The Function of Socialization in Social Evolution

Chapter 14: The Volitional Aspect of Socialization

Ernest W. Burgess

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Personal participation in the collective action makes for the development of personality and the progressive evolution of society. Coercive social control and voluntary social influence both determine the development of volition, and the fixation of modes of willing. Since, as Angell points out, "the term will is simply a convenient appellation for the whole range of mental life viewed from the standpoint of its activity and control over movement,"[1] we readily realize the importance of the organization of volition with reference to the social activities. We shall endeavor to point out that superior methods of control are inward, that the socialization of the individual is not achieved with outward conformity, but only with inner accord.

Before taking up our analysis of the nature and function of the articulating of individuals, it is necessary to determine, if we can, the aim and end of human activity. Two conflicting theories axe now supported by sociologists. One group of thinkers hold that ,personality is the final output of the social process and that society is but the mechanism or medium to that end.[2] The other group of scholars maintain that "the moral ideal is to be described as a perfect society instead of a perfect individual"[3] Bernard states this theory in its most extreme form. "The conscious exertion of individuals must be directed toward the survival, growth, and perfection of the race with all that this implies, and toward the development of a scientifically determined and controlled social organization which will contribute to this end"[4]

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From a detached point of view the antithesis as stated here re-solves itself into the old pseudo-antagonism of society and the individual. According to this harmonizing standpoint the improvement of social interrelations involves per se the development of personality, or vice versa, the very self-realization of the individual takes place in the process of perfecting the social order. It is with reluctance that we turn from this attractive theoretical settlement of the difficulty; but practical experience rejects this euphemistic evasion of the problem. The issue exists. The group or the person : which is the end of human and social evolution? Sparta or Athens?

Stated in this form, but one answer seems feasible. I deny that I have manipulated the premises to force the conclusion. History, if it teaches any lesson, reiterates the misery of humanity whenever in practice the individual has been considered the means and society the end. The Spartan ideal leads to the contradiction of civilization ;the Athenian experiment achieves freedom in art, science, and life. We must realize that, in the words of Kant, persons are kingdoms of ends and that their interrelations which constitute society are but means making for the better life of men. So, then, the end of human effort and idealism is not an abstraction, even so attractive a conception as a perfect society, but the concrete welfare and happiness of flesh-and-blood men in this and future generations.

With our primary emphasis upon the person, we should be blind to ignore the value of social relations as means to the "more abundant life." The finest part of human experience will increasingly be found in the associated life of men. An analysis of the functional unity of human and social nature will indicate that the socialization of the person lies in his participation in social life and action. This study will be taken up under three heads : (1) Human nature and social organization are in reciprocal relation with each other and are interdependent. (2) Social control implies coercion, and is to be distinguished from socialization, or social self-control, which means conscious and willing co-ordination by the person of his interests with those of the group. (3) The person is a constructive factor in social reconstruction.

Since the corporate character of human nature is a precondition to participation by the person in social action, we shall consider first the interrelation of the person and the group.

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1. Human nature is an outgrowth and a determinant of social organization. This paradox finds its solution through an interpretation on the basis of socialization. Cooley points out that human nature is not congenital, that it develops in the face-to-face groups, such as the neighborhood. His definition is as follows: "By human nature, I suppose, we may understand those sentiments and impulses that are human in being superior to those of lower animals, and also in the sense that they belong to mankind at large, and not to any particular race or time. It means, particularly, sympathy and the innumerable sentiments into which sympathy enters, such as love, resentment, ambition, vanity, hero-worship, and the feeling of social right and wrong."[5] Human nature, therefore, is but a product of association dependent upon it for survival, capable of modification, and of extension beyond the primary group.

With the extension of life from the village with its intimate system of personal relations to the city and nation with its impersonal system, we have increased the strain upon socialization. Our problem is to socialize the individual for the complex life of today. Congregation has increased faster than community. External organization has outrun inner co-operation. The solution for the problem is wide opportunity to the individual for participating in the collective activities.

