General Sociology

Chapter 31: Interests[1]

Albion Small

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Nature— i. e., the physical surroundings in which men come into existence and develop their endowment—is analyzed for us by the physical sciences. We do not know all its secrets, but in studying the social process we have to start with such knowledge of nature as the physical sciences have gained, and we have to search for similar knowledge of the human factor. Men have been analyzed much less successfully than nature. During the past generation, the conception of " the atom" has been of enormous use in physical discovery. Although no one has ever seen an atom, the supposition that there are ultimate particles of matter in which the " promise and potency " of all physical properties and actions reside, has served as a means of investigation during the most intensive period of research in the history of thought. Without the hypothesis of the atom, physics and chemistry, and in a secondary sense biology, would have lacked chart and compass upon their voyages of exploration. Although the notion of the atom is rapidly changing, and the tendency of physical science is to construe physical facts in terms of motion rather than of the traditional atom, it is probably as needless as it is useless for us to concern ourselves as laymen with this refinement. Although we cannot avoid speaking of the smallest parts into which matter can be divided, and although we cannot imagine, on the other hand, how any portions of matter can exist and not be divisible into parts, we are probably quite as incapable of saving ourselves from paradox by resort to the vortex hypothesis in any form. That is, these subtleties are too wonderful for most minds. Without pushing analysis too far, and without resting any theory upon analogy with the

( 426) atom of physical theory, it is necessary to find some starting-place from which to trace up the composition of sentient beings, just as the physicists assumed that they found their starting-place in the atom. The notion of interests is accordingly serving the same purpose in sociology which the notion of atoms has served in physical science. Interests are the stuff that men are made of. More accurately expressed, the last elements to which we can reduce the actions of human beings are units which we may conveniently name " interests." It is merely inverting the form of expression to say :

Interests are the simplest modes of motion which we can trace in the conduct of human beings.

Now, it is evident that human beings contain one group of interests which are generically identical with the factors that compose plants and animals. They are those modes of motion which follow the laws of physics and chemistry and biology. The sociologist is not accountable for a metaphysics of those motions. They exist in trees and fishes and birds and quadrupeds and men alike. They are movements that exhibit the different forms of vital energy. These forces that work together in building living organisms are no other in men than in the lower organisms. These forces are incessantly displaying themselves in movements that arrive at certain similar types of result. Viz.: There is the building of living tissue. There is the growth and development of this tissue till it detaches itself from. the parent stock and leads an independent life. There is, in turn, the parental action of this organism in giving life to other organisms like itself. All that goes forward in living organisms may be conceived as the working of a complex group of energies which we may call the health interest. In the form of a definition, we may generalize as follows : The health interest is that group of motions which normally build and work the bodily organism. That interest has one specific content in a clover plant, another in an oak tree, another in an insect, another in a man. In each case, however, it is an energetic pushing forward toward

( 427) expression of power which proves to have different limits. in the different types; but these puttings forth of power, so far as they go, consist of motions which all belong in one and the same group. Physical, chemical, and vital energies, variously mixed, attain to the life of the plant in one instance, of the insect in another, of the man in another. In short, the .basal interest in every man is the impulse of all the physical energy deposited in his organism to work itself out to the limit. This is what we mean by the health interest. It is the impulsion and the propulsion of the frankly material in our composition. Before referring to other interests, we may illustrate in this connection what was said a little earlier about all men being variations of the same elemental factors.

Here is a black man committing a fiendish crime, and here are white men dragging him to a fiendish expiation, and here is a saintly man throwing the whole force of his life into horror-stricken protest against the inhumanity of both. Now, the point is that, in the first instance, the criminal, the avenger, and the saint are storage batteries of one and the same kind of physical energy. The vital processes of the one are precisely similar to those of the other. The same elementary physical motions occur in the life of each. It might even happen that precisely the same quantity of physical energy resided in each of the three. The criminal does not do something to the like of which nothing in the avenger or in the saint urges. On the contrary, the rudimentary energies in the average man move in the same direction as those that betray themselves in the criminal. The health interest is a term in the personal equation of each; but something in the avenger and in the saint inhibits the health interest from monopoly of the man in the two latter cases, while without such inhibition it rages to madness in the former. The saint is not a unit that contains no factor in common with the fiend. On the contrary, saint and fiend are terms which alike cover a certain quantity and quality of the brute. That the fiend is not a saint, and the saint is not a fiend, is not because the make-up

( 428) of either utterly lacks components of the other character. It is because that which goes to make the fiend is, in the one case, not organized into other interests which modify its workings ; in the other case other interests have so asserted themselves that the health interest has been reduced to a completely subordinate rôle.

