Prolegomena to Social Psychology
II: The Fundamental Fact in Social Psychology
Charles A. Ellwood
In spite of the remarkable development which this century has witnessed in the science of psychology from the time of Fechner to the present, most psychologists will admit that the science has as yet, contributed little to the development of the social sciences, to the solution of the problems of societary life. A beginning, it is true, has been made in some of the social sciences in applying psychological principles to the solution of their problems. This is the case, for example, in political economy, especially in the attempt which the Austrian school has made to build up a theory of value upon principles furnished by the older individual psychology. But the contributions which psychology has thus far made to social science have been, with a few exceptions, small and insignificant compared with what has been expected from it.
The reasons for this failure of psychology to contribute materially to the solution of social problems have been many. One has already been suggested in the preceding article of this series, namely, the dominance of the individualistic method and point of view in psychological investigation. Another is to be found, perhaps, in the failure to develop a comparative or genetic psychology. The reason, however, which appears to its fundamental and inclusive of the others is that psychology has not been developed from the point of view of function or life-process. A mere structural  psychology of the adult human individual cannot, from its very nature, give an interpretation of life in its broadest phases, much less of the activities of society.
(808) Though the psychical life of the social group may be roughly analogous to the psychical life of the individual, yet the analogy, if such there be, is wholly on the side of function, not on the side of structure. The whole development of psychology, therefore, which has been represented by such men as Wundt and Külpe, however valuable it may be in other respects, has had no special significance for the development of the social sciences. A functional psychology is what is wanted for the interpretation of society or any section of its activities. The essential principles of such a psychology, we believe, leave already been formulated. The credit of having formulated them belongs to Professor John Dewey, a statement of whose point of view is a necessary preliminary to the argument of this paper.
Professor Dewey's psychological point of view may be put somewhat schematically as follows : The fundamental fact in the psychical life, according to him, is not the sensation, but the coordination of the living organism in some activity— the act.  We cannot get back of the coordination in psychology. Wherever we begin, we must begin with a living organism doing something. The unit of psychical activity, therefore, is the act or coordination. In reality there is only one large coordination the act of living or the life-process. But within this supreme coordination there arise minor coördinations in the adapting of one part of the organism to another, or of one portion of the life-process to another portion. Or, looking at the process from the opposite standpoint, we may say particular acts are coordinated. unified, into larger coördinations which control the smaller acts ; and all are finally unified into, and controlled by, the general life-process of the organism. Thus the psychical life is to be regarded and interpreted as a function of the general life-
( 809) process. Function, then, rather than organism or environment, is the thing to be considered in psychology. From this point of view all forms of psychical activity can be reduced to two types: coördination and adaptation. All the phenomena of psychical life group themselves about these two fundamental forms — are the outgrowth of them, and are functionally explained by their reference to them. Thus a coördination which has once been successfully established tends to persist, or becomes a habit. The necessity of adjustment, however, arising from some variation in the organism or environment, causes the old coordination or habit to break up, and sensation results. Sensation, then, is the sign of the interruption of a habit, and represents the point at which an activity is reconstructed. The old coordination in breaking up, however, must yield the material for the new coördination; that is, it must be used as means for the construction of a new coordination. The processes of discrimination, attention, and association come in to build up the new coordination. They are all processes which arise only through the transition from one coordination to another. The discriminative process, for example, represents the breakdown of the old coordination, and what we call association represents the building up of the new coordination. Attention represents the conflict of two or more activities involved in the building up of the new coordination; it is the attempt, on he part of the organism, to discover, select, the adequate stimulus for the construction of the new coordination. These illustrations will suffice for our purposes. . In the same manner all psychical processes may be interpreted — as referring either to the coordination or to the transition from one coordination to another. The coordination is, therefore, the fundamental and central fact of the psychical life. All other psychical facts are functional expressions of the coordination, or of the relation of one coordination to another within the life-process. Thus the psychical life presents itself as a system of means and ends, whose unity finds expression in the general end of control over the means of existence, that is, over the conditions of survival. Summarizing, then, we may say that Professor Dewey's psychological point of view is that of a life-
(810) -process, or life-activity, functioning to secure control over its own life-conditions, and thereby its own development. The resulting interpretation of the facts of the psychical life yields a psychology whose chief categories are coördination, adaptation, habit, instinct, selection, evaluation, and the like ; in brief, an evolutionary psychology.