The socialization of the individual, however, is not an automatic process. It has always required and probably always will demand the best efforts of every generation. Since the mental community preserves the achievements of the past and makes possible future progress, social necessity must provide for the active membership of the person in the social life. For the very reason that social progress consists not so much in attaining an ideal goal of a perfect society, as in achieving higher types of personality through better adaptation of individuals to individuals, and of groups to groups in the struggle for existence, the socialization of the individual is of first-rate importance to group survival and success. Socialization is passing from an unconscious to a conscious stage. Thinking men are becoming conscious that human activities are part of a social process; the average man has become uneasily aware of the existence of a social problem ; both social scientists and men everywhere are beginning consciously to co-operate for the purpose of controlling the social

( 224) process and of solving the social problem. "Above all, the organic view of mind calls for social knowledge as the basis of morality. We live in a system, and to achieve right ends, or any rational ends whatever, we must learn to understand that system. The public mind must emerge somewhat from its subconscious condition and know and guide its own process."[6]

At the present time the chief indications of the extension of personal participation in the collective activities are to be observed in the emergence of the excluded classes, the working man and woman, into the process. Professor Wilcox states that the initiative, referendum, and recall, are methods for securing to the people effective participation in political control.[7] A German woman states as follows the significance of woman's participation in the process : "The entrance of woman into the world as a self-creating and self-responsible force is the precondition of the solution of the sexual problem, the precondition of the solution of the woman question." [8]

The finest result of participation in the collective activities is that co-operative effort generates the social spirit and facilitates further united effort. Socialization does not make for an ideal social order so much as for the development of the spirit of team-play in its members. The victory of the Japanese over the Russians in the late war was in part undoubtedly due not only to the superior esprit de corps of the Japanese army, but to the higher mental unity of the folk-mind. The present emphasis upon a functional rather than upon an arbitrary ethical standard has led to a change in the conception of the socially valuable man. He is no longer merely the sociable man, or the self-sacrificing person, but the man equipped to perform a useful function in society and disposed to "square" his individual interests with the public advantage. "The basis of all sentiment of this kind is the sense of community, of sharing in a common social or spiritual whole, membership in which gives to all a kind of inner equality, no matter what their special parts may be. It is felt, however, that the differences among men should be functional and intrinsic, not arbitrary or accidental." [9]

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In another place Professor Cooley indicates the function of the social spirit in achievement : "It is indeed probable that the growth of class fellowship will help to foster that spirit of art in work which we so notably lack, and the repose and content which this brings. There is truth in the view that a confused and standardless competition destroys art, which requires not only a group ideal but a certain deliberation, a chance to brood over things and work perfection into them. When the workman is more sure of his position, when he feels his fellows at his shoulder and knows that the quality of his work will be appreciated, he will have more courage and patience to be an artist. We all draw our impulse toward perfection not from vulgar opinion or from our pay, but from the approval of f fellow-craftsmen. The truth, little seen in our day, is that all work should be done in the spirit of art, and that no society is humanly organized in which this is not chiefly the case."[10] Socrates is said to have considered the achievement of the social spirit as the end of co-operation. "The Memorabilia of Xenophon represent Socrates as making this statement: `The sayings of the wise men of old we unroll and con together, culling out what good we may, but counting it the great gain if meantime we grow dear—one to another.' "[11] Dewey likewise insists upon the value of this feeling for personality. "In social feeling we merge our private life in the wider life of the community and in so doing immensely transcend our immediate self and realize our being in the widest way." [12]

The development of the socialized person through intimate life in primary groups paves the way for the solution of our social problems. Cooley has pointed out that the reconstruction of society requires only the humanizing of social arrangements : "The improvement of society does not call for any essential change in human nature, but, chiefly, for a larger and higher application of its familiar impulses." [13] A transition from the present impersonal stage of social organization to a socialized order lies in the possibility of extending the primary principles of human nature developed in personal groups to the widest circumference of human contact. A sur-

( 226) -vey of recent social progress indicates the degree to which human relations are becoming socialized. Maximum hours of labor for women, prohibition of child labor, factory inspection, playgrounds, industrial compensation for accidents, minimum wages for women, mothers' pensions, all indicate the realizing of this impulse in social organization.

