The Comparative Role of the Group Concept in Ward's Dynamic Sociology and Contemporary American Sociology

Part 4

Washington University



The object of this chapter is to sum up the contrasts that have emerged from the two preceding chapters, and to attempt to suggest the significance of the group concept and its implications for social sciences and for social control. In general, it may be said that contemporary sociology shows a striking difference from Ward in its use of the group concept. The shift that appears is not always so much a matter of terminology as a change in point of view. Even in the matter of terminology, however, a review of the writers mentioned shows an increasing use of the group concept, as such, as one of the fundamental tools of analysis of the problems with which they deal. The difference in point of view, even where the concept as such is not expressly stressed, is still more noticeable. The summaries in the preceding chapters show this shift very clearly in their development of the analysis of such problems as the origin of society, of language, of religion, of the origin and nature of the mind, the relation of the individual to the group or to society or the state, and the nature and meaning of the group or social process. In the treatment of all these problems the conscious effort of contemporary sociology is to approach them from the group standpoint. The contrast might be referred to as that between pioneer social science, without a social psychology, and a later social science with a more or less adequate social psychology. The sociology of the present time is a sociology whose viewpoint and method have been considerably modified by a psychology in which the group plays a fundamental and in some respects a primary part. We may make the difference in

(717) point of view more concrete by calling attention to the widespread influence of Baldwin's thinking as expressed in his Social and Ethical Interpretations, and his subsequent development of the same fundamental thought of the oneness of the individual and the group. The frequent references to his stimulating influence are one of the evidences of the effort on the part of contemporary sociology to profit by the newly created technique, social psychology. The contrast, of course, is not an absolute one but one of degree. Ward, particularly in his Applied Sociology, was attempting to found a social psychology which foreshadowed the coming of a more adequate sociological point of view; but it still was only a foreshadowing, and it was not at all apparent in his first great work, with which we are particularly concerned. As was pointed out in chapter ii, Ward approached his problems almost exclusively from the standpoint of the individual, while the group was only incidental. Contemporary sociology reverses the process, starting with the group as the fundamental unit and developing its individuals as a part of the social or group process. It should be pointed out, however, that while the latter stresses the group in its analysis, it does not consciously eliminate or subordinate the individual as did Plato and his more modem followers in Germany. One of the general characteristics of the writers whose works have been reviewed is, that they recognize the worth and value of the individual. Earlier writers approached their problems from the premise of the individual versus the group. Contemporary sociology attempts to set out by removing the disjunctive particle between the individual and the group and to hold consistently to the view that the individual and the group are different aspects of the same total group situation.

It should also be pointed out that contemporary sociology, in its emphasis on the group, does not revert to the metaphysical theory of Hegel with his imperial state. The group, in the thought of the writers we have dealt with, is a very real thing. It is a matter of actual give and take of everyday life. There is no attempt to find in it a mystical social mind which exists apart from the actual persons and institutions and objects that make up the tangible situation. It is not an attempt to impose upon a social situation

(718) the categories of an older introspective psychology. What the contemporary writers seem to refer to and have in mind when they deal with the group is a total social situation in which the action of one form stimulates and responds to the action of another form; it is interaction among persons. Contemporary sociology tends to be pragmatic rather than metaphysical.

The difference, which we have tried to point out, between the two periods, can be no better expressed than to quote from Baldwin:

All our thought has led us to see that one of the historical conceptions of man is, in its social aspects, mistaken. Man is not a person who stands up in his isolated majesty, meanness, passion, or humility, and sees, hits, worships, fights, or overcomes, another man, who does the opposite things to him, each preserving his isolated majesty, meanness, passion, humility, all the while, so that he can be considered a "unit" for the compounding processes of social speculation. On the contrary, a man is a social outcome rather than a social unit. He is always, in his greatest part, also some one else. Social acts of his-that is, acts which may not prove antisocial-are his because they are society's first; otherwise he could not have learned them or have had any tendency to do them. Everything that he learns is copied, reproduced, assimilated, from his fellows; and what all of them, including him -- all the social fellows -- do and think, they do and think because they have each been through the same course of copying, reproducing, assimilating, that he has. When he acts quite privately, it is always with a boomerang in his hand; and every use he makes of his weapon leaves its indelible impression both upon the other and upon him.[2]

It is this conception which has become the conscious point of view of contemporary sociology. It expresses the contrast between the view of Ward with its individualistic bent, and contemporary thought with its emphasis on the group. The importance of this change in point of view is suggested in the continuation of the quotation from Baldwin.

It is on such truths as these, which recent writers[3] have been bringing to light, that the philosophy of society must be gradually built up. Only the neglect of such facts can account for the present state of social discussion. Once let it be our philosophical conviction, drawn from the more general results of psychology and anthropology, that man is not two, an ego and an alter, each of which is active and chronic protest against a third great thing, society; once dispel this hideous unfact, and with it the remedies found by the egoists-back all the way from modem individualists to Hobbes,-- and I submit the main barrier to the successful understanding of society is removed.[4]

(719) Ward produced his sociology before this transition had taken place. The contrast between him and contemporary sociology, in general, is expressed in the words just quoted from Baldwin.

Starting with the group as a point of departure, contemporary sociology not only dissolves the older individualistic attitude but adopts the fundamental notion that the mind of the individual is a social product. Stated in other terms, the self is a social self, a creation, rather than a datum, which is but another way of stating that the individual and the group are different aspects of a group or social situation. The importance of this change in the field of practical efforts toward social control will appear later. Back of the self, as a biologically inherited group of tendencies lie the instincts, the raw materials out of which the group builds a social personality. Such in very brief terms is the prevailing trend of thought in contemporary sociology.

The characterization of contemporary sociology, which has just been sketched in general terms, must be qualified to some extent. It is a description of tendencies and trends as well as realized ends. The transition that has been suggested is one that is not complete in its details nor clearly recognized in its implications. More work remains to be done before the newer view becomes uniformly clear. As was pointed out in the various separate reviews of some of the writers, there is still some confusion of tongues. Not all of the writers of sociology have held consistently to the views which they consciously adopt. This results from two different facts, first, the inadequate grasp of the position to which they consciously adhere, and secondly, the difficulty of adapting words of an older psychology to a new point of view. The second is one of the most difficult barriers to understanding among sociological writers. Such concepts as "individual," "group," "society," "mind," "psychic," "instinct," "social," "thought," are freighted with meanings that tend to obscure views rather than clarify them. As Small has pointed out, one of the pressing needs of contemporary sociology is the clarification and definition of the categories which it uses. The lack of this, and the inherent difficulty of the use of abstract terms create some of the apparent and perhaps real inadequacies of some of the uses of the group concept which we have mentioned.


