The Function of Socialization in Social Evolution

Chapter 4: Origination As A Function of Socialization
 II. Social Organization

Ernest W. Burgess

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Social heredity, we see, supplies the material for invention. The character of the social organization, on the other hand, decides in large measure the tempo of progress. What is meant by social organization, and how does it impede or facilitate invention?

Social organization, like social heredity, is an aspect of the inter-mental community. Social heredity consists in the function of the inter-generation communication of ideas. Social organization comprises the relatively stable phases of the inter-mental process. These more or less permanent mental attitudes tend to take objective form in the social structure with its division of labor and its specialization of function. Social organization consists, then, whatever its external forms, in the organized mental attitude of the members of the group. Consequently in the use of the term "social organization," stress will be laid upon its fundamentally psychic character. As related to invention, several stages in the social organization maybe traced: (a) mental attitudes in general, as expressed in social tendencies rather than incorporated in social structure; (b) the fundamental stratification of mental attitude as exhibited in division of labor and specialization of occupation; (c) the emergence of a leisure class; (d) the rise of a scientific class; (e) organized research.

a) The organized mental attitude of the group has played a decisive part in the conservation of invention. The attitude of the group is even more important in facilitating origination. In the first place, the freedom of the individual, so important for invention, varies with the group feeling. "There cannot be the least doubt," says Royce, "that individuals themselves vary more in their own habits, become more productive of novel processes, and contribute more to the variation of social habits, when the conditions are such as to favor the social tendencies often called by the general name individualism. . . . The periods of great individualism have

( 39) been periods of relatively great inventiveness."[1] The individualistic attitude so productive of innovations in Athens, in the Renaissance, and in the Revolutionary Period is itself social in origin and in its coercive effect upon the members of the group. With this brief mention of the general rôle of mental attitudes, we pass to a consideration of the relation of the more objective expressions of social organization to origination.

The division of occupations and the specialization of skill rest upon physiological and mental differences, which, embodied in group attitudes, constitute the cohesive element in the social structure. The two great dividing lines biologically are by age and sex; lesser divisions arise from differences in aptitudes. The respective rôle of youth and of age in a group is determined by the dominant group attitude. The tendency of youth to vary and the conservative disposition of age have important influences when the social organization gives undue weight to one or the other. Says Royce, "In the individual the most important independent variations of his habits occur during the growth of his social sense. The mere organic growth of the brain has, of course, a good deal to do with this youthful variability. But there can also be no doubt that it is the social sensitiveness of the young which is one very important factor in the same process."[2] The social sensitivity of youth and the adolescent tendency to vary have important relations to progress. Ind rests upon this capacity for variable reactions to the stimuli in the environment. Only in modern society has mankind been able to combine flexibility with stability in the social structure so as to secure fuller utilization of the variability and radicalism of the young. The world-old tendency has been for age to conserve and for youth to create. Both are essential: the first tendency emphasizes past valuations; the second, revaluation and consequent modification.

b) More important, in the beginnings of culture, than organization by age, was grouping by sex. For physiological and psychic reasons, sex became the first dividing line in economic activities. Certain occupations fell definitely to women and certain others to men, and taboo, an inter-mental attitude, soon arose to enforce these

( 40) separations. Even today, the small boy feels keenly the ban which his sex-conscious masculine group puts on dishwashing. This folk-feeling sanctioned the sexual divisions of occupation and had a wide-reaching influence upon the beginnings of culture. The separation by sex meant the narrowing of attention, rude specialization, and a constant increment of skill.

Even in the matriarchal communities of savages on the lowest cultural level we find differentiation by sex in occupational activity. Among ,the Seri[3] the activities of the males are chiefly limited to fighting and fishing; the women are the real workers. Although the activities of the matrons are general, they are definitely the water-carriers and the workers in pottery and the clothing-makers of the tribe. In the sphere of these activities have occurred the chief technical advances of the Seri. The attention and ingenuity of generations of men directed toward fishing and fighting have resulted in the perfection of the harpoon and the poison-tipped arrow. The more peaceful activities of the women, as water-carriers and as makers of clothing, have occasioned the relatively high perfection of the olla and achieved a crude stage in the development of the art of plaiting and weaving. Mason[4] attributes the development of pottery and weaving and the first steps in agriculture to the women. This direction of the attention to occupational interests rests upon the natural cleavage by sex, enforced by the strongest of mental attitudes, and results in a high degree of technical development.