The reverse side of the extension of the criteria of human nature throughout social organization is the problem of using and organizing the finer elements in human nature. We have in the past utilized the coarser elements in human nature in our industrial and social constitution. We have laid hold of self-interest, of rivalry, of competition, of love of power, and built up our social edifice upon these foundations. We have neglected to utilize the finer elements in human nature, kindliness, generosity, brotherhood, and self-sacrifice.

Our study of the interrelation of human nature and social organization shows (a) that the characteristic elements of human nature find expression and development in the social life of primary groups; (b) that the solution of our social problems and the achievement of a more harmonious social order with equal opportunity for all demands the larger utilization of the peculiarly human, because social, elements in personality; and (c) that the perfecting of personality is dependent upon its nurture in a more congenial social and industrial atmosphere. We turn now to attack the problem how best to achieve the reorganization of personality and society made imperative by present-day social and economic maladjustments.

2. First of all it is necessary to distinguish between socialization and social control as two methods for personal and social readjustment. In general, we may say social control makes for the establishment of order, socialization for the promotion .of progress. The purpose of the control is to secure an equilibrium of forces in society; socialization utilizes order as a basis for attaining less artificial equilibrium.

Ross differentiates social control from social influence by the criterion of purposiveness; both represent the social domination, but the former is intended, the latter unintended. The more valid criterion seems to me to be found in the freedom of the individual. Social control denotes the coercion of the individual; social influence implies the operation of personal initiative and choice. But instead of the term "social influence" I prefer socialization, using this word

( 227) in the root meaning of "influence," the inflowing of all the tangible and intangible social aids which enter into the life-development of the person. Human evolution does not consist in the adjustment of the psycho-physical organism to a physical environment, but in the development and organization of human nature as it functions in the life-process through participating in a mental community. This subjective environment is something apart from any individual of the group, but its only lodgment is in the minds of individuals. Socialization, while it does not exclude, certainly does not imply conflict of interests between the individual and society. In fact, socialization in merging the individual into the common life makes against a consciousness of the diversity of interests. Baldwin shows that the great majority of men never consciously raise the antithesis. But where such a conflict is perceived, socialization precludes the coercion of the individual while it implies the solution of the difficulty with reference to the promotion of the interests of the group. I do not contend that the individual in the process of socialization may not be conscious of coercion by his associates. But perceiving the conflict, he reconciles his interest with the group interest, or brings the group to conform to his way of thinking.

Social control, on the other hand, implies an antithesis between society and the individual, an opposition of the person's feelings and will which is overridden by the superior force of the group. Socialization does not exclude this consciousness of a conflict of interests, but it implies at the same time a resolution of the opposition which is sanctioned by the feeling and judgment of the person. In the "Titanic" disaster physical force was required to keep the men among the steerage passengers from boarding boats filled with women and children, while the men of the first and second cabins, fully as conscious of the antithesis between the safety of the women and their individual self-preservation, sanctioned the discrimination against them. The boy who quits school upon the death of his father to undertake the support of the family is often quite conscious of the opposition between his individual interests and those of the mother and the younger children, though the suggestion of action for self-interest alone would be immediately spurned.

Now I am not denying the reality and rôle of social control. Social control is confined to those cases where the individual submits under protest, as it were, to the dominance of the group. This