Aside from matters of terminological confusion, however, there do 'exist noticeable lacunae in efforts of various contemporary sociologists to apply the group concept to the particular problems with which we find them dealing. We found, for example, frequent reversions to older individualistic preconceptions which occasionally appeared as real or apparent contradictions of the consciously proclaimed point of view. Such conceptions appear most frequently in the shape of apparent conceptions of the individual as a thing given rather than created, in the conception of the mind as an essence rather than as a function, as a thing in itself rather than as a type of behavior that appears in peculiar conflict situations. The separation of the mental from the physical, of the inner from the outer, of the individual from the group, which appear again and again in the literature, are evidences that the shift to the new point of view has not yet been complete. In most cases, these lapses are due to reversion to older complexes in periods of unconscious activity. In some cases they are consciously asserted but with a qualification which attempts to relieve them from the taint of earlier psychology and metaphysics with their essences and existences. These lapses, however, are not of primary importance for our purpose. They bear witness, rather, as occasional variations which serve to bring out in more relief the underlying thought which seems to run through all the writings, namely, that the group is fundamental and that sociology finds its justification in attempting the study of the social process from this point of view. The point of view is not lways (sic) expressed in the same terms; it may be in terms of association, of interaction, of mental unity, of social mind, of group behavior, of social process, or of group process. These categories, as well as the methods of procedure may vary, but the constant feature is the thought involved in what we have called the group concept. Small has suggested the- same thought in a little different connection. Speaking of the distinctive technique of the sociologist, he says:

The technique accordingly involves, second, a body of procedure. This varies in accordance with the particular character of the problem undertaken, from the most abstract dealing with questions of epistemology and methodology to the most concrete questions of juvenile courts or milk supply. The generic

(721) factor in common, from one end of this scale to the other, is reference of the problem to its group attachments, instead of treating it as something isolated from the human process as a whole.[5]

It is this common attempt to approach problems from the group standpoint that stands out as one of the characteristic features of contemporary sociology, in spite of its frequent reversions to older terms and conceptions. It is this, view which contrasts with the opposite emphasis shown in Ward.

Before leaving this part of the discussion, it should be noted that the most striking and universal lack in contemporary sociology's effort to establish itself on this general group conception is the absence of an adequate procedure to explain the essential features of a social process. No one of the sociologists has yet elaborated a concrete process by which the essence of the group behavior can be interpreted. Not only is there a lack of such a process found in the works of contemporary sociology, but in some cases the consciousness of the need is not adequately recognized. In a measure, this part of the work may properly fall to the field of the psychologists, and social psychologists, but the gap remains essentially unfilled for sociology. Baldwin's imitation mechanism has not been accepted, generally, among the sociologists as an adequate or complete account of the social process by which the self and all its implications of language, habits, and thought are to be accounted for.[6] Until provided with an acceptable hypothesis, furnished by psychologists, or by sociologists themselves, the analysis of group behavior must remain inadequate and must deal largely with results based upon assumptions rather than upon explanations of a process.[7]

(722) The change in thought which has taken place since the time of Ward's first book has been characterized as a transition from an atomizing process to a synoptic method of thought. Concerning this transition Merz says:

I may, later on, have an opportunity of dwelling more fully upon this change of thought in the course of the nineteenth century; at present it will suffice to point out that no subject of philosophical or scientific interest has been more profoundly affected by it than the study of man in his individual and collective existence. Formerly all the sciences which have to do with this subject started from the study of the individual organism or the individual mind, frequently disregarding altogether the environment or collective life of man, or reaching this only by slow and uncertain steps. Latterly, however, not only has the collective life of man attracted more attention than the individual, it has become rather the fashion to place society, in some form or other, in the foreground, to start with some definition of the social " Together " of the collective life of human beings, and to approach in this way not only the study of humanity or mankind at large, but also, through it, to get a better understanding of the nature and the life of the individual mind itself. It is not long since we have been told that the individual mind must be considered as exhibiting two sides which may be appropriately termed the subjective and the social self; nor is it unlikely that from this point of view, much of the earlier and later psychology may be profitably rewritten.[8] All this simply means that sociology has become not only the study of the collective interests of society and mankind, but also in its bearing upon other philosophical and scientific problems, an important and leading doctrine.[9]

To point out briefly some of the ways in which sociology has thus become an "important and leading doctrine" for some of the social sciences is the object of the rest of the chapter. No attempt will be made, of course, to construct a social science, or to furnish a scheme for such construction. Only the broadest general signifi

(723) -cance of the group approach for some of the social techniques can be pointed out.

First of all, attention should be directed to the significance of the group conception for the problem of the relation of the social sciences to each other. We have here a problem which has consumed so much discussion with the advent of each new division of labor, with its claims for admission into fields believed to be already fully occupied. "Thus it has come about that scholars for a large part of the last two thousand years have carried on intermittent discussions that have been meanwhile almost utterly sterile about the scope and definition of the sciences."[10] These older struggles are tending to disappear and in their place is arising a conception of the unity of physical sciences and social sciences.[11] With reference to the latter it seems to follow as an easy corollary from the group conception, that "social science is one" as Small has said.[12] The subject-matter of social science is not blocks of material which can be separated and dealt with in isolation, but is rather a group in which all things are in relation and in incessant movement. From this it follows that the various social sciences are but variant techniques which approach this common unity from different angles of interpretation and analysis. The older claims of sociologists that theirs is an independent science, is being rapidly displaced by the realization that there can be no independence of these various techniques in the sense in which that term was used thirty years ago. In place of the separatist conception of social science, there must be set up the conception of co-ordinating techniques at work upon the common group process in an effort to understand and, if possible, control it. It is in this sense that we have a real meaning and purpose for social science.


The argument here suggested is not intended to do more than to point out the significance of the group concept for social science in general. The details of the scheme are beyond the limits of this paper. It should be brought out, however, that the implication of the group concept does not mean the abolition of specialization on the one hand, nor the denial of a scientific method on the other hand.[13] Both are essential for social science.