Further division of labor comes by differentiation of activity into the specific occupations and trades. The advantages of specialization were not early perceived. Where specialization was conscious and peaceful it was the result of community action. Thus when a swineherd took care of the sheep, and the shoemaker cobbled for the village, both were assured[5] of their quota of bread assessed upon the households in the community. The guild system of trade organization was much more complex and required a much higher integration of the mental community. The more rigidly, however, the mediaeval attitude insisted upon the separation of trade functions

( 41) and upon the standards of efficient workmanship, the larger opportunity was at hand for invention and improvement. The history of the guilds reveals an evolutionary process, gradual in its changes, but cumulative in its results. The following illustration clarifies this point : "The system pursued at present in the tannage of sole leather is the result of an evolutionary process, depending upon the selective ability of the tanners themselves. No scientific discoveries have helped them, and the basic principles of their art have never received attention."[6] In this trade it is difficult to isolate the contribution of the individual in the evolution of invention. Examples of more revolutionary innovations, arising in the process of occupational activity, may be cited. The great inventions of the eighteenth century in the textile industry were made for the most part by men actively engaged in the process, by spinners and weavers. Hargreaves, who gave us the spinning-jenny, was a "poor weaver."[7] Crompton, who combined the principles of the water-frame and the jenny, had been a spinner from boyhood.[8] Arkwright, a barber, and Cartwright, a clergyman, inventors respectively of the water-frame and the power-loom, did not succeed in perfecting their inventions until they familiarized themselves[9] with the textile industry. The fact[10] that the invention of the spinning machinery was left to spinners, the fact that the harvester was conceived and perfected by farmers, are only added proof of the rôle of division of labor and the concentration of attention in invention. The consideration of the differentiation of occupation by age, sex, and aptitudes indicates the importance of the development of group attitudes for enforcing the cleavage of interests and activities upon which early technical progress was based. A further stage in social evolution gave rise to a new line of division.

c) The rise and survival of a leisure class is not simply an economic or social phenomenon, it is fundamentally psychic. Veblen in his book, The Theory of the Leisure Class, makes a study of the origin and development of the mental characteristics of this group.

( 42) Whether or not he has proved his thesis that the psychological explanation of the leisure class rests upon the consciousness of the invidious distinction which attaches to non-workers, he has at least demonstrated that the existence of the leisure class is provided with double psychic safeguards, first of all, by the mental attitude of this group itself, and secondly, by the attitudes of imitation, reverence, fear, and envy manifested by the masses.

The leisure class was responsible for the first steps in scientific development. This group was not only an efficient agent in con-serving tradition and in adopting innovation, but also a much freer medium for the play of individual initiative and originality. Writing, second only to language as a tool of thought, was slowly evolved from its crude picture forms by the leisure classes of three nations. All the higher religions and moral systems, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Mohammedanism, and Christianity, were the products of "the classes" in society. Philosophy and logic, all the fine arts, arise, as in Greece, in favorable conditions, under the fostering protection of a class free from the grubbing care of existence. The development of mathematics and of astronomical calculations reaches a high stage wider conditions where the succeeding generations of individuals add their contributions to the conserved increment of knowledge.

d) The leisure class is, of course, a vague phrase which includes a heterogeneous congeries of groups, those which impede as well as those which promote improvement. Professor Tyndall has made the following classification of groups necessary to advance technical development : "(1) the investigators of natural truth, whose vocation it is to pursue that truth and extend the field of discovery for its own sake, without reference to practical ends; (2) the teachers who diffuse this knowledge; (3) the appliers of these principles and truths to make them available to the needs, the comforts, or the luxuries, of life. These three classes ought to co-exist and interact."[11] In our discussion of the scientific group, we shall not again emphasize the function of diffusion, but confine our attention to the interdependence of the scientific discoverer and the practical applier. In modern times the significant social differentiation has occurred in the evolution of a new group, the scientific

( 43) circle, the primary aim of which is the discovery of knowledge by the experimental method.

