The Measurement of Social Forces

Franklin H. Giddings

A TRUE and complete description of anything must include measurements of it. Even identification of it may turn on dimensions. A memorandum on a police blotter would hardly "nail" a crook if it recorded only such qualitative facts as color of eyes and hair, omitting to mention height or weight, not to speak of lesser items of the Bertillon scheme.

There has been a good deal of unprecise talk among sociologists and social workers about "social forces." For quacks and amateurs the phrase is charged with "mana." It creates an illusion of knowledge at command which suspends intellectual animation, and may end in mental coma. To scientific inquirers able to keep their heads it offers possibilities not yet exploited.

Social forces there are; obvious in manifestation or detected by accident, subtle in working or terrific in explosion, and so far known; but they are not yet brought within scientific description, certainly not within the quantitative formulation characteristic of our familiar descriptions of thermo-dynamic, chemical, and electromagnetic forces. Therefore, they are not always correctly identified and classified. The lists of social forces that we now and then encounter in books, are impressive for other reasons than scientific value. To cite an item that recurs in more than one of them, many list-makers following Ward, name appetites and desires among primordial social forces. So they are, if all one means is that they are relatively elemental factors of social situations and happenings ; but so also, in this sense, are gravitation and the precession of the equinoxes ; and neither the one pair of forces nor the other offers us a hint as to the nature of society, its origin, or what it is likely to do next. The sociologist, casting about for a working hypothesis, would be in better luck if his intuition turned to-well, let us say, the group-assembling power of eclipses or of medicinal springs.

In measuring anything, tangible or intangible, it is necessary to remember that the measuring process begins with counting items or units, and that all subsequent procedures are statistical operations. Measuring instruments are either (1)devices for precise delimitation of the units to be counted, or (2) devices for counting many units at once, as when we count twelve inches at a time by means of a foot rule or sixteen ounces at a time by means of a pound weight, or (3) devices for giving us ratios, the slide rule for example.

In measuring forces it is necessary to remember that it is impossible to measure them directly. We can measure them only in terms of what they do. For example, the kinetic energy of water falling from a height through a turbine, of an uncoiling spring, of super-heated steam back of a piston head, of an electric current, is measured by the number of pounds it can lift one foot in one second, or by any equivalent "work." The intellectual or moral force of a man is measurable to the extent, and only to the extent, that he "does things" which can be described in terms of units of 'accomplishment.

Furthermore, "work," "accomplishment," "something done," is always resolvable into one or the other of two concrete things, or into a combination of the two. These two things are: (1) a modification or a transformation of a condition or of conditions, as for example, the draining of a bog, the repairing of a house, the washing of a boy's face; (2) "starting something," "keeping something going," stimulating behavior and maintaining it, in short, "carrying on." To the extent, and only to the extent, that

( 2) these concretes can be resolved into units that can be discriminated, identified, delimited and counted, "work" can be measured.

Finally, measurements can be "checked up" in various ways. Three of them are important, and where all can be used, the measurement is approximately verifiable.

The first way is given us in the fact that all forces known to man, whether they are of the group that we call physical, or of the group that we call moral, are identified with concrete material bodies which store and carry them ; and their possibilities of manifestation in kinetic energy, capable of 'doing work, are roughly proportional to such facts as the size, weight, number, composition, known qualities, and position, of the carriers. If, therefore, a smoking-car acquaintance tells you that half a ton of coal, thrown into the fire-box of a ninety ton locomotive, once pulled one hundred flat cars, loaded with pig iron up a twenty per cent grade for fifty miles, you know that he is a moron, an ignoramus, or a child of Adam in whom original sin has not been impaired by age. Or if, to take an instance from the human field, a pan-racial egalitarian tells you that Bushmen, Hottentots, Congo Pigmies and Philippine negritos, brought together in regiments and armed with javelins, could go through a Verdun, Chantilly, or Belleau Wood battle front, you have a similar "line" on him. Or, even if, to take one instance from politics, an assertive mind with democratic convictions tells you that the moron half of the American population is capable of electing Congressmen who, in their turn, are capable of knowing what "all the shooting is 'for" when a tariff bill or a League of Nations resolution is under debate, you can place him in one or another of the above named three categories, according to taste. In short, the identification of forces with concrete complexes of fact enables us to perceive immediately the limits within which our measurements certainly must lie and to know that if we have obtained a result which jumps over them we have made somewhere a preposterous error. It would seem that anything more obvious than this truth would be hard to discover, and yet alleged physical measurements in contempt of it, speculative values that jeer at it, and prosperity or calamity predictions that blaspheme it, are daily fed to a voracious public.