The group concept has further significance for sociology in particular, since, with the surrender of its older claims to suzerainty, it must take its place along with the other social techniques as a co-ordinating viewpoint. It thus becomes a way of thinking, a point of view from which the common social process is observed and analyzed. The group concept, then, furnishes the basis upon which it establishes its claim. Small expresses this opinion in his definition of sociology where he describes it as that "variant among the social science techniques which proceeds from the perception that all human phenomena are functions of groups."[14] The analysis of group relations, the group concept, is the only apparent distinct contribution of sociology, and is its justification for a claim to rank as one of the techniques. As was pointed out in the review of Small's work, he has here, it seems, made a distinct contribution to sociology in his suggestion of the group con-

(725) -cept as the central proposition upon which sociology may rest it's case. It offers the most encouraging prospect for the dissolution of the older crudities of separatism in social science and for a positive statement of the meaning and place of sociology in American thought.

The significance of the group concept for the other social sciences may be indicated by a brief reference to some of the evidences of the use of concept by occasional expressing of some modem writers in some of those fields. The change may be suggested by pointing to the growing recognition of the social factor in each of the several fields of labor which have evolved in American thought. In economics, history, psychology, pedagogy, theology, ethics, and jurisprudence this special sociological concept is beginning to modify the whole outlook. In some of these branches the change that has resulted from the use of the group concept has been such as to undermine the whole of the structure. In others it has just begun and its end is not yet seen. A sociological approach in other words, to these various divisions of labor is far-reaching in its effects. Without exception they were built up under the influence of individualistic and metaphysical conceptions. They still, for the most part, bear unmistakable evidences of their origin. The coming of a social hypothesis means, as Merz suggested, the rewriting and reconstruction of economic theory, of history, psychology, theology, ethics, and all the rest. We may note, now, some of the beginnings of such reconstructions. They will recall the parallel movement in social practice which was sketched in the first chapter.

Among those sciences which have to do with human behavior, probably none has shown such a thoroughgoing reconstruction as psychology. We have had occasion above to refer to some of the changes that have taken place. Without attempting to go into detail or to repeat other statements, one may epitomize the movement by referring to it as the coming of social psychology. As a representative of the latter movement and its significance one may cite Baldwin. A layman could not pretend to predict what the final result will be, but the shift away from the older individualistic basis is unmistakable. Indeed, it seems that among the ranks of

(726) the psychologists there are those who find no place for individual psychology at all. Baldwin summarizes the transition in psychology thus: "For psychologists and logicians the problem now is to find any knowledge that is psychologically private, not to find knowledge that is common and public . . . . . The result is that the subjectivistic theories of knowledge, like the individualistic theories of political science, are soon to be laid away in the attics where old intellectual furniture is stored."[15] The behaviorist movement, as has been mentioned, is a part of the transition movement. Dewey, in speaking of the behaviorist movement in psychology, says: "From the point of view of behavior all psychology is either biological or social psychology, and if it still be true that man is not only an animal but a social animal, the two cannot be dissevered when we deal with man."[16] With the further details of this change we are not concerned; we are only to point out that such a change has taken place, and that current psychology is still in a state of confusion attendant upon a transition period.[17] Social psychology is a corollary of the group concept in the field of psychology. Its significance is apparent.

Among the social sciences no division showed a clearer example of the older individualistic conceptions than political economy, particularly in its classical form. The group hypothesis or group conception was as completely ignored or denied in the classical school as it is possible to do. The individual was assumed as a given entity, which was supreme both in economic theory and practice. At most, social entanglements were but necessary ills and superficial interferences which had to be taken account of as a practical fact. Founded and formulated largely before an ade. quate psychology of any kind existed, before a social psychology

(727) was more than hinted at, and before an adequate development of a scientific method, it is not surprising that economics grew up without showing the results of these later developments. Its philosophy was individualistic, its method deductive. From those early characteristics it has not yet recovered completely. This is true even in America, where other influences early entered in to modify the harshness of political, economy as it developed in England prior to John Stuart Mill[18] who attempted to reform the subject, and place it on more modem bases. From the rigid individualism of the classical school up to the more advanced economists of America is a period of considerable progress. The limits of this paper forbid any pretension to record the changes that have taken place, or, indeed, to do more than call attention to some of the earlier limitations of the classical school. The difference in economic life which prevailed in this country, the influence of German thought since 1870, the infiltration of the influence of the Austrian school, and finally the neo-classical synthesis of Marshall, tended to give economics an evolutionary trend toward a theoretical basis which is more in accordance with the results arrived at in other social sciences. Both social theory, as developed by other social sciences, and social evolution, as shown by the practical development of American industry, trade, and life in general, have made necessary a movement in economic thought toward a diluted social hypothesis. Some passages from Ely may serve to illustrate the difference between the philosophy which characterized the older economy and that of the new: " The attempt of the classical economists to isolate an 'economic man' ruled entirely by an enlightened self-interest and unaffected by political, ethical, and humanitarian impulses, is recognized to have been a mistake."[19] As contrasted with this description of the classical school modem economics recognizes social relationships as important: "Our science then is interested in man in his relations to others, and not

(728) in man by himself. Moreover, as a science which studies the present in order that it may predict and prepare for the future, and discovering that interdependence is the law of progress, it must not hesitate to shape its principles with reference to a solidarity which shall grow more rather than less, stronger rather than weaker."[20]

One must recognize then that current economic theory has made considerable advance from the stricter classical school of the first half of the nineteenth century. "Economists are realizing the interrelation of things; more and more the quest for absolute law of causation is modified by a knowledge that things move in circles and mutually determine one another as do supply, demand, and price." [21] While admitting the force of this statement with all that it implies in theory and practice, one must still come to the conclusion that current economic theory has not yet been penetrated very deeply with the conclusions arrived at by contemporary social psychology, with its emphasis upon the significance of the group in the formation and control of men. Economic theory in America today is still fundamentally individualistic; it still conceives mind as a datum rather than as a social product; it still assumes the wants of the individual as given and relatively fixed; it still assumes the medieval doctrine of the freedom of the will and choice; it still interprets freedom in the negative sense as absence of restraint and interference; it still emphasizes unduly "individual initiative" and individual struggle for existence and tends to ignore the correlative fact of co-operation or group activity. In a word, contemporary economics still employs an antiquated psychology in the solution of all its problems.[22] Once a grasp of group concept with its psychological implications is obtained, it will mean the rewriting of all economic theory, in so far as it has not already been done. The transformation for economics will be a-,, that of psychology has been.