The chief characteristic of the scientific group is a certain feeling of freedom from the practical application of its activities. This boyish "don't care" attitude of the scientist is secured only by freedom from pecuniary anxieties and responsibilities. The existence of a leisure class, safeguarded economically, enabled certain of its members to devote themselves exclusively to intellectual pursuits and the acquirement of knowledge. The establishment of universities made possible the stricter separation of the scientific from the leisure class in general.

The organization and the standards of the scientific group are peculiar and significant. The social bond between scientists may be quite impersonal and attenuated ; the printed page need be the only means of communication. A Wallace without academic training may catch the cold inspiration of science through the medium of its literature and achieve standing in its circles. The human nature of scientists is not so different from that of other people, but it is organized in a distinctive way. Ambition and rivalry are under tenser constraints than among the members of other groups, because the advancement of verifiable knowledge rather than the fortunes of a group is the end in view. Indications are multiplying that the ideal of science is to encourage a genuine co-operation of its members for the promotion of discovery. Cooley gives an admirable statement of the relation of the scientist to his group. "Science, as a social institution, is farther-reaching, and more accessible to those fitted to share in it, than is any other institution. Since the invention of printing and the consequent diffusion of books, the scientific men of all nations have formed a single co-operating group, enabled to co-operate by the facility of communication and by the exact and verifiable character of their work. . . . Compared with the artist, the man of science is cold, and can carry on his pursuits with but little emotional support from his immediate surroundings. Letters, journals, and the notice of his work by others in the same line of research suffice for him."[12]

This independence of the scientist of his immediate surroundings and his dependence on his group is vital for the promotion of pure

( 44) science. His indifference to popular applause or condemnation is necessary for original investigation and his susceptibility to group praise or blame furnishes the required stimulation and criticism. Darwin says, "I can say with truth, that in after years, though I cared in the highest degree for the approbation of such men as Lyell and Hooker, who were my friends, I did not care much about the general public. I do not mean to say that a favorable review or a large sale of my books did not please me greatly, but the pleasure was a fleeting one, and I am sure that I have never turned one inch out of my course to gain fame."[13]

Not only does the scientist forego the applause of the grand-stand ; he must turn his back on the "main chance." The man whose life-values are in terms of dollars and cents is not likely to be interested in the composition of matter, nor to devote his life to the study of the constitution of the atom. The economic interest in the scientist is sure to be subordinated to the intellectual interest. "Knowledge for knowledge's sake"is not a crowd-drawing slogan. Accordingly, this attitude of indifference to the practical application of a discovery, rooted as it is in the play instinct, is not likely innate, but acquired. The lives of many scientists exhibit decisive proof of this group attitude. Harvey was "notoriously open-handed, indifferent to wealth, and constitutionally incapable of driving a bargain." [14] Sir Humphry Davy, indeed, made a practical application of his knowledge in the invention of the safety-lamp, but he declined[15] pecuniary compensation and never patented it. Our own Professor Henry was opposed to patenting his inventions on the ground[16] that he did not think it "compatible with dignity of science to confine the benefits . . . to the exclusive use of any individual." The scientist, like the football player, prefers the commendation of his team-mates to the plaudits of the grandstand.

The importance of the scientific group for discovery is that the attention functions for mediate, rather than for immediate, control of life. "Knowledge is power," and the presence of a group for the promotion of knowledge vastly increases the potential resources

( 45) of society. The fact that the advancement of knowledge is no longer dependent upon the immediate, practical application makes possible the accumulation of a great reserve store of ideas which facilitates the social adjustment to an unexpected crisis. This mediate utility of knowledge, however, is never strong enough to appeal to the popular imagination.