The second way of checking up is given us in the fact that every manifestation of force is associated with other manifestations, every condition with other conditions, every known mode of behavior with other modes. Three examples will suffice for my present purpose.

One : there is an association, which sometimes is a low, and sometimes is a high correlation, between an artificial transformation of conditions and money cost; and conditions affected by money outlay, if repeated or duplicated, have an average cost. Wide departure of any other measure of artificial transformation from this average, or usual, cost is a caution signal.

Two : there is an association which may be a low or a high correlation, between money expenditure and a transformation of conditions; For example, per capita expenditure for schools provides more education in one place than in another, and at one time than at another, but there are prevailing average relations between expenditure and such facts as number of school houses, number of school days in the year, and average attendance ; and these !averages must be kept in sight when making measurements of educational conditions.

Three : there is a correlation between the modifiability (and therefore the improvability) of human behavior and the organic mechanisms which we call brains. That instincts can be "reconditioned" (detached from old stimuli and made to react to new ones) we know; that habits can be taught and acquired, we know ; that morale can be improved, army discipline has demonstrated. But, also, we know (or we can know if we will take the trouble to find out about it) that not all physiological and not all psychological elements, and not all the various ethnical complexes of physiological and psychological factors that compose a population, are equally teachable. Measurements of social betterments that do not check up with these facts should be held under suspicion.

The third way of checking up consists in having all observations of fact (i. e. 'all identifications and delimitations of the units to be counted) made by more than one observer and at different times in like manner, to have all countings, distributions, totalings and analyzings of countings, made by more than one individual; and finally, to carry out the usual statistical pro-

( 3) -cedures of comparing the individual results, and obtaining the probable error. Happily, it can now be said that economists, sociologists and social workers will be hereafter no more able than civil or electrical engineers, biologists or psychologists to hold down their jobs if they are ignorant of statistical logic and methods.

The mechanical equivalent of molecular, atomic, or electronic energy (for example, the mechanical equivalent of heat, or of electricity) is determinable with accuracy and is used in obtaining theoretical work-values, which, however, are not true measures of our resources of unexpended energy available for work. Resources are energies stored and carried in material bodies, and these are not (homogeneous. Two apparently equivalent lots of wood, or coal, or oil, turn out to be not strictly equivalent in combustion. Therefore, our measures of resources (which often are the measures that we most need) are estimates only. They are derived from statistical frequencies, trends, and averages, and their value (i. e. their approximation to accurate measures) depends on the extent and representativeness of the data available.

How much work should a ton of coal of a given quality do? How many cubic feet of earth should ten men throw into a cart in an hour? How many families, dwelling two or three miles apart in a rural county, should a visiting nurse be able to look after sufficiently to insure each against any real neglect, to instruct mothers and children in essentials of health-protection, and attend to usual emergencies ? What may reasonably be expected of a school superintendent in an agricultural county? What may reasonably be expected of an agricultural experiment station of a stated endowment and income? These questions, and thousands like them, are answerable only in terms of averages, obtained, in each instance, from a large number of representative cases.

Let us now return to social forces, and examine more particularly their characteristics, and the problem of their measurableness.

And first, what are they? The first step towards exact knowledge of anything is to define it, by discriminating it (from other things) and delimiting it.

The term "social forces," as I have intimated, is loosely used; in fact, so loosely that it has acquired at least three different meanings. (1) There are energies that do not originate in society but which often produce social results. Conditions and circumstances, including hardships and dangers, that drive men into consorting and coöperation are in this sense social forces. It would be better to call forces that produce social results "socializing forces", whether they originate outside of society or within it. (2) Tremendous energies that originate in society produce results that may or may not be social in quality. Riots and lynchings, for example, are not. It would be well to call these energies "societal," regardless of the quality of what they do. (3) Then we should have, as the intelligible and accepted definition of "social forces," all energies that both originate in society and produce social results: the socializing forces that are societal, and the societal forces that are socializing.