In the lowest condition in which we find human beings, they present little to attract the attention of any scientific observer except the zoölogist. They are merely specimens of a higher order of animal. The differences which the comparative anatomist makes out are merely more complex details in the same series which he traces from the lowest orders in the animal kingdom. The horde of savage men is simply a mass of practically identical specimens of a species, just like a shoal of fish or a herd of buffaloes. That is, so long as the health interest alone is in working force, there is no such fact present as a human individual. The specimens in the aggregation are not individualized. Each presents the same dead level of characteristics that appear in all the rest. So far nothing but the animal kingdom is in sight. The properly human stage in world-evolution begins when the differentiation of other interests in some of the specimens of the genus homo produces human individuals. In other words, the individual who builds human society, as distinguished from packs of animals, -is the human animal varied by the appearance and incessant modification of other than the health interest. In order to an adequate theory of the human process, therefore, there is need of intimate acquaintance with the human individual, the ultimate molecular unit carrying on the process. This is to be insisted upon for its own sake, but also incidentally for the reason that certain critics of present tendencies in sociology insist that the sociologists are entirely on the wrong track, since they start by leaving individuals out of the account.[2] These critics assert that the sociologist cares only about societies, but that the things which he thinks he

( 429) knows about societies are necessarily wrong, because we cannot know societies without understanding the persons who compose the societies.

The criticism seriously misinterprets the sociologists. Instead of ignoring the individual, nobody has seen more clearly than the sociologists that we must stop taking a fictitious individual for granted, or still worse, assuming that it is unnecessary to take a real individual into the account at all. Nobody has more strenuously insisted that we must analyze human personality to the utmost limit in order to posit the real actor in association. The sociologists have therefore quite as often erred in the direction opposite to that alleged by these critics. They have invaded psychological and pedagogical territory, and usually without equipment to do respectable work. They have been tempted to this sort of foray by encountering in their own proper work the need of more knowledge of the individual than is available. It is true the sociologists think that, when division of labor is fully organized, study of the individual, as such, will fall to others. But the social fact and the social process will never be understood till we have better knowledge of the individual element in the fact and the process.[3] Professor Baldwin spoke for sociology as truly as for psychology when he said:

It is the first requirement of a theory of society that it shall have adequate views of the progress of the social whole, which shall be consistent with the psychology of the individual's personal growth. It is this requirement, I think, which has kept the science of society so long in its infancy; or, at least, this in part. Psychologists have not had sufficient genetic theory to use on their side; and what theory they had seemed to forbid any attempt to interpret social progress in its categories. As soon as we come to see, however, that the growth of the individual does not forbid this individual's taking part in the larger social movement as well, and, moreover, reach the view that in his growth he is at once also growing into the social whole, and in so far aiding its further evolution—then we seem to have found a bridge on which it is safe to travel, and from which we can get vistas of the country on both sides.[4]

( 430)

In this connection we may adopt another remark of Professor Baldwin :

.... one of the historical conceptions of man is, in its social aspects, mistaken. Man is not a person who stands up in his isolated majesty, meanness, passion, or humility, and sees, hits, worships, fights, or overcomes another man, who does the opposite things to him, each preserving his isolated majesty, meanness, passion, humility, all the while, so that he can be considered a "unit" for the compounding processes of social speculation. On the contrary, a man is a social outcome rather than a social unit. He is always, in his greatest part, also someone else. Social acts of his—that is, acts which may not prove anti-social—are his because they are society's first; otherwise he would not have learned them nor have had any tendency to do them. Everything that he learns is copied, reproduced, assimilated from his fellows; and what all of them, including him — all the fellows, the socii — do and think, they do and think because they have each been through the same course of copying, reproducing, assimilating that he has. When he acts quite privately, it is always with a boomerang in his hand ; and every use he makes of his weapon leaves its indelible impression both upon the other and upon him.