Public recognition of the utility of scientific discovery is generally retrospective rather than anticipatory. Years spent on the observation of the tarnishing of silver or the twitching of the frog's leg seemed as much a waste of time as the classical scholar's devotion of his life to the study of the dative case in Greek. Yet the former "useless" researches were the origins of photography and telegraphy.[17] Pasteur spent several years of his life in the apparently profitless study of crystallization, but the outcome[18] of this investigation was the study of fermentation, and the final result was the discovery of the cause of many baffling diseases and the cure for hydrophobia. The electric light was a scientific toy for three-quarters of a century before it found practical utility for lighting purposes. Geissler and Crookes tubes were little more than a scientific wonder until Röntgen discovered[19] that the cathode rays consist in part of X-rays which will readily pass through the human flesh so as to cast shadows of the bones upon a photographer's plate. The inevitable conclusion to be drawn from these facts is that scientific discovery has depended for support, not upon popular demand, but upon the intellectual interest of a small fraction of the population. In the division of labor in modern society, the practical application of discovery generally falls to a distinct group of workers, namely, the inventors.

In a sense, the practical inventor may be called the scientific middleman. This phrase emphasizes the two chief conditions for the success of the inventor. The practical applier is interested in the immediate utility of his effort, and he is dependent upon the results of scientific research. Striking illustrations of the dependence of the practical inventor upon scientific discovery are to be found in the invention of the electric light, the telegraph, and the wireless telegraph. It is difficult for us to believe that the electric light was discovered nearly half a century before Edison's birth, that the

( 46) telegraph of Morse was but the practical application of a laboratory experiment, or that Marconi gave only the finishing touches to an invention which had almost reached perfection at the hands of a group of men.

The first electric light was the brilliant flame produced at the moment of separation of two pieces of charcoal attached to the terminals of a powerful voltaic battery—the discovery[20] of Sir Humphry Davy in 1809. The first incandescent lamp with a platinum burner, devised by Professor Grove in 1840, was little more than a laboratory toy, though five years later August King patented an incandescent lamp with unsealed platinum burner. The practical utilization of electricity for light had to wait upon the development of electrical generation. The discovery of magneto-electricity by Faraday[21] in 1831–32 was followed by the endeavors of many inventors in the development of the magneto-electric machines and the perfection of the dynamo. The appearance of an efficient dynamo at once made the perfection of electric lighting feasible. The advantage of the Edison lamp over its rivals was in the employment of an inexpensive bowed filament of carbon sealed in a vacuum. Edison's contribution is not to be overlooked ; it constituted a rare triumph of inventive skill, based on an accident, but completed only after the most extensive search over three continents and after indefatigable experimentation. Yet the facts that his title to the invention was the result of a vacillating series of contests in court, that it depended upon the efforts of a long line of men between Sir Humphry Davy and himself as well as upon the perfection of the dynamo, disclose that the perfection of the electric light was in reality the reduction of a scientific discovery to practical application by a series of men.

The telegraph, like the incandescent light, was a co-operative invention. While the idea of communicating through distance by electricity is conceded to Morse, it is instructive to understand to what extent he borrowed from others. The telegraph consists of three essential parts : the battery and conducting wire, the electromagnet, and the receiving and the transmitting instruments. Only the third element represents Morse's contribution ; all the remainder he obtained from the scientific store. The origin of the battery goes

( 47) back to Galvani's experiments on the muscular contraction of a frog's legs by electrical stimulus generated through contact with two metals, and to Volta's immersion of alternate zinc and copper plates in an acid solution. The powerful electromagnet of Professor Henry[22] was the lineal descendant of Oersted's coil through the multiplier of Schweigger and the work of Ampere, Arago, and Sturgeon. As early as 1831, Professor Henry had succeeded in reproducing mechanical effects at a distance, such as the tapping of a bell. Morse, making free use of all these discoveries, under the inspiration of his idea, contributed the remaining element which was to identify his name with the invention of the telegraph, namely, the Morse register and alphabetical code. With the rapid advance in the control of electricity, the invention of telegraphy was merely a question of individual priority. Indeed, Morse's first claim to the invention is disputed[23] by Steinheil of Germany and by Cooke and Wheat-stone of England.