What, then, is a social result?

Any thing, or quality inherent in association and inseparable from society is "social." "Society is any considerable number of human beings living and working together, and more or less enjoying themselves with one another; and a lot of ways, more or less organized into arrangements, and more or less made orderly by precedents and rules, in which we, human beings; carry on and help one another to make life secure and desirable."[1] It is a product of association, and association is by a by-product of the collective, or pluralistic, mode of the struggle for existence. Collective struggle, by comparison with struggle by solitary units, multiplies the chances of life. Society further multiplies chances, and makes life increasingly desirable, by deliberated policies and procedures, and reactions consequent upon them.

These policies and procedures assert, attempt, and largely achieve control. They are comprehensive, but in particular they undertake to determine, regulate, or otherwise govern, the following matters : defense and aggression ; resources and opportunities ; migrations, and the composition of populations; language, religion, education and morale; conditions and conduct affecting health and physical integrity ; employment ; income; social organization, from the family to the state, from master and servant to corporation and labor union, from bloc to political party.

( 4) These controls affect each successive generation for the term of its natural life. Policies and procedures themselves, and their content of knowledge, are handed on from generation to generation in tradition and by systematic teaching, but not in biological heredity. Habits and knowledge have to be built up from their elements, as individual acquisitions, by each new-born child.

The reactions consequent upon control are : (1) A type-making constraint, which supplements natural selection, '(a) by killing off kindreds that are composed of individuals or groups which are too quarrelsome, intolerant and unscrupulous for social cohesion; a killing off which gives a survival chance to whatever germ-plasm bears and hands on sympathetic and scrupulous impulses ;' (b) by killing off kindreds, and in the long run races, that are incapable of acquiring and using knowledge, or of being used (and, therefore, bred and protected, as cattle are) by knowledge-using stocks. (2) Explosions of self-determination assertative .of liberty, and of ethical impulses repressive of exploitation. Large-scale exploitation undoes past achievement by giving a reproductive advantage to exploited stupidity. Therefore, the emotional and dogmatic explosions that repress it have a fortunate consequence, not always foreseen by the participant crusaders but vital to civilization. (3) A struggle between natural superiors and natural inferiors, taking form in class warfare, in rules and laws in restraint of ability, in egalitarian experiments, and in social revolution and counter-revolution. A normal outcome is the elimination of kindreds, classes, and societies in which inferiors have exterminated or by fecundity have submerged superiors, and have become ascendant.

In society (understanding by the word all the particulars that it denotes, including ways and arrangements of associative life, policies and procedures, reactions, products, and wastes) are comprised all the results effected by social forces. They are the work, the whole work, .and nothing but the work, that social forces do. Therefore, they are the measures, and the only possible measures ,of social forces.

But is this work, then, itself measurable, in a strict meaning of the word: is it measurable in terms of units that can be delimited and counted?

We need not waste energy in arguing that society in its unanalyzed integrity is not; that its ways and arrangements are not ; that its policies and procedures are not ; and that such general reactions as tradition and opinion, faith and enlightenment, utilities and values, cohesion and liberty, conflict and survival, are not. What remains?

There are further products—proximate and ulterior—of social turmoil and evolution, which, in a statistical sense of the word, are tangible, and these, happily for sociology, are measurable. Although they are obviously only a part of the work that social forces do, and measures of them therefore are obviously not truly measures of the social forces at work (which, it now appears, are not really measurable at all) these products of social evolution are measures of the effectiveness of social forces, and are of scientific value.

Social forces directed by knowledge, and discharging themselves through the mechanism of social organization, have increased the per capita food supply of the human race and diminished the chances of death by starvation. They have made it possible to diminish the annual number, per million individuals, of deaths and disabling injuries by accident and violence. The possibility would become reality if our "enlightened" population contained more men and women of B and A intelligence and fewer morons. Per million deaths and disabilities from endemic and epidemic diseases have been diminished. The ratio of safe, sanitary and decent housing to population has been increased. Income earning opportunity per capita has been increased. In civilized lands education has been provided for nearly all who have the will to avail themselves of it.

