the pedagogical side of society, whether it be

(126) formally embodied in school organizations or not.

The general role of the school, then, is one of socialization — so far as it comes within our present topic. Of course, the scope of education does not stop here; the individual is trained in all his powers; the development of the entire self in its integrity is its end, not the suppression of any part. But such is the concurrence between the demands of society and those of individual development, that a common education subserves them both. The individual gets his best personal training in the channels of education which bring out also his social nature and capacities. On this basis society also gains; for in the end, instead of reducing the personal qualities of the individual, instead of suppressing the gifts of genius, she develops them in a way that allows their effective application to conditions as they exist. The untrained, unsocial, purely individualistic and capricious

(127) genius finds his powers useless, because he is not in touch with the forces of a social sort which would make their exercise effective.

In the main we may say, therefore, that the pedagogical institutions of society are socializing and collectivistic. They aim to preserve the type of "socius," or citizen, that the system of things requires. This necessitates the development of the individual along lines that reduce his eccentricity and train his powers into conformity to the standards of social usage and common life. It is still true that in so doing the ends of individual attainment and progress are not lost; for it is from the platform of social attainment and appreciation that the thoughts of the genius, the plans of the inventor, and the schemes of the reformer are projected for the enlightenment and improvement of mankind.

This is true to even a greater extent of the institutions of Government. They

(128) are of necessity conserving and conservative. The need of self-control in the individual is felt first of all in the social body: its utility is social more than individual. The unrestrained exercise of personal powers, of the more instinctive and impulsive sort, might often seem to serve the immediate advantage of the individual. But society points out the wider unit, the larger utility, afforded by cooperation and union. It is for society, then, to secure this by constraining the individuals who do not recognize it. So the exercise of some sort of constraint upon the individuals who need it is the condition of effective social organization. Social control and self-control go hand in hand.

This does not commit us to a theory of government which makes constraint the essence of society; the fundamental motive of social organization is not in my opinion "constraint." On the contrary, all fruitful constraint assumes a sort of

(129) social bond. The need and the advantage of social union and co-operation must be felt in order that its lack or its impairment may come home to individuals. Granted, on the other hand, the growing bonds of social interest and life, then the need of restraining the more unsocial and individualistic tendencies of individuals becomes apparent. Thus arises the recognition of the function of the many to use what means it may to secure the widest and most effective cooperation. No doubt, as many writers have agreed, the earliest forms of constraint were religious and military: religious in the presence of deity, whose commands and requirements must. not be disregarded; military in the presence of the enemy, whose moves must be met with a united front. But both alike assume the existence of a growing body of social opinion and usage.

It appears evident, also, from this consideration, that government is not a

(130) matter of formal consent or contract: it is a means of conserving a state or fact and a state of mind already recognized as existing.

If government were only with "the consent of the governed," there would be no need of government. Such a consent is a result, not a cause. The fact of government is the external side of the state of mind by which the individuals of a group come into their status with reference to one another; the status in which the socii reciprocate in varying degrees the feelings of concession and cooperation which growing self-consciousness implicates. This growth is unequal, varying, less or more developed; while the demands of social utility are urgent and compelling. The result is the civil and pedagogical rule, in which the element of authority, with its correlative obedience, plays a conspicuous part.

This element — the enforcing of social rule or law with penalties of various

(131) sorts — embodies itself in institutions of separate form and sanction. This is government. It is the authority of the social group as such recognized as enforced by and upon individuals. It is effective or it could not be established; it is compulsory, or it would not be effective.

Government, then, is the explicit form in which the actual bonds existing in a group are made authoritative and are enforced upon individuals. The greater part of the function of government, however, we should not overlook, is administrative, not coercive. It is mainly an instrument of social procedure, not one of social constraint. There is the consent of the governed in all that in which they do not come into conflict with the established authority; and this covers, for most civilized men, the whole of their lives and all the details of their lives. No one but the law-breaker fears the law.

The form of government changes with development in the form of the social

(132) self-consciousness. The ruder societies show most constraint, and have the most brutal procedure of administration; these are the reflex of the cruder forms of solidarity and community which are not yet tolerant, imitative, or reflective. Legislation is undeveloped, and executive action is autocratic and peremptory.