There have appeared some current evidences of the movement to reconstruct economic theory in the light of the group concep

(729) -tion. It is beyond the purpose here to attempt to sketch any of these attempts even in its most general details, They are to be cited merely as illustrations of possible ways in which the group concept may be applied to the resuscitation of economic theory. Possibly the most ambitious effort was the attempt to restate the theory of value, the central process in economic theory, which appeared in Anderson's Social Value.[23] Broadly speaking, the book may be characterized as an attempt to apply a functional social psychology to the value problem. In order to get his point of view it will be well to allow him to summarize his argument, in so far as it bears on our purpose. After referring to earlier theories of value among the economists, he continues:

The defect is in the highly abstract nature of the determinants of values which these theories start from; they abstract the individual mind from its connection with the social whole, and then abstract from the individual's mind only those emotions which are directly concerned with the consumption and production of economic goods; this abstraction is necessitated by the individualistic, subjectivistic conception of society, which growing out of the skeptical philosophy of Hume has dominated economic theory ever since: Present day sociology has rejected this conception of society, and has re-established the organic conception of society in psychological, rather than biological terms, which makes it possible to treat society as a whole as the source of values of goods; this does not obviate the necessity for close analysis, nor does it, in itself, solve the problem, but it does give us an adequate point of view; the determinants of value include not only the highly abstract factors which the value theories here criticized have undertaken to handle arithmetically, but also all the other volitional factors in the inter-mental life of men in society-not an arithmetical synthesis of elements, but an organic whole; legal and ethical values are especially to be taken into account in a theory of economic value, particularly those most immediately concerned with distribution.[24]


Economic activity in society, is an intricate, complex thing, for the motivation of which no individual's motives can suffice. If motivated at all, its guidance comes from something super-individual, and that something is social value. Ends, aims, purposes, desires, of many men, mutually interacting and mutually determining each other, modifying, stimulating, creating each other, take tangible determinate shape, as economic values, and the technique of the social economic organization responds and carries them out.[25]

These quotations are sufficient to illustrate the point of view from which contemporary economic theory may be reconstructed. It amounts to an application of the group concept to a particular part of one of the social sciences. It is not implied that the task has been fully or successfully performed by the writer quoted.[26] It does, however, represent an attempt to apply the conclusions of social psychology to an admittedly difficult problem in economic theory. It is pioneer work, but is an illuminating illustration of the beginning of reconstruction of economic theory due to an application of the group hypothesis.

In the preceding chapter, attention was called to the effort of Cooley to deal with the subject of pecuniary valuation from the same group or social standpoint.[27] His point of view is essentially the same as that of Anderson. He analyzes the problem from the standpoint of the group, including within the problem the social process of the formation of demand rather than assuming it as given. The market is a group phenomenon which creates its own values as much or more than it is created by individual demands. It is an institution which has an existence of its own and bends individual desire to its own likeness. As was pointed out in the review of his writings, the discussion is significant in its attempt to substitute a group conception of the problem for an individual one. His discussion is cited here as another illustration of the attempt that is slowly being made to put a sociological foun-

(731) -dation under the economic structure which has been reared on an individualistic psychology. It gives a concrete expression to the significance of the group concept for economic theory. Such expressions parallel the actual changes taking place in our economic life.

In taking up the significance of the group concept for history one cannot do more than merely suggest in the faintest way some general considerations. The whole problem of the study of history, its methods, and point of view, is so vast and complicated even for the historians, that one outside cannot hope to summarize the field in a few paragraphs. This need not deter one, however, from some general observations which seem to arise naturally from the preceding pages. Certain modern writers will serve as examples of the shifts in point of view and method which indicate the coming of a "new history."[28] Most significant changes have taken place in the course of the nineteenth century. History, like all other bodies of knowledge, has been largely transformed as a result of the progress of science, particularly as crystallized and set forth by Darwin and his followers. This change, which has taken and is taking place, may be conveniently summarized in saying that history, since the middle of the past century, has been seriously affected by the imperative of the scientific spirit and method, which was so characteristic of that period. The older point of view in historical writing and study is characterized thus by one writer:

Indeed we shall not be far astray, if we view history, as it has existed through the ages, and even down to our own day, as a branch of general literature, the object of which has been to present past events in an artistic manner, in order to gratify a natural curiosity in regard to the achievements and fate of conspicuous persons, the rise and decay of monarchies, and the signal commotions and disasters which have repeatedly afflicted humanity.[29]

Into the writing of this type of history the past century brought the doctrine of continuity. Although this doctrine had been developing before the middle of the past century, it was not until

(732) the coming of the work of Darwin and Lyell that the real foundations of the conception of the continuity of history and indefinite progress and change were established.[30] The principle of continuity is essentially a corollary of the group concept; it is an application of the principle of seeing things " in their together" as Merz has expressed the concept. It is a temporal application of the fundamental notion in the group concept. The essence of the doctrine is expressed in these words of Robinson:

The doctrine of the continuity of history is based upon the observed fact that every human institution, every generally accepted idea, every important invention, is but the summation of long lines of progress, reaching back as far as we have the patience or means to follow them. The jury, the drama, the Gatling gun, the papacy, the letter S, the doctrine of stare decisis, each owes its present form to antecedents which can be scientifically traced.[31]

In other words, the principle of continuity, which has revolutionized the methods of historical writing, is an application of the sociological conception of the group as a fundamental unity, and an application of the mechanism of the group process, or social psychology, to an interpretation of any fact or situation viewed chronologically. The boundary line between the historian and the sociologist is of no concern here.[32] The chief end in view at this point is merely to point out that the group approach to the study of what is called history is one of the most significant facts in the type of history that has appeared in the last century, and is of increasing importance in the latter half of that century.