The value of such a psychology to the social sciences must be evident, even from such a schematic and fragmentary statement as we have given. Such a psychology comes into contact with life at every point and interprets functionally the processes of life ; it is no formal, over-abstracted science, but shows us the actual workings of the psychic reality. The question at once suggests itself: Are not these categories, which have been so successfully applied to the interpretation of the psychical life of the individual, also applicable to the interpretation of the life of society on its psychical side ? Cannot the fundamental principles of such a functional psychology be transferred at once from the interpretation of the life of the individual to that of society? If it be granted that social groups function, act, as unities, and that therefore they, as well as individual organisms, may be regarded as functional unities, then there would seem to be no logical objection to such a procedure. On the contrary, when both society and the individual are regarded as functional unities, it would seem highly probable that the fundamental principles and categories employed in the interpretation of the psychical life of the one would apply equally in the interpretation of the psychical life of the other. Thus the transference of principles of interpretation from the individual to society may be easily justified as a working hypothesis. Professor Dewey's point of view, if fully stated, would, indeed, be favorable to such an extension of his psychological principles of interpretation to society. He recognizes that the individual life-process is not an isolated fact, but only a differentiated center within a larger life-process of the group. This position implies, not only the possibility of
( 811) a group psychology, but also the possibility of applying the same fundamental principles of interpretation in it as in individual psychology. But the real warrant for transferring the principles and categories of a functional psychology of the individual to the interpretation of society must be found in the facts of societary life itself. The question which must be asked, accordingly, is: Are there real processes in the group which correspond to those denoted in the individual by the categories coordination, adaptation, habit, etc. ? Is there anything, for example, in group-life answering to the coordination in individual life? If so, does it occupy the same central position in the life of the group as in that of the individual ? 
In group-life, as in the life of the individual organism, we cannot get back of the group doing something. If we go back of that point, we get merely all aggregation of individuals, of which we predicate no group-life. We may explain biologically how the aggregation was primitively formed, but we do not think of the aggregation as a unity until group-action appears. The group-act is the sign of group-life throughout the scale of living organisms, whether among human beings or among the lowest forms. Forms merely dwelling in proximity can hardly be said to have a common group-life until they become functionally related to each other as parts of a functioning whole. In a psychological interpretation of group-life, then, we must begin with the group acting together in some particular way ; for it is this
( 812) which constitutes the group a functional unity. This acting together of the individual organisms in a group evidently corresponds in form exactly to the coördination in the individual. We may call it, therefore, the group or social coördination. It is in group-life what the coördination is in the individual organism— the unit of psychical activity, the fundamental psychical fact about which all other facts of psychical activity group themselves. As in the case of the individual, too, particular social coördinations become unified into a general life-process of the group, which we term the social process. The origin of group-acts or coördinations among primitive forms may be explained on biological grounds; but the group-act or coördination is none the less the first psychic manifestation of group-life. It is accordingly the fact upon which social psychology must be built up, and from which it must proceed in functionally interpreting the life of society. The fundamental fact in social psychology is, therefore, the social coördination..
While the social coördination may be objectively defined as the acting together of the individual organisms of a group in some particular way, subjectively it doubtless always involves, where consciousness exists, a certain psychical attitude of the individual members of the group toward each other. At least in so far as concerns human society, the social coördination may be subjectively defined as the mental attitude which the individuals of a group maintain toward each other. Thus in a family group the mental attitude of its members toward each other is an expression of their common group-life and group-activities, and may be expected to change as those activities change. It is evident that we have here to do with the beginnings of social organization. The acting together of tile individual organisms
( 813) of a group in some particular way necessitates relationships among the members of the group, varying according to the part which each member plays in the functioning of the whole These varying relationships subjectively involve varying mental attitudes of the members of the group toward each other. Now, the mental attitude of one member of a group toward another is necessarily that of authority, subordination, equality. or some variation of these three primary "forms of association."  Hence the social coördination is the beginning of social organization both on its conscious and unconscious sides. The psychical attitude of the members of a group toward each other is the initial stage of social organization on its conscious side; while from the necessity of functional relationship in a common life-process springs social organization in both its aspects. The organization of any group is accordingly an outcome of its group coordinations, of its life-process as a group. All social organization, then, is but an expression of social coordination ; and it is from this point of view that. social organization must be studied if it is to be functionally understood.
