Mind Self and Society
Section 34 The Community and the Institution
There are what I have termed "generalized social attitudes" which make an organized self possible. In the community there
(261) are certain ways of acting under situations which are essentially identical, and these ways of acting on the part of anyone are those which we excite in others when we take certain steps. If we assert our rights, we are calling for a definite response just because they are rights that are universal-a response which everyone should, and perhaps will, give. Now that response is present in our own nature; in some degree we are ready to take that same attitude toward somebody else if he makes the appeal. When we call out that response in others, we can take the attitude of the other and then adjust our own conduct to it. There are, then, whole series of such common responses in the community in which we live, and such responses are what we term "institutions." The institution represents a common response on the part of all members of the community to a particular situation. This common response is one which, of course, varies with the character of the individual. In the case of theft the response of the sheriff is different from that of the attorney-general, from that of the judge and the jurors, and so forth; and yet they all are responses which maintain property, which involve the recognition of the property right in others. There is a common response in varied forms. And these variations, as illustrated in the different officials, have an organization which gives unity to the variety of the responses. One appeals to the policeman for assistance, one expects the state's attorney to act, expects the court and its various functionaries to carry out the process of the trial of the criminal. One does take the attitude of all of these different officials as involved in the very maintenance of property; all of them as an organized process are in some sense found in our own natures. When we arouse such attitudes, we are taking the attitude of what I have termed a " generalized other." Such organized sets of response are related to each other; if one calls out one such set of responses, he is implicitly calling out others as well.
Thus the institutions of society are organized forms of group or social activity-forms so organized that the individual members of society can act adequately and socially by taking the
(262) attitudes of others toward these activities. Oppressive, stereotyped, and ultra-conservative social institutions-like the church-which by their more or less rigid and inflexible unprogressiveness crush or blot out individuality, or discourage any distinctive or original expressions of thought and behavior in the individual selves or personalities implicated in and subjected to them, are undesirable but not necessary outcomes of the general social process of experience and behavior. There is no necessary or inevitable reason why social institutions should be oppressive or rigidly conservative, or why they should not rather be, as many are, flexible and progressive, fostering individuality rather than discouraging it. In any case, without social institutions of some sort, without the organized social attitudes and activities by which social institutions are constituted, there could be no fully mature individual selves or personalities at all; for the individuals involved in the general social life-process of which social institutions are organized manifestations can develop and possess fully mature selves or personalities only in so far as each one of them reflects or prehends in his individual experience these organized social attitudes and activities which social institutions embody or represent. Social institutions, like individual selves, are developments within, or particular and formalized manifestations of, the social life-process at its human evolutionary level. As such they are not necessarily subversive of individuality in the individual members; and they do not necessarily represent or uphold narrow definitions of certain fixed and specific patterns of acting which in any given circumstances should characterize the behavior of all intelligent and socially responsible individuals (in opposition to such unintelligent and socially irresponsible individuals as morons and imbeciles), as members of the given community or social group. On the contrary, they need to define the social, or socially responsible, patterns of individual conduct in only a very broad and general sense, affording plenty of scope for originality, flexibility, and variety of such conduct; and as the main formalized functional aspects or phases of the whole organized struc-
(263) -ture of the social life-process at its human level they properly partake of the dynamic and progressive character of that process.
There are a great number of institutionalized responses which are, we often say, arbitrary, such as the manners of a particular community. Manners in their best sense, of course, cannot be distinguished from morals, and are nothing but the expression of the courtesy of an individual toward people about him. They ought to express the natural courtesy of everyone to everyone else. There should be such an expression, but of course a great many habits for the expression of courtesy are quite arbitrary. The ways to greet people are different in different communities; what is appropriate in one may be an offense in another. The question arises whether a certain manner which expresses a courteous attitude may be what we term "conventional." In answer to this we propose to distinguish between manners and conventions. Conventions are isolated social responses which would not come into, or go to make up, the nature of the community in its essential character as this expresses itself in the social reactions. A source of confusion would lie in identifying manners and morals with conventions, since the former are not arbitrary in the sense that conventions are. Thus conservatives identify what is a pure convention with the essence of a social situation; nothing must be changed. But the very distinction to which I have referred is one which implies that these various institutions, as social responses to situations in which individuals are carrying out social acts, are organically related to each other in a way which conventions are not.