The group concept implies, not only the unity of the social process in its continuous development, but also the fundamental unity of a particular period in that development. The older type of political history, which concerned itself chiefly with strictly political problems, grew up largely as a result of the interest in

(733) political problems which was stimulated by the political chaos that resulted from the political disturbances attendant upon the French Revolution. Historians were interested in the matters that were occupying attention. The crisis that presented itself in various groups and in the world was deemed a political crisis solely and the attempts of the historians to recount those events took on a peculiarly biased political tone. The error of the type of history which has been called political history is the easy assumption of the priority of the political and dramatic in the life of a given group and the neglect of the commonplace and habitual. In other words, this type of history is a violation of the group conception of the social process. The type of history that the group concept demands of the historian is not an account of the accidental, if indeed such a thing as a historical accident be possible, but a picture of the life as a whole. The conception of the group as the fundamental unity within which all things find their relations, and their meanings must necessarily transform the political type of history into a more adequate analysis, or surround it with such qualifications that it ceases to have much value for any practical purposes. The point of view here suggested has been well put by Cooley:

The organic view of history denies that any factor or factors are more ultimate than others. Indeed it denies that the so-called factors, such as the mind, the various institutions, the physical environment, and so on-have any real existence apart from a total life in which all share in the same way that the members of the body share in the life of the animal organism. . . . . We may concentrate attention upon some one of these things, but this concentration should never go so far as to overlook the subordination of each to the whole, or to conceive one as precedent to others.[33]

The transition that has taken place from the older type of political history to the more modern type of history, which is more in accordance with the conception of group unity, reflects a growing change in the attitudes of historians, The shift is by no means complete, but it has been fundamental. The most important cause of the change toward a social type of history has been the

(734) changes that have taken place in the actual life of the nations, a change which one may briefly but perhaps inadequately characterize as the emergence of the social problem. One of the contributing factors in helping along this change was the work of the sociologists who were developing the notion of society, and who had a conception of the unity of the thing they were describing. The newer type of history developed later in America than in England, or Germany, but it has been increasingly influential in all three since the last quarter of the nineteenth century. A social history is an implication of the group concept applied to the analysis of past group phenomena. That such a view increases the problem of the historian enormously is apparent, but the difficulty of the task is no excuse for the failure to accept the responsibility, provided history is to have any practical value at all, outside of mere amusement in dealing with historical effigies. The difficulty of the problem of the study of history, when viewed from the group conception, assumes such proportions that the value of most of the history for the current popular comparisons between the past and the present is almost negligible. A recognition of the bearing of the group concept, with its implied social psychology must discount almost to the vanishing-point any proposals of historical analogies, except when made by the most careful scholar. It has the negative value, in this respect, if no other, of arousing caution in the face of easy historical proofs. " If we find ourselves guessing about the undercurrents of politics in our own ward, the suspicion naturally steals in upon us that we may have believed fairy tales about the Wars of the Roses, or the revolts of the Italian Cities, or the European War of 1914."[34]

The underlying defect in historical method of the past has been the inadequate psychology which formed its prepossessions and thus shaped its whole procedure. The assumption of the individual as a datum, particularly in the case of its distinguished personages; the assumption of a mind or soul as somehow prior, as a thing in itself, which may be taken for granted without creating it, these have been the cardinal errors of not only the earlier history but even of

(735) that of today. As a part of the group conception of the nature of any given part of human life one must, if one purposes to escape violent abstractions, explain and create one's great characters. To assume the person, Alexander, Caesar, Jesus, or Washington, is to give only half the process which makes up the historical whole. The historian's problem is as much that of the details of the creation of these characters as it is to recount their acts. In other words, it seems there can be no adequate history which has not assimilated the essence of modern social psychology, with its fundamental viewpoint of the unity of the group-individual situation. Historians have, of course, done much to escape the more exaggerated forms of the "great man" theory. They have still to emancipate themselves from the "common man" theory, in which the individual is assumed rather than socially or groupally created. It is in this latter respect that the group concept and its implications will continue the revolution in the method of history.

In attempting to relate the group concept to the field of ethics little more is necessary than to suggest the large volume of thought that has been given to the development of ethical systems within recent years, and the place that the social or group point of view has assumed in those systems.[35] One may say, in fact, that the latter point of view has become the predominant one in ethical studies in this country. The changes that have taken place may be summarized in the statement that the center of gravity in ethical thought has shifted from the theological, first to the metaphysical, and then to the social or group basis. In the rough, Comte's three stages suggest the course of thought upon ethical problems. Prior to the eighteenth century, the sources and sanctions of the ethical systems were found in a religious philosophy which had dominated the thought of Europe for centuries, and which is still the dominant system of ethics among the rank and file of American people. The revolt in France in the eighteenth century and the skeptical movement of thought in Germany and England paved the way for the transition from a theocratic to a democratic point of view. Intermediate between the two stages, the theocratic and the social, appeared the philosophy of Kant,

(736) which sought to find a new foundation for an ethical system. Kant, seeking new sanctions, founded his system upon the human reason, and was thus instrumental in distorting German thought up to the present time. Though France and England escaped some of the intermediate distortions that were found in Germany and proceeded more directly to a more scientific system of morals, it remained for the latter half of the past century to bring forth the further transition to the sociological point of view as the most promising way of approach to the problem of morals.

The significance of the group hypothesis for ethics lies in several things. In the first place, it relieves the problem of all supernatural problems. The roots of moral practices, of codes, of sanctions, must be looked for in the life of the group. In the second place, the psychological implications of the place of the group in the development of the individual impose increasing responsibility upon ethical theory to explain its ethical individuals, the "genius" as well as the follower, in terms of group relationships. That is, moral leaders are products rather than data. It cannot assume a pre-existing faculty of reason, but must develop its ethical individual out of a congeries of animal instincts. In the third place, the group concept imposes upon the system of ethics that it find its tests or criteria, as well as its sanctions, in the -group life. Beyond the group there is no appeal. In other words, the whole ethical system must be founded on a scientific method, which finds its place in a group situation. The whole significance of the group hypothesis for the field of ethics may be summed up in the statement that moral conduct is always social, it always involves socii.