It may be objected that "social coördination" is but a new name for the phenomenon of coöperation. The very definitions which have been given of social coördination, it may be urged, validate the objection. The reply is that if by "coöperation " is meant all that we mean by "social coordination," then there is no objection to the use of the term "cooperation." But both popularly and by scientific writers the term "cooperation" has been used in a much more restricted sense. It implies just that element of consciousness on the part of the individuals engaged in group-action which the term "social coördination" is especially designed to exclude. Thus Professor Giddings speaks of cooperation as requiring "unity of purpose and of method on the part of two or more individuals," and says: "'there can be no cooperation except among those who are, in good degree., like-minded, and who are so far conscious of their agreement
( 814) that they can intelligently plan their common activity." In another place he says : "There must be . . . . a perception by each of the coöperating individuals that . . . . all have the same interest, and that all are endeavoring to accomplish the same end." These statements of Professor Giddings involve, we believe, a correct definition of the term "coöperation" in its usual acceptation. But the large amount of consciousness which they imply on the part of coöperating individuals is just what is often noticeably absent in that acting together of the members of a group which we have called the social coordination. So far from being conscious of any purpose or end, the individual is usually in group-activities unconscious of the connection of his act either with his own life-process or with that of the group. He is conscious, if at all, generally only of the gratification or working out of an instinctive impulse. Especially among lower forms the end which controls the activity cannot be supposed to exist for the consciousness of the form. Consciousness of the task to be performed, of the end to be reached, in the acting together of members of a group would seem to be the exception rather than the rule, if we take into view the group-life of the whole organic world; while consciousness of the "acting together" as a definite means to an end is a still rarer phenomenon. The psychical attitude which social coördination involves (where consciousness exists) on the part of the coördinated individuals is not a consciousness of "acting together," or even of a definite task to be performed, but rather a feeling or sense of relationship to one another. The social coördination, in other words, comes into consciousness only at a relatively late period in mental development, and then only when some new condition necessitates the reconstruction of the coördination. It is evident, then, that if the term "coöperation" is used to cover all cases of social coördination, it must be used wholly in an objective sense and must be stripped of its usual implication of consciousness. If used in this sense, there is no objection to saying, as Spencer does, " Social life in its entirety
(815) is carried on by cooperation;" and the proposition would be equally true if the limiting adjective were dropped. On account of the narrowed meaning of the word in popular usage, however, it would be better, in our estimation, to borrow a term like "coordination" from a science which in its essentials is one with social psychology, and to retain the word "cooperation" for those cases to which it manifestly applies : namely, the cases of social coordination which have come more or less fully into consciousness.
A social coordination which has once been successfully established, as in the case of the coordination in the individual organism, tends to persist, or becomes a social habit. Social habits are the basis of all activities of group-life. Every new social coördination, every new adaptation in the group-life, is made upon the basis of already existing social habits. Without the fixity or definiteness which social habit gives to the forms of group-activities there could be no group-life, as unity and stability to the group would be lacking. On the other hand, too great fixity of social habit gives rise to many of the abnormal phenomena of societary life. As in the case of the individual, if the social habit does not retain a certain amount of flexibility, enabling the group to adapt its activities to a constantly changing environment, then it becomes of disadvantage to the group in its life-struggle causing pathologic conditions, and even the disintegration and destruction of the group. Social habits pass insensibly into customs and institutions. The term "custom" is, indeed, almost synonymous with the term "social habit." But customs are usually thought of as peculiar to the group, that is, as the habits which distinguish one group from another. Thus an almost universally prevalent social habit, like the storing up of food products for future consumption, is rarely spoken of as a custom.. Institutions are social habits which have received a peculiar social sanction and which have been organized more or less fully into the structure of the group. Forms of marriage, property, government, religion, and the like become such. From the point of view of social psychology, at least, an institution is not an individual invention. It is rather an organized mode of
( 816) societary activity, a social habit, which has been of such life-saving advantage to the group that the authority and sanction of the group as a whole have been conferred upon it. Laws are formal expressions of social habits which have come into consciousness. They are established by the group for the sake of greater control over the habit. Nearly the same thing may be said of ethical rules which have been approved by the group. Habit, then, is a category which applies to societary as well as to individual life. It is a fundamental category in interpreting the psychical life of society, if that interpretation proceeds from a functional point of view.
With the idea of transition as applied to social life we are already familiar. In the terminology of social psychology a social transition is obviously a transition from one social habit to another, from one social coördination to another. In the face of new life-conditions social habits, like individual habits, must be readjusted. In other words, the old social coördination breaks down and the phenomenon of adaptation, of building up a new social coördination, arises. It is here that some of the most important of societary phenomena come in. Where processes of discrimination, association, and attention in the individual aid in building up a new coördination, processes of discussion, social suggestion, and social selection in the group come in to construct the new social coördination. The process of discussion, which may be called the societary process of discrimination, represents especially the breakdown of the old social coördination, while the processes of social suggestion and social selection particularly represent the building up of the new coördination. In human society, at least, all these processes may arise in the transition from one coördination to another, that is, in the adaptation of the group life-process to some new condition in either the external or the internal environment. Adaptation, then, is a fact of group-life as well as of individual life, and next to coördination the most fundamental and important fact.