The history of the wireless telegraph is the most astonishing case of an invention almost wholly achieved by scientists, when the daring entrance of an interloper.into the ring made wireless transmission practical over long distances and brought world-fame to the youthful inventor. Clerk Maxwell's formulation of the electromagnetic theory of light furnished the theoretical foundation for the utilization of the ether as an electric medium. To Heinrich Hertz, a young German scientist, whose brilliant promise was cut short by death, belongs the imperishable honor of having demonstrated as early as 1888 that electric waves exist in a vacuum. His apparatus, a loop of wire with the ends almost touching, constituted the most primitive form of the wireless receiving instrument. In 1890 the invention of the coherer by Professor Edward Branly, in 1894 the appearance of the combined oscillator and coherer of Professor Lodge, and in 1895 the attachment by Count Popoff of a vertical conductor to Lodge's receiver and the connecting of the other side with the ground mark the significant scientific steps toward wireless telegraphy. Marconi's contribution to wireless telegraphy consisted merely in connecting a second vertical conductor to the transmitter.[24] Marconi's title to the invention of wireless telegraphy shrinks then to the fact that he was the first to reduce to practice the idea of the

( 48) commercial utilization of the Hertzian waves. As a matter of scientific history, he was the last and least of the workers whose contributions made wireless telegraphy feasible.

The conclusion to be derived from the consideration of the development of the electric light, the telegraph, and wireless telegraphy is inevitable. Modern invention is a co-operative process. Further inquiry would reveal the fact that it is impossible to assign full credit for any new process or new product. The bicycle, or the automobile as we know it, is the result of the labors of hundreds and of thousands, rather than of tens of men. "The locomotive,"says Stephenson, "is not the invention of one man, but of a nation of mechanical engineers."[25] We can do little more than to separate the contributions of inventors into groups.[26] First, as we have seen, there is the scientific genius who discovers new forces, new elements, new means of control. Then there is the great inventor who reduces to practice such conceptions as a steam engine, a locomotive, and an airship. Finally there is the professional small inventor, who confines his effort to devising improvements and to perfecting inventions. All these three functions are necessary for the advance of human welfare. The inter-mental relations between the three processes are vital. If practical invention is to follow fast upon the heels of scientific discovery, certain preconditions are necessary. The first of these is increased popularization of knowledge. The second requirement is a closer co-operation between the scientific discoverer and the practical inventor. The third requisite is the conscious provision by society for the promotion of origination. We might reduce these demands to one formula: the fullest possible opportunity for personal participation in the scientific knowledge and mechanical practice of the -the twentieth century. This, however, is again a phase of socialization. This particular function of socialization must become conscious and organized. Invention has been left too much to the haphazard chance of spontaneous growth. The process is co-operative; its efficiency will be increased by the evolution of a more perfect mechanism.

e) The present trend toward the organization of scientific discovery and practical invention has demonstrated the value of conscious social control of origination.

( 49)

In America, attention until recently had been almost exclusively absorbed in methods to promote the diffusion of knowledge. Our entire public-school system, culminating in the college, was designed to instruct young America in the culture and the knowledge of the past. A new movement was instituted in 1876 when Johns Hopkins University introduced the graduate school to promote research work, and to provide training for original effort. This early attempt was widely imitated, and the underlying idea has been developed on a larger scale. Probably the most significant step toward the promotion of scientific discovery was the foundation of the Carnegie Institution for Original Research, in Washington, under an endowment of ten million dollars. The Smithsonian Institution, the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, and the Russell Sage Foundation are among the indications in American scientific life of the recognition of the fact that research is becoming more and more co-operative, and should consist of organized, rather than haphazard, co-operation. Such an organization for co-operative research work, correlated with an improved system of diffusion, would represent the highest integration of inter-mental communication and of reflective socialization!

While America is becoming conscious of the benefits of organization for research and for practical invention, Germany is enjoying the advantages of organized effort in industry. Wilhelm Ostwald states the situation as follows : "The organization of the power of invention in manufactures on a large scale in Germany is, as far as I know, unique in the world's 'history, and is the very marrow of our splendid triumphs. Each large works has the greater part of its scientific staff—and there are often more than a hundred Doctors of Philosophy in a single manufactory—occupied not in the management of the manufacture, but in making inventions. The research laboratory in such works is only different from one in a university from its being more splendidly and sumptuously fitted. I have heard from the business managers of such works that they have not infrequently men who have worked for four years without practical success ; but if they have known them to possess ability, they keep them notwithstanding, and in most cases with ultimate success sufficient to pay all expenses." [27]