These concrete products of social forces are outstanding by reason of their importance. There are many others that need not be named. All are measurable statistically in various ways, but most conveniently and perhaps most accurately by the approximation to zero of the number of disabilities and deaths from such specific causes as famine, accident and disease, and by the approximation to zero likewise, of the number of unsafe, unwholesome and indecent dwellings, individuals unemployed, and illiterates.

These measures .are representative of condi-

( 5) -tions, or factors, which are necessary for the emergence of an ulterior product of social evolution, namely, an adequate mankind. Human society is not an end in itself, it is only a means. The normal outcome of social dynamism and functioning is the conservation and development of men and women adequate to carry on a relatively desirable life, .to make it yet more desirable, and to hand it on, so bettered, to posterity.

In what then does adequacy consist? Answers to this question a generation ago were more or less wrong. Our later biology, and a psychology that is rooted in biology, have given us an answer that we can rely on, and can build our statesmanship upon if we have sense enough to do it.

Every human being comes into the world with an equipment that is inborn (inherited) but which can be educated, disciplined and made to function within a wide range of possibility and efficiency. Society does the educating and the training, but it can affect hereditary equipment only, by selection, that is, by killing off certain types of equipment and conserving others. Adequate men and women, therefore, are men and women who, by inheritance, are anatomically normal, physiologically sound, and mentally able; who by education are equipped with knowledge, by discipline are made self-controlled, and by training are made effective; and who, finally, are fecund, reproducing their race, transmitting their hereditary qualities to a posterity which, so equipped with ability, will conserve and increase knowledge, improve education, perfect discipline, and increase the desirableness of life.

Provided with this description and conception of adequacy, we perceive that human beings are not equal as individuals (as mentalized organisms) and that they never can be, however democratic our laws and institutions may become. Every population is seen to be made up of grades, or strata. Roughly, these correspond to distinctions made in popular speech. There are natural superiors (i. e. superiors made so by nature and not by law) natural mediocres, and natural inferiors. Natural superiors have intelligence above C (on the marking scale of the now-familiar intelligence tests) and they have no 'hereditary defect. Natural mediocres have an intelligence of C and no hereditary defect.

Natural inferiors have intelligence below C, or they have other hereditary defect.

If with these qualities we combine fecundity, as for sociological purposes we must, we get five grades, namely : A. Natural superiors who maintain a high birth rate, thereby transmitting their high qualities to posterity. B. Natural superiors whose birth rate is low; they serve their generation, and their thoughts and achievements may serve posterity, but their qualities die with them. C. Natural mediocres; their birth rate may be high or low; whatever posterity they have will be mediocre. D. In fecund natural inferiors;- they are harmful while they live, but they do not transmit harmful qualities to posterity. E. Natural inferiors who maintain a high birth rate ; the men and women of this grade are wholly harmful; collectively they are a vast anti-social force.

All social forces are generated in grades A and B. They carry the entire load of social work. All progress is their achievement. Intelligence tests indicate that grade A comprises only four and one-half per cent of our total population and grade B only nine and one-half per cent.

It is the new statistical material provided by the intelligence tests (not only the army tests but also the tests which are everywhere being made in schools and in industries and which, on the whole, are remarkably confirming the results of the army tests) which enable us now by combining them with older statistical materials to arrive at a general measure of adequacy; a measure which enables sociology at last to advance with sure steps upon the scientific road of quantitative prevision. The measure is simple and will readily be understood by the reader who has carefully followed the foregoing observations. Adequacy, and therefore the ultimate effectiveness of social forces, is measured by two sets of correlations, namely : (1) the negative correlation of birth rate and the positive correlation of death rate with hereditary defect, (2) the.positive correlation of birth rate and the negative correlation of death rate with intelligence.

These correlations measure the net value of human society; the net value of the existing, or of any possible social order. They measure that hitherto indefinable thing, progress.

They should be ascertained, not only for entire populations, but also for component and con-

( 6) -stituent groups, because the shifting of these, when so measured, will indicate the trend of our civilization. They should be ascertained for color races, for the native and the foreign born,

for nationalities, for local communities, for kindreds and families, for the adherents of religions and sects, for the alumni of colleges and universities, and for occupations.


No notes

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2