Such interrelation is one of the points which is brought out, for example, in the economic interpretation of history. It was first presented more or less as a party doctrine by the Marxian socialists, implying a particular economic interpretation. It has now passed over into the historian's technique with a recognition that if he can get hold of the real economic situation, which is, of course, more accessible than most social expressions, he can work out from that to the other expressions and institutions of the community. Medieval economic institutions enable one to interpret the other institutions of the period. One can get at the economic situation directly and, following that out, can find what the other institutions were, or must have been. Institutions, manners, or words, present in a certain sense the life-habits of the community as such; and when all individual acts toward others in, say, economic terms, he is calling out not simply a single response but a whole group of related responses.
The same situation prevails in a physiological organism. If the balance of a person who is standing is disturbed, this calls for a readjustment which is possible only in so far as the affected parts of the nervous system lead to certain definite and interconnected responses. The different parts of the reaction can be isolated, but the organism has to act as a whole. Now it is true that an individual living in society lives in a certain sort of organism which reacts toward him as a whole) and he calls out by his action this more or less organized response. There is perhaps under his attention only some very minor fraction of this organized response-he considers, say, only the passage of a certain amount of money. But that exchange could not take place without the entire economic organization, and that in turn involves all the other phases of the group life. The individual can go any time from one phase to the others, since he has in his own nature the type of response which his action calls for. In taking any institutionalized attitude he organizes in some degree the whole social process, in proportion as he is a complete self.
The getting of this social response into the individual constitutes the process of education which takes over the cultural
(265) media of the community in a more or less abstract way. Education is definitely the process of taking over a certain organized set of responses to one's own stimulation; and until one can respond to himself as the community responds to him, he does not genuinely belong to the community. He may belong to a small community, as the small boy belongs to a gang rather than to the city in which he lives. We all belong to small cliques, and we may remain simply inside of them. The "organized other" present in ourselves is then a community of a narrow diameter. We are struggling now to get a certain amount of international-mindedness. We are realizing ourselves as members of a larger community. The vivid nationalism of the present period should, in the end, call out an international attitude of the larger community. The situation is analogous to that of the boy and the gang; the boy gets a larger self in proportion as he enters into this larger community. In general, the self has answered definitely to that organization of the social response which constitutes the community as such; the degree to which the self is developed depends upon the community, upon the degree to which the individual calls out that institutionalized group of responses in himself. The criminal as such is the individual who lives in a very small group, and then makes depredations upon the larger community of which he is not a member. He is taking the property that belongs to others, but he himself does not belong to the community that recognizes and preserves the rights of property.
There is a certain sort of organized response to our acts which represents the way in which people react toward us in certain situations. Such responses are in our nature because we act as
(266) members of the community toward others, and what I am emphasizing now is that the organization of these responses makes the community possible.
We are apt to assume that our estimate of the value of the community should depend upon its size. The American worships bigness as over against qualitative social content. A little community such as that of Athens produced some of the greatest spiritual products which the world has ever seen; contrast its achievements with those of the United States, and there is no need to ask whether the mere bigness of the one has any relationship to the qualitative contents of the achievements of the other. I wish to bring out the implicit universality of the highly developed, highly organized community. Now, Athens as the home of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the seat of a great metaphysical development in the same period, the birthplace of political theorists and great dramatists, actually belongs to the whole world. These qualitative achievements which we ascribe to a little community belong to it only in so far as it has the organization that makes it universal. The Athenian community rested upon slave labor and upon a political situation which was narrow and contracted, and that part of its social organization was not universal and could not be made the basis for a large community. The Roman Empire disintegrated very largely because its whole economic structure was laid on the basis of slave labor. It was not organized on a universal basis. From the legal standpoint and administrative organization it was universal, and just as Greek philosophy has come down to us so has Roman law. To the degree that any achievement of organization of a community is successful it is universal, and makes possible a bigger community. In one sense there cannot be a community which is larger than that represented by rationality, and the Greek brought rationality to its self-conscious expression. In that same sense the gospel of Jesus brought definitely
(267) to expression the attitude of neighborliness to which anyone could appeal, and provided the soil out of which could arise a universal religion. That which is fine and admirable is universal -although it may be true that the actual society in which the universality can get its expression has not arisen.
Politically, America has, in a certain sense, given universality to what we term "self-government." The social organization of the Middle Ages existed under feudalism and craft guilds. The immediate social organizations in which there was self-government were all particular provisional guilds or particular communities. What has happened in America is that we have generalized the principle of self-government so that it is the essential agency of political control of the whole community. If that type of control is made possible there is theoretically no limit to the size of the community. In that sense alone would political bigness become an expression of the achievement of the community itself.
The organization, then, of social responses makes it possible for the individual to call out in himself not simply a single response of the other but the response, so to speak, of the community as a whole. That is what gives to an individual what we term "mind." To do anything now means a certain organized response; and if one has in himself that response, he has what we term "mind." We refer to that response by the symbols which serve, as the means by which such responses are called out. To
(268) use the terms "government," "property," "family," is to bring out, as we say, the meaning they have. Now, those meanings rest upon certain responses. A person who has in himself the universal response of the community toward that which he does, has in that sense the mind of the community. As a scientist) we will say, one's community consists of an his colleagues, but this community includes anyone who can understand what is said. The same is true of literature. The size of its audience is a functional one; if the achievement of organization is obtained, it may be of any size. Bigness may in this sense be an indication of qualitative achievement. That which is great is always in one sense objective, it is always universal. The mental development of the individual consists in getting in himself these organized responses in their implicated relationships to each other.
The rational phase of it, that which goes with what we term "language," is the symbol; and this is the means, the mechanism, by which the response is carried out. For effective cooperation one has to have the symbols by means of which the responses can be carried out, so that getting a significant language is of first importance. Language implies organized responses; and the value, the implication of these responses, is to be found in the community from which this organization of responses is taken over into the nature of the individual himself. The significant symbol is nothing but that part of the act which serves as a gesture to call out the other part of the process, the response of the other, in the experience of the form that makes the gesture. The use of symbols is then of the highest importance, even when carried to the point attained in mathematics, where one can take the symbols and simply combine them in accordance with the rules of the mathematical community to which they belong without knowing what the symbols mean. In fact, in such fields one has to abstract from the meaning of the symbols; there is here a process of carrying on the rational process of reasoning without knowing what the meaning is. We are dealing with x and y, and how these can be combined with each other; we do not know in advance to what they apply. Al-
(269) -though symbols under certain conditions can be handled in such a fashion, we do, after all, bring them to earth and apply them. The symbols as such are simply ways of calling out responses. They are not bare words, but words that do answer to certain responses; and when we combine a certain set of symbols, we inevitably combine a certain set of responses.
This brings up again the problem of the universal. In so far as the individual takes the attitude of the other that symbol is universal, but is it a true universal when it is so limited? Can we get beyond that limitation? The logicians' universe of discourse lays plain the extent of universality. In an earlier stage that universality was supposed to be represented in a set of logical axioms, but the supposed axioms have been found to be not universal. So that, in fact, "universal" discourse to be universal has had to be continually revised. It may represent those rational beings with whom we are in contact, and there is potential universality in such a world as that. Such would be, I suppose, the only universal that is involved in the use of significant symbols. If we can get the set of significant symbols which have in this sense a universal meaning, anyone that can talk in that language intelligently has that universality. Now, there is no limitation except that a person should talk that language, use the symbols which carry those significations; and that gives an absolute universality for anyone who enters into the language. There are, of course, different universes of discourse, but back of all, to the extent that they are potentially comprehensible to each other, lies the logicians' universe of discourse with a set of constants and propositional functions, and anyone using them will belong to that same universe of discourse. It is this which gives a potential universality to the process of communication.
I have tried to bring out the position that the society in which we belong represents an organized set of responses to certain situations in which the individual is involved, and that in so far as the individual can take those organized responses over into his own nature, and call them out by means of the symbol in the social response, he has a mind in which mental processes can go on, a mind whose inner structure he has taken from the community to which he belongs.
It is the unity of the whole social process that is the unity of the individual, and social control over the individual lies in this common process which is going on, a process which differentiates the individual in his particular function while at the same time controlling his reaction. It is the ability of the person to put himself in other people's places that gives him his cues as to what he is to do under a specific situation. It is this that gives to the man what we term his character as a member of the community; his citizenship, from a political standpoint; his membership from any one of the different standpoints in which he belongs to the community. It makes him a part of the community, and he recognizes himself as a member of it just because he does take the attitude of those concerned, and does control his own conduct in terms of common attitudes.
Our membership in the society of human beings is something that calls out very little attention on the part of the average individual. He is seldom content to build up a religion on the basis of human society in and of itself with nothing else added -the wider the extent of a religion, the fewer the people who consciously belong to it, We have not taken very seriously our membership in the human society, but it is becoming more real to us. The World War has shaken down a great many values; and we realize that what takes place in India, in Afghanistan, iii Mesopotamia, is entering into our lives, so that we are getting what we term "international mindedness." We are reacting in
(271) a way that answers to the responses of people on the other side of the human group.
The question whether we belong to a larger community is answered in terms of whether our own action calls out a response in this wider community, and whether its response is reflected back into our own conduct. Can we carry on a conversation in international terms? The question is largely a question of social organization. The necessary responses have become more definitely a part of our experience because we are getting closer to other peoples than before. Our economic organization is getting more and more worked out, so that the goods we sell in South America, in India, in China, are definitely affecting our lives. We have to be on good terms with our customers; if we are going to carry on a successful economic policy in South America, we must explain what is the meaning of the Monroe Doctrine, and so on and on.
We are getting to realize more and more the whole society to which we belong because the social organization is such that it brings out the response of the other person to our own act not only in the other person but also in ourselves. Kipling says: "East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet"; but they are meeting. The assumption has been that the response of the East to the West and of the West to the East are not comprehensible to each other. But, in fact, we find that we are awakening, that we are beginning to interchange rôles. A process of organization is going on underneath our conscious experience, and the more this organization is carried out the closer we are brought together. The more we do call out in ourselves the response which our gestures call out in the other, the more we understand him.
There is, of course, back of all this a larger community referred to in religious terms as a "blessed community," the community of a universal religion. But that, too, rests on co-opera-
(272) -tive activities. An illustration is that of the good Samaritan, where Jesus took people and showed that there was distress on the part of one which called out in the other a response which he understood; the distress of the other was a stimulus, and that stimulus called out the response in his own nature. This is the basis of that fundamental relationship which goes under the name of "neighborliness." It is a response which we all make in a certain sense to everybody. The person who is a stranger calls out a helpful attitude in ourselves, and that is anticipated in the other. It makes us all akin. It provides the common human nature on which the universal religions are all built. However, the situations under which that neighborliness may express itself are very narrow; and consequently such religions as are built up on it have to restrict human lives to just a few relationships, such as sympathy in distress, or limit themselves to expressing the emotional sides of human nature. But if the social relation can be carried on further and further then you can conceivably be a neighbor to everybody in your block, in your community, in the world, since you are brought much closer to the attitude of the other when this attitude is also called out in yourself. What is essential is the development of the whole mechanism of social relationship which brings us together, so that we can take the attitude of the other in our various life-processes.
The human individual who possesses a self is always a member of a larger social community, a more extensive social group, than that in which he immediately and directly finds himself, or to which he immediately and directly belongs. In other words, the general pattern of social or group behavior which is reflected in the respective organized attitudes-the respective integrated structures of the selves-of the individuals involved, always has a widcr reference, for those individuals, than that of its direct relation to them, namely, a reference beyond itself to a wider social environment or context of social relationships which includes it, and of which it is only a more or less limited part. And their awareness of that reference is a consequence of
(273) their being sentient or conscious beings, or of their having minds, and of the activities of reasoning which they hence carry on.