In comparison with the magnificent showing of Germany's industrial organization for chemical research, the report on "chemicals" in

( 50) the Twelfth Census Report cited[28] only 276 chemists in the establishments of this country. Yet this beginning is an indication of the trend in many American industries. Many manufacturing establishments have experimental departments where experts are employed at high salaries. For instance : "In the larger [sewing-machine] factories the experimental department is one of the most important and expensive. Here the inventor has every facility for developing new ideas and putting the results to preliminary tests. When, after a great deal of time and labor has been expended on an invention, and it has reached an apparently perfect condition, it is sent to a factory engaged in the class of work for which it is designed, and is thoroughly tested. If its operation proves satisfactory, a special plant of machinery is installed for the manufacture of the new machine or attachment, so that any number of duplicates can be made. After all this expensive preparation and experiment, the invention may be soon replaced by something better, and abandoned !"[29] Similar illustrations might be obtained from many branches of industry. Mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering are professional departments of invention; they exhibit the application of scientific principles reduced to an art.

Conscious effort directed toward the organization of experimental departments and toward the establishment of technical institutions and professions indicates the crystallization of a social valuation of the importance of securing the practical utilization of the highest scientific knowledge. The principles underlying the movement are twofold: first, increased contact between theory and practice; and secondly, increased co-operation of effort in discovery and invention. No matter how artificial and attenuated may be the contact implicit in modern organization for scientific research and practical application, the mechanism of the process is to be found in the higher integration of communication and co-operation, the twin expressions of socialization.

Social organization, then, is an important factor in promoting or in retarding invention. The stable mental attitudes of the group, division of labor by sex and by trade, the development of a leisure class, the differentiation of a scientific group, organization for co-operative research and practical application are stages in mental and

( 51) social organization. This process of development in the cognitive phase of the social life will not be complete until scientific knowledge is democratized, and until free opportunity is provided for each person to take part, to the measure of his ability, in the discovery and application of truth. St. Bernard saw clearly that progress was due not so much to the superior genius of innovators as to the sup-port and the opportunity guaranteed by the social organization. "We are as dwarfs mounted on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more and further than they; yet not by virtue of the keenness of our eyesight, nor through the tallness of our stature, but because we are raised and borne aloft upon that giant mass." [30]


  1. Royce, "Psychology of Invention," in the Psychological Review, V (1898), 122.
  2. lbid., pp. 121-22.
  3. 3McGee, op. cit., p. 274.
  4. Op. cit., and especially Woman's Share in Primitive Culture, 1894.
  5. Cf. Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce, 1892, I, 74.
  6. Twelfth Census, loc. cit., III, 733.
  7. Rand, Economic History, 1892, p. 38.
  8. Dictionary of National Biography, XIII, 148.
  9. Ibid., II, 82; IX, 221-22.
  10. Philips, op. cit., pp. 472-73.
  11. Iles, op. cit., -p. 274.
  12. "Genius, Fame, and the Comparison of Races," in the Annals of the American Academy, IX (1897), 354-55.
  13. Life and Letters, I, 66-67.
  14. Power, William Harvey, 1898, p. 38.
  15. Holland, op. cit., pp. 136-37.
  16. Crabtree, Marvels of Modern Mechanism, 1901, p. 531.
  17. Iles, op. cit., p. 272.
  18. Ibid., p. 273.
  19. Ibid., p. 198.
  20. Byrn, Inventions in the Nineteenth Century, 1900, p. 63.
  21. Ibid., p. 48.
  22. Byrn, op.cit., pp. 18-19.
  23. Ibid, pp. 21-22.
  24. Ibid., pp. 26-29.
  25. Quoted in Vierkandt, op. cit., p. 19, note.
  26. Du Bois-Reymond, Erfindung u. Erfinder, 1906, pp. 162-64.
  27. lles, op. cit., pp. 275-76.
  28. Loc. cit., IV, 528.
  29. Ibid.,417.
  30. Poole, in Social England (Traill and Mann, editors, 1905), I, 341.

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