As society advances, the more psychological factors tend to release the group from its bondage to animal brutality, and from the biological sanctions of appetite, force, individual passion, and ambition; and the more administrative and popular forms of government appear. The stages seem to be in type from absolute despotism, through various modes of constitutionalism, to representative government and democracy. How far democracy succeeds seems to depend upon the relative social and political virtue of the people. If government is ever to dispense with an authority that may, on occasion, assert itself without the ratif-

(133) -cation of its decrees by the popular voice, it must be when and because that voice is not necessary.

In respect to government, as in respect to theories of society, we find the more reflective forms of solidarity, on the one hand, and of individualism and hedonism, on the other hand, showing interesting modes of development. Socialism is, in its general meaning, the outcome of extreme collectivistic theory; and it aims at the establishment of a corresponding social practice. It desiderates the reduction of all " status" to one, that of resolute and assenting equality; the function of government being in turn limited to pure administration, police activity replacing the military. It represents the Utopia of collectivism, since it assumes a humanity that is both willing and able to dispense with competition and inequality, and a virtue that requires no sanctions beyond those imposed in the processes of education.

As an ideal, no doubt, it merges in that

(134) of pure democracy; but as a fact it would seem to fit only upon a Utopia of dormant contentedness and lifeless mediocrity. For the rewards must always be to the few who are strong, and the fair will always go to the brave. Only the absence of inducement would account for the absence of rivalry and struggle; while the absence of inducement would mean the decline of those faculties of invention and restless thought and endeavor by which the glory of man is established and the forward movement of society is secured.

With the theoretical development of socialism goes a corresponding development of theoretical, and sporadically also of practical, individualism in the form of a return to free and untrained nature, the creed of a more reflective anarchism. In socialism, government as authority is practically to be abolished because it is not needed; in anarchism, it is really to be abolished because it is not wanted. In

(135) the one, the socializing movement goes on to perfection; in the other, it is undone. "Why," says the theoretical anarchist, "should I be governed? Why should I submit to any authority at all on the part of my fellow-men? I am as good and as wise as the next man. I will be free, unrestrained; and I will show the superiority of the individual man by blowing up the social `leviathan' with bombs!"

It is needless to remark that this is not a theory of government, but a protest against it: not a view of society, but a revolt from it. It shows the motive of egoism in a refined quasi-philosophical form. Its extreme anti-social meaning is expressed in the term often used by its theoretical advocates, "nihilism."

The two sorts of institution now spoken of, pedagogical and political, belong to the utilitarian and functional side of society: they are not luxuries, but necessities. Citizens must be controlled, and the laws of good citizenship must be

(136) administered and enforced. But besides these institutions, which are strictly utilitarian in their nature, we find another group in which the development of the psychological motives are conspicuous in character and in beauty. The most marked of these, because the most constant and regular in form, are the institutions of Religion.

In an earlier passage (Chap. ii, v) I have pointed out that the community of interest of the collective life goes beyond the establishment of custom and law, and embodies itself in the individual's morality. The "right" is for him not a private rule of life, not an individualistic impulse, but a public and general "imperative," uttered by his moral nature, and binding upon all the social fellows alike. It is rooted in the general custom and law of the group, but it reinterprets these in universal form as ideal rules or norms of conduct.

This is due to the movement of self-

(137) -consciousness outlined above, which goes a step further. The tendency to read the self into others —to "eject" it as a general self —has its counterpart in the movement to read the self, as carried on to perfection, as a personal ideal. This ideal is a self of perfect morality and goodness; and as being not yet attained by the individual, it is embodied in the great Person, the Deity.

The Deity is the ideal person of the imagination, considered as objective and actual, and as having personal relations with the real persons of the group. It is the social fellow carried to its highest term. As I have expressed it elsewhere,[2] "The deity shows the growth of normal social relations and reflects their character. . . . He is the controlling spiritual presence, the voice, the oracle of the group. . . . The tribe's deity is, in this important sense, the tribal self. . . . The ideal that hovers

(138) over the personal self of the individual and impregnates his spiritual life, is one with the tribal or national self-consciousness. 'Great is Diana of the Ephesians' is not only the formula of personal religious experience, it is also a proclamation of civic and national unity; and both are possible in one because in the process by which the individual idealizes his life in community with others, he also, in common with them, creates a communal or national ideal."

The institutions of religion are the means by which this motive of idealization takes permanent form in the life and work of the group. Religion is a conservative force in social life, since it proceeds upon the established morality and enforces it. At the same time, it appeals to the sentiments of personal loyalty and attachment to ideals which the group life postulates and attempts to enforce. Thus considered, religion is a socializing and

(139) collectivistic factor in the whole complex of society.