It is on such truths as these, which recent writers have been bringing to light, [5] that the philosophy of society must be gradually built up. Only the neglect of such facts can account for the present state of social discussion. Once let it be our philosophical conviction, drawn from the more general results of psychology and anthropology, that man is not two, an ego and an alter, each in active and chronic protest against a third great thing, society; once dispel this hideous unfact, and with it the remedies found by the egoists, back all the way from the Spencers to the Hobbeses and the Comtes—and I submit the main barrier to the successful understanding of society is removed .[6]

At the same time, there should be no difficulty in getting it understood that, while biology and psychology have to do with the individual when he is in the making, sociology wants to start with him as the finished product. There is a certain impossible antinomy about this, to be sure; for our fundamental conception is that the individual and his associations are constantly in the reciprocal making by each other.[7] Never-

( 431) -theless, there are certain constant aspects of the individual which furnish known terms for sociology. They are aspects which present their own problems to physiology and psychology, on the one hand, and to sociology, on the other; but in themselves they must be assumed at the beginning of sociological inquiry.

To the psychologist the individual is interesting primarily as a center of knowing, feeling, and willing. To the sociologist the individual begins to be interesting when he is thought as knowing, feeling, and willing something. In so far as a here trick of emphasis may serve to distinguish problems, this ictus indicates the sociological starting-point. The individual given in experience is thought to the point at which he is available for sociological assumption, when he is recognized as a center of activities which make for something outside of the psychical series in which volition is a term. These activities must be referred primarily to desires, but the desires themselves may be further referred to certain universal interests. In this character the individual becomes one of the known or assumed terms of sociology. The individual as a center of active interests may be thought both as the lowest term in the social equation and as a composite term whose factors must be understood. These factors are either the more evident desires, or the more remote interests which the individual's desires in some way represent. At the same time, we must repeat the admission that these assumed interests are like the atom of physics. They are the metaphysical recourse of our minds in accounting for concrete facts. We have never seen or touched them. They are the hypothetical substratum of those regularities of conduct which the activities of individuals display. .

In this connection the term "interest" is to be understood, not in the psychological, but in a teleological sense.[8]

( 432) The sense in which we use the term is antecedent to that which seems to be predominantly in Professor Baldwin's mind in the following passages :

The very concept of interests, when one considers it with reference to himself, necessarily involves others, therefore, on very much the same footing as oneself. One's interests, the things he wants in life, are the things which, by the very same thought, he allows others also the right to want; and if he insists upon the gratification of his own wants at the expense of the legitimate wants of the "other," then he in so far does violence to his sympathies and to his sense of justice. And this in turn must impair his satisfaction. For the very gratification of himself thus secured must, if it be accompanied with any reflection at all, involve the sense of the "other's" gratification also ; and since this conflicts with the fact, a degree of discomfort must normally arise in the mind, varying with the development which the self has attained in the dialectical process described above . . .

On the one hand, we can get no doctrine of society but by getting the psychology of the socius with all his natural history; and, on the other hand, we can get no true view of the socius without describing the social conditions under which he normally lives, with the history of their action and reaction upon him. Or, to put the outcome in terms of the restriction which we have imposed upon ourselves — the only way to get a solid basis for social theory based upon human want or desire, is to work out first a descriptive and genetic psychology of desire in its social aspects; and, on the other hand, the only way to get an adequate psychological view of the rise and development of desire in its social aspects is by a patient tracing of the conditions of social environment in which the child and the race have lived and which they have grown up to reflect.[9]

The somewhat different concept of this element "interest" which we posit may be indicated at first with the least possible technicality. We may start with the familiar popular expressions, "the farming interest," "the railroad interest," "the packing interest," "the milling interest," etc., etc. Everyone knows what the expressions mean. Our use of the term "interest" is not co-ordinate with these, but it may be approached by means of them. All the "interests" that are

( 433) struggling for recognition in business and in politics are highly composite. The owner of a flourmill, for example, is a man before he is a miller. He becomes a miller at last because he is a man ; i. e., because he has interests — in a deeper sense than that of the popular expressions—which impel him to act in order to gain satisfactions. The clue to all social activity is in this fact of individual interests. Every act that every man performs is to be traced back to an interest. We eat because there is a desire for food ; but the desire is set in motion by a bodily interest in replacing exhausted force. We sleep because we are tired; but the weariness is a function of the bodily interest in rebuilding used-up tissue. We play because there is a bodily interest in use of the muscles. We study because there is a mental interest in satisfying curiosity. We mingle with our fellow-men because there is a mental interest in matching our personality against that of others. We go to market to supply an economic interest, and to war because of some social interest of whatever mixed or simple form.