( 228) coercion need not be physical; it may be psychical, the fear of losing one's "job," the ridicule of one's associates, the ostracism of one's set. If a man and wife live together because separation would be destroying associations which make up the best of their lives, their unity is to be attributed to socialization; if the continuance of the marriage relation is due to a common desire to keep the home together for the sake of the children, or for consideration of the scruples of relatives whose opinion is dear to them, the result is due again to socialization. But if husband and wife live together, a union of paper and not of hearts for fear of the disapproval of their friends or of the hounding of the "yellow" press, in so far as their reason and feeling do not commend to them a basis in justice and in sentiment for this opposition they are under the compulsion of social control. So far from the perception of conflict being antagonistic to socialization it is often necessary for its rational expression. Conscious, socialized participation in the active life of the group implies the perception and the resolution into higher harmony of the conflict between the individuals and the group. This is why social consciousness is so intense in the prophet and the martyr, even when he experiences the sharp clash of his activity with that of the actual unregenerate group. On the other hand, "the man who is most completely domineered by `society' is the one to whom the thought-thing society is most nearly non-existent." [14]

The foregoing analysis of the distinction between social control and socialization brings us to the evaluation of each for the promotion of human welfare. If social progress consists in the development of personality, the question would seem at once to decide itself in favor of socialization as the means to that end. An objection to this conclusion, however, has been raised. "So long as the individual is regarded as the measure of social values or is regarded as one of two poles, of which society is considered the other antagonistic pole, there can be no effective and convincing argument for social conformity and co-operation." [15] This objection, especially in the unfortunate use of the adjective "antagonistic," seems to ignore the fundamental social nature of the person and his participation in the socializing process. We are not sur-

( 229) -prised then to find the following statement from the same writer: "The advancement of civilization appears to be marked by the growth of the conception of the compulsory and inherent functional unity of society, both for the purpose of furthering a scientific analysis of social phenomena and for enforcing the findings of that analysis."[16] The essential nature of the functional unity of society, as we have seen,[17] does not lie in the outward conformity by compulsion, but in the inner psychic organization developing in free participation in social life. Cooley admirably characterizes this phenomenon as the "differentiated unity of mental or social life, present in the simplest intercourse but capable of infinite growth and adaptation."[18] In our study of social development in England, the advancement of civilization appears to be marked by the achievement of a control that rests less on compulsion and more on freedom, that restricts coercion to a smaller and' more definite territory and to the abnormal and anti-social groups, and that extends greater freedom of conduct to members of society. . Indeed, as Ross is forced to confess,[19] the highest criteria of social control are economy, inward simplicity, spontaneity, and diffusion, or, in reality, a minimum of conscious, compulsory control by the group.

3. The conscious and voluntary participation of the person in the collective activities is essential both for personal development and for the higher welfare of the group. Both objects are obtained through the process of socialization. The individual must become a conscious participant in social reconstruction in order to achieve the highest values of personality. Social reform will remain abortive in so far as it is exploited by the few for personal distinction and not participated in by the members of the group working together in the common interest.

The participation of the members of the group in its mental and social activities is democracy actually at work. The member of the labor union through his organization participates in our developing industrial democracy. The unskilled laborer has no voice nor vote except so far as Socialists, Syndicalists, and social workers act as his spokesmen. We are beginning seriously to ask the question how far private control of enormous fortunes and big industries tends to throttle free speech and to confine free action on the

( 230) part of considerable groups of men. Such a gagging of democracy signifies at the same time a stifling of the breath of socialization.

But the importance of the individual as a factor in social reconstruction is not confined to our political and industrial life. The real problems of life center in the home and the community. In the family the father and mother have for a few years almost absolute, and for many years the dominant, control over the development of the child. In the community there is always opportunity for effective services where the person subordinates individual distinction to a cause. Best of all, in village, town, and city there is always a place for the person with the capacity of organizing the members of his group to work together in its service.

On first thought it may seem that this emphasis upon the person as the central initiating factor in realizing his own life-values, even though in co-operation with his fellows, runs counter to the trend of the times. The functions of the state have enlarged so rapidly that the rôle of the individual appears relatively smaller. Yet this change is more apparent than real. While the state is becoming the agent of society in providing safeguards for the economic security of existence, it is being recognized that a large sphere of activity must preferably be left to the control of the person: Hob-house attempts to draw a functional line of demarkation between these two fields of control. "We see a tendency to the removal of restraints in the sphere in which whatever there is of value to mankind depends on spontaneity of impulse, free interchange of ideas, and voluntary co-operation going along with the tendency to draw tighter the bonds which restrain men from acting directly or in-directly to the injury of their fellows and to enlarge the borders of the action of the state in response to a developing sense of collective responsibility."[20] Even in a problem of so fundamental importance to society as the improvement of the physical stock of the race, Havelock Ellis is inclined to depend for its solution upon the socialization of persons rather than upon coercive means of social control. "Even if scientific opinion and general public opinion were ready for marriage legislation in the interests of the regeneration of the race, it would still be a problem how far such legislation is likely to be in accordance with sound morals. For legislation can only demand actions that are both generalised and externalised,