But it has its individualistic side as well. The ideal of self-perfection is not solely a social ideal, nor does the social embodiment most fully express it. It is first of all personal. Religion is contrasted in this respect with morality. Morality is social to the core, inasmuch as its standards are those of custom and law, idealized it is true, but still treated as if real in the actual social order. Religion, on the other hand, does not expect to find its ideal in the social order; but it projects it beyond the actual into the being of a Deity apart, a personal Self who alone knows and is the ideal. The Deity, when all is said, is a single person, an individual; he is the source of morality and of all ideals; and in him the springs of sentiment are found. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect" is a moral maxim, but it is also a religious creed. It assumes a

(140) source of law and authority, a Ruler in the realm of values, existing beyond the socially established and common life.

So the religious spirit goes beyond the religious institution as it exists, recognizing in it only the means of revelation, the organ of the One who issues decrees of divine right, the embodiment of what the Deity has been pleased to reveal. The Deity himself is beyond the church. And in so far as the individual himself becomes inspired, the mouthpiece of the divine revelation, so far he must himself stand apart and perhaps lead a movement to reform religion. He must work miracles, establish new rites, start a new church.

In religious institutions, therefore, we seem to find the collectivistic and individualistic motives singularly combined. They conserve and enforce the social values, as embodied in the current and established morality; they are thus collectivistic and social. On the other hand,

(141) it is in the religious life that the most advanced and refined type of private, personal, and individualistic experience is attained. And the ideals of personality, thus individualized, are projected into a realm — a Kingdom of Heaven — ruled by an Individual, a perfect and singular being. Even in polytheistic religions there is a supreme ruling deity above the rest.

This final individualism of the religious life shows itself in the fanatic, the seer, the religious mystic. The "vision" of such a man is the outcome of a type of reflection which goes beyond its social origin and may on occasion antagonize it. Who is more dangerous to society than the anarchist who has a "revelation," or the criminal who has a divine mandate of vengeance or retaliation? The last egotisms of perverted self-consciousness may receive divine confirmation and warrant in the mystic religious trance; and the broodings of diseased imagination

(142) may take on, in this breeding-place, the form of inspiration from the unseen.

It should be said, however, that such manifestations of the religious life are extreme and very partial movements. The religious experience is normally developed within the control of social and moral motives. The religious spirit seeks social embodiment and normally finds it. It is only by a loss of balance, in which a diseased subjectivity, or a starved life of mysticism, exhibits itself, that the egoistic and individualistic types of religious experience come into prominence.[3]

It is in this sense, then, that religion and art, institutions of sentiment in general, may be called "luxuries" of life. They do not seek justification in practical utility or direct advantage; they are the flowering of human feeling and aspiration

(143) in products peculiarly their own. They represent the social, and spring from it, and are thus an index and measure of social values and social attainments; but they go beyond the socially attained, and give new form and force to the demand of the individual for a full and complete personal life.

In them, indeed, we find manifestations which are rooted in social happenings, and which show a historical development with the body of sociological facts. But they cannot be understood by the methods of external sociological observation. They are par excellence matters of the individual's personal inner life. Morality, religion, art return into the realm of private motive and private appreciation and valuation. It is only in their common manifestations, which follow social channels, and in their power to secure social results, that sociology takes cognizance of them. The comparative history of religions, for example, presents

(144) the dry shells of a departed religious life except so far as the analogy of a current living experience can give it life and color. It must be interpreted by a psychology of personal religion.


  1. In another place ("Social and Ethical Interpretations," Chaps. ix and x, I have considered in detail the "sanctions " for action afforded by institutions and found them reducible to three, pedagogical, civil, religious. Under the head of "Sanction" the problem of the relation of "personal" and "social" grounds for action is there considered in detail; it is another way of stating the question of individualism vs. collectivism. The "personal" sanctions, over against the social, are those of "impulse," "desire," and "morality" (or "right"). Cf. also the discussion of Davies, "The Moral Life" (Baltimore, 1909), Chap. v.
  2. See "Darwin and the Humanities," Amer. ed., p. 101.
  3. Cf. the writer's article, "Religion (Psychology of)," 4. b. in the "Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology," Vol. II, where the "unity of religious experience" is insisted upon in contrast with the treatment of James, in his "Varieties of Religious Experience."

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