With this introduction, 'we may venture an extremely abstract definition of our concept "interest." In general, an interest is an unsatisfied capacity, corresponding to an unrealized condition, and it is predisposition to such rearrangement as would tend to realize the indicated condition. [10] Human needs and human wants are incidents in the series of events between the latent existence of human interests and the achievement of partial satisfaction. Human interests, then, are the ultimate terms of calculation in sociology. The whole life-process, so far as we know it, whether viewed in its indi-

( 434) -vidual or in its social phase, is at last the process of developing, adjusting, and satisfying interests.[11]

No single term is of more constant use in recent sociology than this term " interests." We use it in the plural partly for the sake of distinguishing it from the same term in the sense which has become so familiar in modern pedagogy. The two uses of the term are closely related, but they are not precisely identical. The pedagogical emphasis is rather on the voluntary attitude toward a possible object of attention. The sociological emphasis is on attributes of persons which may be compared to the chemical affinities of different elements.[12]

To distinguish the pedagogical from the sociological use of the term " interest," we may say pedagogically of a supposed case : " The boy has no interest in physical culture, or in shop-work, or in companionship with other boys, or in learning, or in art, or in morality." That is, attention and choice are essential elements of interest in the pedagogical sense. On the other hand, we may say of the same boy, in the sociological sense : " He has not discovered his health, wealth, sociability, knowledge, beauty, and rightness interests." We thus imply that interests, in the sociological sense, are not necessarily matters of attention and choice. They are affinities, latent in persons, pressing for satisfaction, whether the persons are conscious of them either generally or specifically, or not; they are indicated spheres of activity which persons enter into and occupy in the course of realizing their personality.

Accordingly; we have virtually said that interests are merely specifications in the makeup of the personal units. We have several times named the most general classes of inter

( 435) ests which we find serviceable in sociology, viz.: health, wealth, sociability, knowledge, beauty, and rightness. We shall speak more in detail of the content of these interests in the next chapter.

We need to emphasize, in addition, several considerations about these interests which are the motors of all individual and social action: First, there is a subjective and an objective aspect of them all. It would be easy to use terms of these interests in speculative arguments in such a way as to shift the sense fallaciously from the one aspect to the other; e. g., moral conduct, as an actual adjustment of the person in question with other persons, is that person's "interest," in the objective sense. On the other hand, we are obliged to think of something in the person himself impelling him, however unconsciously, toward that moral conduct, i. e., interest as "unsatisfied capacity," in the subjective sense. So with each of the other interests. The fact that these two senses of the term are always concerned must never be ignored; but, until we reach refinements of analysis which demand use for these discriminations, they may be left out of sight. Second, human interests pass more and more from the latent, subjective. unconscious state to the active, objective, conscious form. That is, before the baby is selfconscious, the baby's essential interest in bodily wellbeing is operating in performance of the organic functions. A little later the baby is old enough to understand that certain regulation of his diet, certain kinds of work or play, will help to make and keep him well and strong. Henceforth there is in him a cooperation of interest in the fundamental sense, and interest in the derived, secondary sense, involving attention and choice. If we could agree upon the use of terms, we might employ the word " desire" for this development of interest; i. e., physiological performance of function is, strictly speaking, the health interest; the desires which men actually pursue within the realm of bodily function may be normal, or perverted, in an infinite scale of variety. So with each of the other interests. Third, with these qualifica-

( 436) tions provided for, resolution of human activities into pursuit of differentiated interests becomes the first clue to the combination that unlocks the mysteries of society. For our purposes in this argument we need not trouble ourselves very much about nice metaphysical distinctions between the aspects of interest, because we have mainly to do with interests in the same sense in which the man of affairs uses the term.[13] The practical politician looks over the lobby at Washington, and he classifies the elements that compose it. He says : " Here is the railroad interest, the sugar interest, the labor interest, the army interest, the canal interest, the Cuban interest, etc." He uses the term "interest" essentially in the sociological sense, but in a relatively concrete form, and he has in mind little more than variations of the wealth interest. He would explain the legislation of a given session as the final balance between these conflicting pecuniary interests. He is right, in the main; and every social action is, in the same way, an accommodation of the various interests which are represented in the society concerned.