( 231) and the demands of the regeneration of the race must be both particularised and internalised, or they are meaningless and even void. The law may, for instance, enact prohibitions against certain kinds of people marrying, but it cannot prevent procreation, and the mere prohibition to marry is both unjust and unnecessary in so far as it prevents the unions of people who may be fully aware of their racial disabilities and consequent responsibilities, and ready to act accordingly. Thus it is that morals is called upon to retain jealously within its own sphere these aspects of racial regeneration, and to resent the encroachments of law.

"For we have to be on guard—and that is our final problem, perhaps the most difficult and complex of all—lest our efforts for the regeneration of the race lead us to a mechanical and materialistic conception of life, to the conception of a life regulated by codes and statutes and adjudicated in law courts. Better an unregenerated life than such a regeneration! For freedom is the breath of life, joy is the prime tonic of life, and no regeneration is worth striving for which fails to increase the total sum of freedom and of joy."[21]

We have, as a race, reached the adolescent stage. We have outgrown our fear of taboo, we are beginning to understand the arbitrary and often harmful character of our "mores," we are impatient of even the semblance of the old coercive restraints, we are fiercely fond and jealous of our new freedom. This is a transition stage, so it is all the more important that we lay hold upon what is fundamental in human nature and association. We must recognize that human nature is characteristically social, that inward direction of conduct developing under social influences is more important for welfare and progress than external control through compulsion, and that the person is the vital factor in social reconstruction.

So, then, the highest outcome of the socializing process is the co-ordination by the person of his interest with those of the group. In this co-ordination lies the field of struggle wherein personality is developed and refined. The Über-Mensch, the superman, is not to be the ruthless exploiter of his kind, but the supreme outcome of socialization with a race-long reach of vision, and a sympathy as broad as humanity, who will articulate the ideals of human nature and devote his energy and efficiency to their co-operative realization. Not Napoleon, but Lincoln is the type of the great man.


  1. Op. cit., p. 437.
  2. "In general, sociology tries to find out the best means of promoting the development of human personality."—Small, Meaning of Social Science, p. 227.
  3. Adler, International Journal of Ethics, XX (1909-10), 394; quoted with approval by Ellwood, op. cit., p. 392, who adds that social life is "for the sake of the development of a harmonious and perfect society of individuals" (p. 393).
  4. Op. cit., p. 178.
  5. Op.. cit., p. 28.
  6. Cooley, op. cit., p. 21.
  7. Government by All the People, 1912, Preface, p. vii.
  8. Quoted from Maria von Stach, in the Zeitschrift fir Sozialwissenchaft und Politik, XXXIII (1912), 891.
  9. Cooley, op. cit., pp. 180-81.
  10. Ibid., pp. 244-45.
  11. Devine, Practice of Charity, 1901, p. 78.
  12. Dewey, Psychology, 1888, p. 272.
  13. Cooley, op. cit., p. 37.
  14. Small, criticism of point in Simmel's article, "How Is Society Possible?" in the American Journal of Sociology, XVI (1910-11), 374, note.
  15. Bernard, op. cit., p. 531.
  16. Bernard, op. cit., p. 537.
  17. Supra,p. 7.
  18. Cooley, op. cit., p. 4.
  19. Op. cit., chap. xxxii.
  20. Hobhouse, Social Evolution and Political Theory, 1911, pp. 202-3.
  21. Problem of Race-Regeneration, 1911, pp. 69-70.

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