Thus in theory the categories and principles of a functional psychology of the individual seem to apply in a subjective inter-
( 817) -pretation of the social life. Let us now see how they fit into the concrete facts of the social process, and whether or a not they will serve at all to interpret that process in its various phases. The case of political revolutions furnishes us a good illustration with which to begin, both because revolutions are such striking facts in the social process, and because from a sociological point of view no satisfactory theory of revolutions has yet been proposed.
The transition from one habit to another is not always an easy thing either for individuals or social groups. Where the habit has become inflexible, where peculiar conditions in the inner or outer environment prevent the normal break-up of the habit, in short, where power of adaptation has for any reason been lost, violent disturbances of the psychical life are apt to take place in the change from one habit to another. Especially is this the case when the habit to be changed is a general one which affects the whole life-process. From a psychological point of view revolutions are such disturbances in the psychical life of society, produced by the breaking down of a social habit under abnormal conditions. Where social habits have for any reason become inflexible—as is so often the case with institutions, bolstered up and exploited as they frequently are by class interest even though they are opposed to the interest of the society as a whole— in the face of new life-conditions there is apt to be a revolution. Instead of the gradual and peaceful transformation of one social habit into another which ordinarily goes on in society, in a revolution we witness the sudden and violent breakdown of social habits which have long outlived their usefulness to the social process. The breakdown is sudden because the old habit has been sustained until accumulating opposing tendencies have overwhelmed it; it is violent just in proportion as hindrances stand in its way. Instead of the ordinary period of uncertainty and confusion which normally follows the breakdown of a habit both in the individual and in society, in revolution we have a period of great confusion, at times amounting even to absolute disorganization or anarchy. The confusion and disorganization are, of course, proportionate to the importance
( 818) of the habit in the societary life-process and to the completeness and suddenness of the breakdown. The recuperative vigor of a society may be such that a new social coördination, adapted to the new life-conditions, will speedily be constructed, which will put an end to the reign of confusion and anarchy. Or, where a society has largely lost its power of adaptation, the effort to build up a new coördination, adapted to the new life-conditions, may repeatedly fail, as it did in the case of the French Revolution. Under such circumstances we have a series of unsuccessful experiments, extending over a longer or shorter period of time, in building up new social coördinations ; hence there may be a series of revolutions, each of which may add to the confusion and anarchy already existing. For such a society often the only hope of avoiding disintegration is to find or "select " an individual who, when clothed with sovereign authority, shall be capable of reorganizing and readjusting the societary life in accordance with the new conditions ; hence the tendency to dictatorship which revolution often breeds. The phenomena of revolutions are thus susceptible of interpretation through the application of the categories and principles of a functional psychology. Such a subjective interpretation needs, of course, to be supplemented by an objective interpretation ; but the important thing we wish here to be noted is that a social psychology built up upon the facts of coördination and adaptation in social life has a theory of revolutions to offer. That theory is, in summary, that revolutions are caused by the breakdown of social habits under abnormal conditions, such as we have noted above; that, in other words, the phenomena of revolutions are all susceptible of interpretation as phenomena which in principle may arise in any psychical organism in the transition from one habit to another under like abnormal conditions.
It is recognized that the theory of revolutions here proposed is not wholly new, but is implicit in the writings of many historians and social thinkers. Nevertheless, this is the first explicit statement of the theory that we know of. It is introduced here, in a discussion of the principles upon which a social psychology must be built up, as a theory growing out of our point of view
( 819) and illustrating the application of that point of view to the concrete problems of social life.