It ought to be plain, then, that our analysis of society, first into the operative interests within the units, and then into personal units, is not the construction of an esoteric mystery, to be the special preserve of sociology. It is a frank, literal, matter-of-fact expression of the reality which society presents for our inspection ; and it is the most direct step toward insight into the realities of society. Social problems are entanglements of persons with persons, and each of these persons is a combination of interests developed in certain unique proportions and directions. All study of social situations must consequently be primarily a qualitative and quantitative analysis of actually observed mixtures of interests. Whether it is a problem of getting the pupils in a school to do good work, or of

( 437) making the religious force in a church effective, or of defending a town against illegal liquor traffic, or of organizing laborers for proper competition with employers, or of securing an enlightened national policy toward foreign peoples — whether the particular social situation or problem which we have in hand fills only the four walls of our house or reaches to the ends of the earth, in every case the primary terms of the problem are the particular interests of the particular persons who compose that particular situation.

The phrase "properties of numbers" survives in many minds from their earliest encounters with arithmetic. 'Whether or not it was good pedagogy to use the phrase we will not inquire, but the idea and the program behind the phrase may furnish an analogy for our present use. The boy who simply makes change for the papers he sells on the street corner has this at least in common with Newton, and Laplace, and the bookkeepers, and the actuaries, and the engineers, who carry on the most complicated mathematical calculations, viz., they are concerned with the "properties of numbers." So far as the problems of each go, they must learn, somehow or other, to know the properties of numbers under all circumstances where they occur. In like manner, people who seek social intelligence, whether they are street gamins hustling for a living with help from nobody, or social philosophers attempting to report the past and to foretell the future of the human family, all are dealing with the properties of persons. Just as the chemist must very early get familiar with certain primary facts about his " elements," their specific gravity, their atomicity, their relation to oxygen, etc., etc. ; so the sociologist, whether amateur or professional, must early get a working knowledge of the essential peculiarities of persons. Sociology accordingly involves first of all a technique for detecting, classifying, criticising, measuring, and correlating human interests, first with reference to their past and present manifestations, and second with reference to their indications for the future. The sociological study that is provided for in university courses is

( 438) not like the instruction in law, which is calculated to make men the most effective practitioners under the code that now exists. All our programs of sociological study are more like the courses in pure and applied mathematics which a West Point student is obliged to take. They are not expected to give him specific knowledge of the situations which he may encounter in a campaign. They are supposed to make him familiar with the elements out of which all possible military situations are composed, with the means of calculating all relationships that may occur between these elements, and with the necessary processes of controlling theoretical and practical dealings with these elements under any circumstances whatsoever.

Every real social problem throws upon the sociologist who undertakes to deal with it the task of calculating a unique equation of interests. General sociology is a preparation for judging a concrete combination of interests very much as general training in physiology and pathology and clinical observation prepares the physician for diagnosis of the new cases which will occur in his practice. He may never meet precisely the same combinations of conditions and symptoms which he has considered in the course of his preparatory training, but he is supposed to have become familiar at least with all the general types of conditions and symptoms which can occur, and to have acquired ability to form reliable judgments on the specific nature of any new combinations of them which he may encounter.

Suppose, for instance, we are dealing with the practical problems of law-enforcement in a particular town in a state which has a prohibition law. There are certain very familiar types of persons who persist in treating the situation as though it were an affair of two and only two simple factors, viz., the law on the one side, and its violation on the other. The fact is that both the law and the violation are expressions of highly, complex mixtures of interests, and neither the law nor the violation precisely represents the actual balance of interests in

( 439) the community. On the one hand, the law was derived from a co-operation of at least these six factors, viz.: first, a high, pure, moral interest that was uppermost in certain people second, an interest in good social repute, spurred by a state of conscience that condemns the liquor traffic, but without enough moral sympathy with the condemnation to act accordingly, unless lashed to action by the zeal of the first interest; third, a political interest in making capital out of a policy which would win certain voters; fourth, a business interest, in getting the trade of certain people by opposing a traffic that they oppose, or in creating difficulties for a traffic which is indirectly a competitor; fifth, a personal or family interest, in preventing or punishing a traffic which has inflicted, or threatens to inflict, injury upon self or, relatives; sixth, an interest in the liquor traffic itself, which calculates that opposition may be fought more adroitly when it is in the shape of positive law, than when it is vague and general. In every particular case these six sorts of interest that create the law will be subdivided according to circumstances, and the relative influence of each will vary indefinitely. We no sooner realize these facts than we are aware that in its substance, its force, its spirit, the law is not the absolute, categorical, unequivocal factor that it is in its form. While it has no uncertain sound as a statutory mandate, expressed in impersonal words, it has a most decidedly quavering quality when traced back to the human wills whose choices give it all its power.