What has been stated in the preceding paragraph amounts to saying that the group approach to the ethical field is the sine qua non in contemporary thought. It is the dominant influence of group life which runs through the history and evolution of morals. Something like this thought, it seems, was in the mind of the writer of the following:

Ethics must consist of empty forms until sociology can indicate the substance to which the forms apply. Every ethical judgement with an actual content has at least tacitly presupposed a sociology. Every individual or

(737) social estimate of good or bad, of right and wrong, current today, assumes a sociology. No code of morals can be adopted in the future without implying a sociology as part of its premises. To those acquainted with both the history of ethics and the scope of sociology these propositions are almost self-evident.[36]

One of the fields of study which has been least affected by the group concept is that of jurisprudence. This is peculiarly significant for the sociologist, since the problem of social control and social change involves the legal and political machinery which limits and conditions any change. For some reason, the importance of the group approach to jurisprudence has not been adequately recognized by sociologists, either on its theoretical side or on the practical side. Small is well within the truth when he states that it is "equally astonishing and unfortunate that for nearly a generation legal institutions were left almost wholly outside the range of American sociologists' vision."[37] This situation suggests the necessity and justification for a brief reference to the implications, for jurisprudence, of the group concept as it has been elaborated in the preceding pages.

The coming of the group conception, with its psychological implications, will mean for jurisprudence what it has meant in all the other social sciences, an almost complete change of view and method in making further pursuits of the particular quests. The need for the revamping of jurisprudence in America has vital significance at this time in its social evolution because the practical affairs of our national economic and social life have already undergone such important changes that a new type of juristic and political thought is necessary to keep up with the demands made by these practical changes. The archaic philosophy of the legal profession, which includes the bench as well, assumes peculiar importance in this country since the latter's political and juristic framework is so completely in the hands of this one profession. The extreme difficulty of securing adaptive machinery for social changes, when contrary to the trend of opinion of the judiciary and lawyers, has been more noticeable here than in some other countries. If one add to this, the fact that the constitutions of

(738) both the United States and the various states are incrusted expressions of the older views which reflected a period of development in our economic and social life that was naive and crude, on the one hand, and completely dominated by a prescientific and presocial theory of government and society on the other, then the practical need for a -reconstruction of the fundamentals of jurisprudence, becomes apparent. The pressing necessity for modernization of jurisprudence has led one writer to say that " perhaps nowhere in our national life is the growing recognition of the group or community principle so fundamental for us as in our modem theory of law."[38]

To return to the theoretical aspect of the problem, which is the principal object of interest here, it will be well to point out that on the whole the legal profession and the courts are still in that period of thinking which may be called the philosophical tendency, which flourished in the time of Blackstone and his followers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The law is still felt to be reason, and the method is that of deducing rules to apply to particular cases. The psychological prepossession is still, as it was then, an individualistic one, frequently a faculty one. The implications of the group viewpoint with its psychological emphasis upon function and the social creation of the self have scarcely penetrated the thought of the legal profession. Its general philosophy is that of the metaphysician and medieval churchman with his absolutes and essences rather than that of the scientist with his tentative hypotheses and scientific method of observation, experimentation, and conclusions based on actual results. One still reads of natural rights, of individual freedom as against governmental aggression, of the doctrine of contract, of individual rights which antedate all government and law. Even where the courts have allowed the facts of life to force limitations of their philosophical prepossessions, they have done so grudgingly, and have sustained their decisions on the basis of special protection to a certain class or individuals rather than on the basis of general group interest. Cases are still decided, in the main, on abstract issues and antiquated economic and political philosophy. In other

(739) words, the situation which is presented is one in which an incrusted legal philosophy, embodied in a political framework, and backed by a written constitution, and interpreted in the light of a prescientific legal tradition, has come into conflict with a changed and changing situation. The fundamental assumption of the legal philosophy was the priority of the individual, while the reality of the latter is the fact of group life. Until there can be a reformation of the former on the basis of analysis of the latter in terms of an adequate social psychology there must result conflict and disrespect for law and for its interpreters.[39] The situation of conflict between the prepossessions of the older school and the incipient "sociological" school is thus expressed by a representative of the latter:

A Bench and Bar trained in individualistic theories and firm in the persuasion that the so-called legal justice is an absolute and a necessary standard, from which there may be no departure without the destruction of the legal order, may retard but cannot prevent progress in the newer standard recognized by the sociologist. In this progress lawyers should be conscious factors, not unconscious followers of popular thought, not conscious obstructors of the course of legal development.[40]

The significance of the group concept when applied to this particular field, is that it would serve to supplant the older obstructionist legal philosophy with a point of view and method which would be in harmony with the contemporary scientific thought. The importance of this progress in a highly organized group, such as the United States, is very great.

The foregoing paragraphs are not intended to ignore the evidences of a transition to a new point of view, and it may be well to mention some of them. Attention may be called, in the first place, to some of the practical changes that have taken place in legislation and in the decisions involving the constitutionality of such statutes. These changes appear in several different aspects. There is an increasing tendency of law to impose limitations on

(740) the use of property and greater regard for the human element; limitations upon freedom of contract are shown in statutes regulating conditions of labor, in the law of insurance, in decisions establishing quasi-contractual in place of strictly contractual duties of public service corporations; limitations; upon the right of creditors or injured parties to secure satisfaction, i.e., exemption laws; imposition of liability without fault in such laws as workingmen's compensation; changes in the law of water rights with a view to enhancing the group interest and right therein.[41] There have been minority views among jurists which have recognized the necessity of a new jurisprudence. Such judges, for example, as justice Holmes and Justice Brandeis of the United States Supreme Court, have been found interpreting the newer points of view. In the field of theory, the most noted efforts to establish a sociological jurisprudence and to attempt to replace the older philosophy of the law with a modern viewpoint have been those of Roscoe Pound.[42] Similar efforts have been made by Wigmore[43] and Frankfurter,[44] not to mention others. The newer school, represented by the latter group of pioneers, had its origin largely in the influence of certain European writers who were endeavoring to develop a new philosophy of the law. One writer has summarized the new movement among theorists in a brief manner which may bear repetition:

In the domain of jurisprudence the past thirty years has been marked by ominous unrest. Instead of working out problems of systematization, construction, and application, leading jurists have been querying and contesting the most fundamental doctrines of the theory of law. Stammler in Germany, Saleilles and Charmont in France have laid stress on the contrast between positive law and right law, the latter being conceived as a modernized law of nature sitting in judgment over the injustice and conventionalism of the rules

(741) imposed by the courts. Duguit maintained that it is idle to speak of the State as the subject of rights and that altogether there is no such thing as rights in distinction from organized social functions and services. American teachers of law [Pound and Wigmore are referred to in a footnote] insisted on the necessity of establishing the closest connection between jurisprudence and sociology. Continental lawyers like Geny and Bulow traced the barrenness of modern judicial practice to the slavish respect for terms and logical deductions and demanded a free interpretation and application of juridical rules by judges attentive to the varied expressions of public opinions and public needs.[45]

To attempt to trace out the extent to which the newer spirit has permeated the teaching of law in the law schools of the country would constitute a study in itself. It seems to offer one of the most fertile fields for the application of the group view, which has become the tendency in contemporary sociology. jurisprudence, in spite of hopeful tendencies, still remains to be rejuvenated with the spirit of the scientific age which has opened up so rapidly since the middle of the past century. To transform the law into a means rather than an end, to make it an experimental hypothesis whose validity is to be determined by its function and its results, to make the courts social experts with adequate machinery for the measurement and testing and observation of the experiments made, to insure decisions on the basis of the results achieved, are some of the problems left for the twentieth century. One of the keys to an adequate performance of these tasks is the group concept, resting on an adequate social psychology.

One further general comment on the significance of the newer point of view in sociology, which we have tried to point out, is the hopeful outlook it gives to the problem of social control. The coming of a point of view which recognizes that the group actually creates its own persons means much to a society which finds itself face to face with increasing demands for readjustment and progress. To assume the individual as given, and as prior to the group, is to assume the futility of much effort toward the remaking of society or the modification of social institutions. With the newer point of view, the problem of social control becomes not merely one of the manipulation of ready made individuals nor the assistance in

(742) helping ready-made minds to unfold, but it becomes the very positive one of creating the conditions under which and by which the type of mind or self that is desired is created. The real problem of social control is creation. Dewey has stated the matter so clearly that it is worth while to repeat his statements. In showing the need for social psychology he points out that the historical method,

in spite of all the proof of past change which it adduces, win remain in effect a bulwark of conservatism. For .... it reduces the role of mind to that of beholding and recording the operations of man after they have happened. The historic method may give emotional inspiration or consolation in arousing the belief that a lot more changes are still to happen, but it does not show man how his mind is to take part in giving these changes one direction rather than another.[46]

The chief source of reliance of the conservative attitude toward progress is the conception of mind as a datum rather than a creation:

The ultimate refuge of the standpatter in every field, education, religion, politics, industrial and domestic life, has been the notion of an alleged fixed structure of mind. As long as mind is conceived as an antecedent and readymade thing, institutions and customs may be regarded as its offspring. By its own nature the ready-made mind works to produce them as they have existed and now exist. There is no use in kicking against necessity. The most powerful apologetics for any arrangement of institution is the conception that it is an inevitable result of fixed conditions of human nature.[47]

On the other hand, if one recognizes the results of the group approach to the problem of progress with its implications in the shape of the mind as a created thing in group relations, then the heart of the conservative reliance upon the fixity of human nature is taken away:

If mind, in any definite concrete sense of that word, is an offspring of the life of association, intercourse, transmission, and accumulation rather than a ready-made antecedent cause of these things, then the attitude of polite aloofness or condescending justification as to social institutions has its nerve cut, and with this the intellectual resources of sanctified conservatism disappear.[48]

The significance of this new point of view in relation to human progress has been so well stressed in different writings that it is

(743) hardly necessary to refer to it further. Todd has made the modifiability of human nature the central basis for his treatment of the problem of human progress. The concept of a social self, that is, the self as a group product, as recently developed makes possible the reconstruction of educational methods and the direction of social development in a way not dreamed of by previous generations. As Todd says, "sociology and social psychology declare in no uncertain terms that the sense of self is a social product and should indicate how self may be controlled, moulded, colored, and adapted for human welfare and progress."[49]

Just a word should be said of the relation of the new point of view to the field of education. Education becomes, from this standpoint, the chief method of social control. The group or social approach to the aims and methods of education seems to be one of the prevailing emphases in that field. The increasing number of writers dealing with the problem of social education and the close harmony that has arisen between the sociologist and the educator is indicative of the recognition of the newer approach to the problem. The field is so broad and is attracting such attention among educators that mere reference to it is all that can be made here.[50]