In a similar manner the principles of interpretation furnished by a functional psychology may be applied to other social problems. Though we can but roughly apply our principles in most instances, there is, so far as we have been able to discover, no case of change within a society to which such principles of interpretation will not apply, and upon which they will not throw some light, whether the transition be one occupying a few years or a century. Let us now, for the sake of further illustration, take another concrete case in which the transition has been gradual and unattended by violent disturbance in the social process. The semi-patriarchal type of family which prevailed in Christendom up to the present century has been gradually breaking down. It has been unfitted to meet the new conditions of modern life. The old social habit has been going to pieces, and the usual confusion, uncertainty, and disorganization, attendant upon the breakdown of an important habit, have been manifested. Divorces have increased, and irregular forms of union have been, perhaps, more common. But in the meanwhile a new type of family, a new social habit, has been forming. By discussion, continuous social suggestion, social selection of ideas and ideals — processes familiar in every period of transition in human society — a new social coördination is being built tip. We have every reason to believe, therefore, that when the process of social selection has been completed, any ideas adequate to the construction of a new social coordination, adapted to the present life-conditions, have been found, there will be a return to comparative fixity in the form of family life. A new type of family, in other words, will have emerged, a new social habit will have been formed. Present disturbances in family life, then, are to be regarded largely as phenomena attendant upon a transitionary stage, when an old social habit has broken down and a new habit has not yet been formed. Thus the principles of a functional social psychology may throw light upon present social phenomena and problems as well as upon those of the past. Hundreds of illustrations of the application of the principles
( 820) and categories of functional psychology to societary changes might be drawn from industrial, political, and social history, but space permits only the giving of the above two.
The fact must here be noted that the breakdown of a social habit is not always followed by the building up of a new one in its place. The breakdown may be a sign, not of adaptation, but of social degeneration or dissolution ; or a social habit may be simply "weeded out," as it were, because it has become of disadvantage to the society in the life-struggle. With societies not degenerate, however, the breakdown of a social habit of any importance or value in the life-process is always followed by the building up of a new social habit. With societies which, though not degenerate, yet contain a large number of degenerate individuals, the building-up process may occupy a period of centuries, and may involve (as it always does implicitly involve) a selection of individuals, as well as of psychical stimuli, ideas, etc.; but the new social habit comes in time, if the society survives. Before the church, for example, succeeded in building up a new type of family life, at the beginning of our era, upon the ruins of the patriarchal Roman type, a process of selection involving both individuals and ideas had to go on for centuries ; but the Christian type of family of the Middle Ages was finally evolved. In any such case, where certain individuals in a society are hindrances to the building up of a new social habit necessary to the survival or development of the society, the tendency manifestly is to select those individuals whose beliefs, ideals, and general psychical attitude are favorable to the construction of the new social coördination, arid to suppress the others.
A word may here, perhaps, appropriately be said in reference to social selection. Professor James and Professor Baldwin are right in emphasizing the importance of social selection in the societary process. But neither has given any adequate reason why one individual or one idea is "selected," rather than another individual or another idea. Both have failed to show the basis upon which society makes its selection from the variations produced by individuals, utilizing some, rejecting others. Both are practically content to state the fact that society selects, without
(821) inquiring into the causes of the selection. From our point of view it is obvious that social selection is exactly analogous to the selection which goes on in the individual through the process of attention in the building up of a new coördination. Society selects ideas and individuals, in other words, upon the basis of their utility in building up or maintaining its coordinations. It is especially in the building up of new social habits that the process of social selection is manifest. A Napoleon could never have been so acceptable to the French people if the nation as a whole had not been striving to build up new and stable institutions after the repeated failures of its revolutionary governments. If a Napoleon had not been found by the French people, some other, inferior individual would have been selected to perform his task. Concerning Cromwell, or any other great historical personage, essentially the same may be said as concerning Napoleon, namely, that he was "called forth," selected, "by the social needs of the hour," the need being the reconstruction of some societary activity. The social selection of ideas is made upon the same basis as that of individuals. Those ideas, beliefs, ideals, philosophies, psychical attitudes, etc., are selected by a society which aid it in building up new coördinations or maintaining old ones. Ideas survive, not because of any inherent fitness to survive, nor yet because of their "fitness for imitative reproduction," as some would maintain, but because of their utility  in the social life-process. If it be asked why certain ideas arise and permeate entire societies at certain periods, the answer, from the point of view maintained throughout this paper, must be, because such ideas are selected by the social life-process to aid in building up new coordinations. The genesis of the states of the social mind, in other words, is not different from the genesis of the states of the individual mind. Ideas make and unmake the world, not because they are forces outside of the life-process, but because of their connection with that process;
(222) because they are, as it were, tools forged by it for its own development and perfecting.
We are tempted to follow farther the application of the principles and categories of functional psychology in the interpretation of the phenomena of the social life, but the scope of this paper does not permit. Criticism of theories which do not seem to accord with the point of view of this article must also be left till a later date. In the meanwhile, if this article succeeds in arousing a candid and careful consideration of its chief proposition, namely, that a social psychology can be constructed upon the fundamental principles and categories of a functional psychology of the individual, its main purpose will be accomplished. What we have said has been in the way of illustrating this proposition. It has been an attempt to demonstrate the possibility of constructing, rather than to construct, such a social psychology.
CHARLES A. ELLWOOD.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO.