Mind Self and Society
Section 40 The Functions of Personality and Reason in Social Organization
Where a society is organized around a monarch, where people within the same state are so separate from each other that they can identify themselves with each other only through being subjects of a common monarch, then, of course, the relationship of the subject to the monarch becomes of supreme importance. It is only through such relationships that such a community can be set up and kept together. This situation is found in the ancient empires of Mesopotamia, where people of different languages and different customs had relationship only through the great kings. It provides the most immediate process of relationship; only so far as the king's authority goes, and this common basis of relationship to the king extends, has this type of society organization.
The importance of the monarch over against the feudal order lay in the fact that the king could set up relationships to the people widely separated except for the relationship with him. The king represented the people in a universal form, where previously they had no relationship to each other except the hostility of feudal communities for each other. There you get the personal relation, the relation of status, which is important in the community. The relation is, of course, that of subject to monarch. It involves the acceptance of an inferior position, but this is an acceptance which is gladly made because of the significance to the community at large which such an order makes possible. The community to which the individual belongs is typified in his relation to the king, and even under a constitutional monarchy the monarch acts to hold it together. Through the feeling of relation to the king one can get a feeling for the vast congeries of communities that do in some way hang together. In this way a situation of status makes possible that
(312) wider and larger community. It is possible through personal relationships between a sovereign and subject to constitute a community which could not otherwise be so constituted, and this fact has played a very important part in the development of states.
It is interesting to see how this situation appeared in the Roman Empire. There the relationship of the emperor to the subjects as such was one of absolute power, but it was defined in legal terms which carried over the definitions that belonged to Roman law into the relationship between the emperor and his subjects. This, however, constituted too abstract a relationship to meet the demands of the community, and the deification of the emperor under these conditions was the expression of the necessity of setting up some sort of more personal relation. When the Roman member of the community offered his sacrifice to the emperor he was putting himself into personal relationship with him, and because of that he could feel his connection with all the members in the community. Of course, the conception of the deity under those circumstances was not comparable with the conception that was developed in Christianity, but it was the setting-up of a personal relationship which in a certain sense went beyond the purely legal relations involved in the development of Roman law.
We are all familiar with this function of personality in social organization. We express it in terms of leadership or in the vague term "personality." Where an office force is organized by a good manager, we speak of his personality as playing a part. Where the action of a man in the office is more or less dependent upon his dread of a reprimand or desire for approval from the manager himself, there the element of a personal relationship of selves to each other plays a considerable part, perhaps the dominant part, in the actual social organization. It plays, of course, the dominant part in the relation of children to their parents. It is found in the relation of parents to each other. It frequently plays a part in political organization, where a leader is one whose personality awakens a warm response. It is not necessary
(313) to multiply the instances in which this sort of relationship of selves to each other in terms of personality is of importance in social organization.
It is of importance, however, to recognize the difference between that organization and an organization which is founded, we will say, upon a rational basis. If people get together, form a business corporation, look for a competent manager, discuss the candidates from the point of view of their intelligence, of their training, their past experience, and finally settle upon a certain individual; and then while they get him to take technical control, the members of the corporation of directors appointed by the stockholders undertake to determine what the policy shall be, there arises a situation in which this sort of personal relationship is not essential for the organization of this particular community. The officers are depending upon the capacity of the chosen man, and the interests of all involved in the concern, to give the needed control. just to the degree that people are intelligent in such a situation, they will organize in the recognition of functions which others have to perform, and in the realization of the necessity on the part of each of performing his own functions in order that the whole may succeed. They will look for an expert to carry out the managerial functions.
The managerial form of government is an illustration of the definite advance from an organization which depends very considerably upon personal relations to political leaders, or the devotion of parties to persons in charge, to this sort of rational organization on the basis of what a government ought to do in the community. If we can make the function of the government sufficiently clear; if a considerable portion of the community can be fairly aware of what they want the government to do; if we can get the public problems, public utilities, and so on, sufficiently before the community so that the members can say, "We want just such a sort of government; we know what results are wanted; and we are looking for a man capable of giving us those results," then that would be a rational treatment eliminating all elements of personality which have no bearing upon the func-
(314) -tion of government. It would avoid the difficulty communities labor under in running their communities by means of parties. If government is by means of parties, it is necessary to organize those parties more or less on personal relations. When a man becomes a good organizer of his ward, what is looked for in such a man is one who gets hold of people (especially those who want to profit by power), awakens their personal relations, and calls forth what is known as "loyalty." Such a situation is made necessary by party organization, and a government conducted on that basis cannot eliminate or rationalize such conditions, except under crises in which some particular issue comes before the country.
I want to indicate this dividing line between an organization depending on what the community wants to accomplish through its government and the direction of the government from the point of view of personal relations. The dependence upon personal relations we have in some sense inherited from the past. They are still essential for our own democracy. We could not get interest enough at the present time to conduct the government without falling back on the personal relations involved in political parties. But it is of interest, I think, to distinguish between these two principles of organization. So far as we have the managerial form of government, it is worth noting that where it has come in, hardly any communities have given it up. This illustrates a situation that has passed beyond personal relationships as the basis for the organization of the community. But as a rule it can be said that our various democratic organizations of society still are dependent upon personal relations for the operation of the community, and especially for the operation of the government.
These personal relations are also of very great importance in the organization of the community itself. If looked at from the functional standpoint, they may seem rather ignoble; and we generally try to cover them up. We may regard them as a way of realizing one's self by some sort of superiority to somebody else. That phase is one which goes back to the situation in which
(315) a man plumes himself when he gets somebody else in a conflict and emerges victorious. We have very frequently that sense of superiority in what seems relatively unimportant matters. We are able to hold on to ourselves in little things; in the ways in which we feel ourselves to be a little superior. If we find ourselves defeated at some point we take refuge in feeling that somebody else is not as good as we are. Any person can find those little supports for what is called his self-respect. The importance of this phenomenon comes out in the relation of groups to each other. The individual who identifies himself with the group has the sense of an enlarged personality. So the conditions under which this satisfaction can be obtained are the conditions sought for as the basis of all situations in which groups get together and feel themselves in their superiority over other groups. It is on this basis that warfare is carried on. Hate comes back to the sense of superiority of one community over another. It is interesting to see how trivial the basis of that superiority may be; the American may travel abroad and come back with simply a sense of the better hotels in America.
A striking difference is found in the form in which values attached to the self appear in the two forms of social organization we are discussing. In the one case you realize yourself in these personal relations that come back to the superiority of yourself to others, or to the group superiority over other groups; in the other case you come back to the intelligent carrying-out of certain social functions and the realization of yourself in what you do under those circumstances. There may be conceivably as great an enthusiasm in one as in the other case, but we can realize the difference between the actual felt values. In the first case your felt value depends directly or indirectly on the sense of yourself in terms of your superiority which is in a certain sense sublimated; but you come back to a direct feeling of superiority through the identification of yourself with somebody else who is superior. The other sense of the importance of your self is obtained, if you like, through the sense of performing a social function, through fulfilling your duty as commander of the com-
(316) munity, finding out what is to be done and going about to do it. In this realization of yourself you do not have to have somebody else who is inferior to you to carry it out. You want other people to fulfil their functions as well. You may feel that you are better than your neighbor who did not do his job, but you regret the fact that he did not do it. You do not feel your self in your superiority to somebody else but in the interrelation necessary in carrying out the more or less common function.
It is the difference between these values that I wanted to call attention to, and, of course, the recognition of the superiority of the second over the first. We cannot ignore the importance of the community based on direct personal relationships, for it has been in a large degree responsible for the organization of large communities which could otherwise not have appeared. It gives a common ground to persons who have no other basis for union; it provides the basis for the ideal communities of great universal religions. We are continually falling back upon that sort of personal relation where it is through opposition that one realizes himself, where a relationship of superiority or inferiority enters directly into the emotional field. We are dependent upon it in many ways even in highly rational organizations, where a man with push gets into a situation and just makes people keep at their jobs. But we always recognize that the sense of the self obtained through the realization of a function in the community is a more effective and for various reasons a higher form of the sense of the self than that which is dependent upon the immediate personal relations in which a relation of superiority and inferiority is involved.
Consider the situation in Europe at the present time. There is an evident desire on the part of national communities to get together in a rational organization of the community in which all the nations exist, and yet there is no desire to dispense with the sense of hostility as a means of preserving national self-consciousness. Nations have to preserve this sense of self; they cannot just go to pieces and disappear. The getting of this national self-consciousness was a distinct step ahead, as was the
(317) earlier setting-up of an empire. The communities at Geneva would rather go for one another's throats than give up the self-consciousness that makes their organizations possible. Geneva is a stage, or ought to be a stage, on which communities can get together in a functional relationship, realizing themselves without shaking their fists at one another. If the self cannot be realized in any other way, it is probably better to do it in the latter way. To realize the self is essential, and, if it has to be done by fighting, it may be better to keep at least the threat of a fight; but the realization of the self in the intelligent performance of a social function remains the higher stage in the case of nations as of individuals.