  1. Copyright, 1921, by the University of Chicago Press.
  2. Social and Ethical Interpretations, pp. 96-97
  3. Stephen, Alexander, Hoffding, Tarde.
  4. Social and Ethical Interpretations, p.97.
  5. Encyclopaedia Americana, article on "Sociology," 1919.
  6. Most sociologists, while accepting the thesis of Baldwin as to the fudamental (sic) unity of the individual and the group, reject his undue emphasis on imitation as the process whereby his results were obtained- None of the criticisms, however, seems to be adequate or to offer a satisfactory supplemental process. Outside of the sociologists, the only adequate criticism of the imitation theory and satisfactory elucidation of the process of interaction is that furnished by Professor Mead of the University of Chicago.
  7. Around this point revolves the current revival of the mechanistic conception of behavior which is finding increased vogue among certain writers. The reaction from the futilities of metaphysics and from the introspective psychologies is variously termed, in its more extreme forms, as physiological psychology, objectivism, mechanism, behaviorism. This reaction tends to relegate consciousness to a secondary and unimportant role as a negligible by-product. It carries the revolt of functional psychology still farther. The latter retains consciousness as a central factor in activity. The term behavioristic psychology is used to cover both the functional and the mechanistic conceptions, with very confusing results.
  8. A footnote at this point refers to Royce's discussion as the clearest statement of the doctrine of the social self. This suggests that Merz did not grasp the doctrine fully himself, or Royce's limitations would have been apparent to him. This does not detract from the force of the quotation given, since Merz's central thought is sound.
  9. History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century, IV, 436-37.
  10. Small, "Fifty Years of Sociology in the United States," American Journal of Sociology, XXI, 822,
  11. See, for example, Woodward, "The Unity of Physical Science," International Congress of Arts and Sciences, St. Louis (1904), IV, 3; Small, The Meaning of Social Science, and "Fifty Years of Sociology in the United States," American Journal of Sociology, XXI, 849.
  12. The statements of this paragraph are attempts to reflect the thought of Dr. Small. While the inspiration is his, the responsibility for the form of statement is not.
  13. Dr. Small's The Meaning of Social Science may be given as a detailed description of the method whereby specialization and co-ordination may be achieved. The very conception of a division of labor implies work upon a unified problem. The scientific method, i.e., observation, experimentation, testing, hypothesis, etc., is common to an the sciences. Karl Pearson has an interesting observation on the unity of science: "The reader may perhaps feel that 1 am laying stress upon method at the expense of material content. Now this is the peculiarity of scientific method, that when once it has become a habit of mind, that mind converts all facts whatsoever into science. The field of science is unlimited; its material is endless, every group of natural phenomena, every phase of social life, every stage of past or present development is material of science. The unity of all science consists alone in its method, not in its material. The man who classifies facts of any kind whatever, who sees their mutual relation and describes their sequences, is applying the scientific method and is a man of science. The facts may belong to the past history of mankind, to the social statistics of our great cities, to the atmosphere of the most distant stars, to the digestive organs of a worm or to the life of a scarcely visible bacillus. It is not the facts themselves which make science, but the method by which they are dealt with."-The Grammar of Science, Part 1, 12.
  14. Notes from unpublished lectures.
  15. Darwin and the Humanties (sic), P. 75.
  16. "The Need for Social Psychology," Psychological Review, XXIV, 266.
  17. Reference cannot be made to the large volume of literature bearing on the point. Attention may be called again to: Ellwood, "Objectivism in Sociology," American Journal of Sociology, XXII, 289; Bernard, "The Objective Viewpoint in Sociology," ibid., XXV, 298; Weiss, "Relation between Structural and Behavior Psychology," Psychological Review, XXIV, 301, and "Relation Between Functional and Behavior Psychology," ibid., 353; Watson, "Psychology and Behavior," Psychological Review, XX, i5o; Angell, "Behavior as a Category of Psychology," ibid., XX, 255
  18. "The reaction against English economists, it is interesting to note, began earlier in the United States than in England or Germany." -- Ely, Oullines of Economics, p. 672. "Almost from the beginning the peculiar environmental conditions met with in America have given a characteristic set of tendencies to American economics." -1-faney, History of Economic Thought, P. 5 11
  19. Outlines of Economics, p. 675.
  20. Outlines of Economics, p. 6.
  21. Haney, History of Economic Thought, p. 549.
  22. Merely as an illustration one might cite Carver's Principles of Political Economy (1919) as an exhibit of all these shortcomings.
  23. The term "social value" is not original with Anderson among the economists It was first used in this country by Clark in 1881 and has been used by various writers since then. The theory of social value held by those writers has been severely criticized by other economists, and rightly so perhaps, for it was lacking the essential psychological basis for a logical structure. As used by those earlier writers, the concept represented either a summation of individual values or a valuation based on the discarded biological analogy. Anderson's contribution is that be supplies, in a more or less inadequate way, the psychological foundation upon which a theory of social value may rest if it is to have real worth.
  24. Social Value, pp. 197-99. With reference to the relation between ethics and economic theory suggested in the last clause of the quotation, one may note Stuart's conclusion: "Ethics and economic theory, instead of dealing with separate problems of conduct, deal with distinguishable but inseparable stages belonging to the complete analysis of most, if not all, problems. -- Creative Intelligence, P. 349. Stuart's essay, "Phases of the Economic Interest," is also of significance on other points connected with the problems of economic theory.
  25. Social Value, PP. 97-99.
  26. Mead's criticism of the book from the standpoint of social psychology is trenchant. See Psychological Bulletin, December, 1912, p. 435.
  27. Social Process.
  28. Among others, Lamprecht, What Is History? Robinson, The New History; Green, Short History of the English People; Becker, "Some Aspects of the Influence of Social Problems and Ideas upon the Study and Writing of History," American Journal of Sociology, XVIII, 641.
  29. Robinson, The New History,p. 27
  30. Robinson, The New History, p. 80. Small has given Savigny, 1779-1861, a leading place in the development of the principle of continuity but Points out that Savigny deserted his important principle, in part, in his controversy with Thibaut over the matter of codification in 1814. See "The Present Outlook of Social Science," American Journal Of Sociology, XVIII, 433.
  31. Robinson, The New History, p. 64.
  32. Small has presented an interesting discussion of one of the boundary controversies, that at New Orleans in 1903. See "Fifty Years of Sociology," American Journal of Sociology, XXI, 816.
  33. Quoted by Small as a part of the New Orleans discussion referred to above, "Fifty Years of Sociology in the United States," American Journal of Sociology, XXI, 813.
  34. Small, "Fifty Years of Sociology in the United States," American Journal of Sociology, XXI, 835.
  35. For example, Dewey and Tufts, Ethics.
  36. Small, General Sociology, p. 663.
  37. Encyclopaedia Americana, article on "Sociology," 1919
  38. Follett, The New State, p. 122.
  39. See, for example, Pound, " The Need of a Sociological jurisprudence, " Green Bag, October, 1907, and "Causes of Popular Dissatisfaction with Administration of Justice," American Bar Association Reports, 19o6.
  40. Pound, "The Need of a Sociological jurisprudence," Green Bag, October, 1007; "Causes of Popular Dissatisfaction with Administration of justice," American Bar Association Reports, 1906.
  41. Pound, "The End of Law as Developed in Legal Rules and Doctrines," Harvard Law Review, XXVII, 795-2.34; "The Need of Sociological jurisprudence," Green Bag, October, 1907, p. I.
  42. "The Scope and Purpose of Sociological jurisprudence," Harvard Law Review, XXIV, 591; XXV, 140, 489; "Justice According to Law," California Law Review, XIII, 696; XIV, 103; and other articles.
  43. The Evolution of Law Series.
  44. "Hours of Labor and Realism," Harvard Law Review, XXIX, 353; "The Constitutional Opinions of justice Holmes," ibid. XXIX, 683.
  45. Vinogradoff, "Crisis of Modern Jurisprudence," Yale Law Journal, XXIX (1920), 312.
  46. "The Need for Social Psychology," Psychological Review, XXIV, 274.
  47. Ibid., p. 273.
  48. Ibid., P. 274.
  49. Theories of Social Progress, p. 9. This book is a very able presentation of the relation of the conception of the self as a social product to progress. Robinson's The New History, chap. viii, presents a very valuable discussion of the relation of history to conservatism. He develops the same thought given above, that human nature is modifiable, the self is created by the group, and points out with this new conception coming to the front the conservative's chief reliance is being taken from him. See also Hocking, Human Nature and Its Remaking.
  50. Dewey's Democracy and Education is an epoch-making discussion of the principles involved in this connection. Smith's Social Education is an excellent example of the application of the group approach to the educational field. It serves as an illustration of the above view.

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