On the other hand, if we analyze violation of the law, we find that it arises, first, from thoroughly immoral interests—greed of gain, contempt for social rights, willingness to profit by the physical and moral ruin of others ; second, the interest in satisfying the drink appetite. This ranges from the strong and constant demand of the habitual drunkard to the weak and intermittent demand of the man who uses liquor somewhat as he uses olives or citron or malted milk. Third, the interest in personal freedom. There are always people in considerable numbers who want to do whatever others presume

( 440) to say they ought not to do. This faction includes elements varying from hopeless moral perversity to highly developed moral refinement. Fourth, business interests not directly connected with the liquor traffic : belief that trade follows the bartender; desire to keep solid with the interests directly dependent upon the liquor traffic; competition with other towns that are said to draw away trade by favoring liquor sellers; etc. Fifth, political interests: desire to use the liquor interest for personal or party ends. Sixth, social interests. Friends are directly or indirectly interested in the liquor traffic, and influence must go in their favor, from the negative kind that allows hands to be tied and mouths closed, to the positive kind that manipulates influence of every sort to obstruct the operation of the law. Seventh, legitimate business interests.

This rough analysis of the situation shows that, instead of two simple factors, viz., law and lawlessness, we are really dealing with a strangely assorted collection of interests, awkwardly struggling to express themselves in theory and in practice. We are not arguing the question how to deal with the liquor traffic, and we are not implying an opinion one way or the other about prohibitory laws. We are simply showing that, whether we are dealing with one kind of a law or another, we may be very uncritical about the ultimate factors involved. The two facts in question, viz., the law and the violation, prove to be in reality the selfsame persons expressing different elements of their own interests. The father of the prohibitory policy has been known to plead with a judge not to pass sentence on a liquor-seller in accordance with his own law. The same persons who sustain the law also violate the law in some of the different degrees of violating and sustaining referred to above. The law on the one hand, and the violation do the other, are nothing but shadows, or apparitions, or accidents, except as they reflect the actual balance of interests present in the members of the community. The real problems involved are, first, to discover whether the law or the violation most nearly corresponds with the actual desires lodged in the per-

( 441) -sons; and, second, to devise ways and means of changing the balance of desires in the persons, in case immorality proves to be the community choice.

It is both a social and a sociological blunder to proceed as though the law were something precise, invariable, and absolute. The law is an approximate verbal expression of social choices which are mixed, variable, and accommodating in a very high degree. The law has no existence, as a real power, outside of the continued choices of the community that gives it effect. In a very real and literal sense it is necessary to get the algebraic sum both of the law-abiding and of the law-violating interests, in order to know just what the psychological choice of the community, as distinguished from the formal law, really is.

This illustration has been carried out at such length because it is a kind of problem with which all of us are more or less in contact, and our ways of dealing with it frequently show practical disregard of the elementary significance of the operative interests concerned. The main point is that, for theoretical or practical dealing with concrete social problems, we need to be expert in detecting and in measuring the precise species of interests that combine to form the situation. To carry the illustration a little farther, some of the states in the American union agree to prohibit both intemperance and ignorance. In general, all of us, both communities and individuals, condemn both vices. We put our condemnation in the shape of laws regulating the liquor traffic, on the one hand, and laws establishing free and perhaps compulsory education, on the other hand. When we attempt to define intemperance and ignorance, however, we find that we have infinitely varied points of view, and that. our desires are correspondingly varied. We consequently lend very different elements of meaning and force to the formal laws. Some of us think that intemperance begins only when a man gets physically violent, or fails to pay for the liquor he consumes; and that ignorance means inability to read and write. Others of

( 442) us think that intemperance exists whenever fermented or alcoholic liquors are swallowed in any form or quantity, and that ignorance is lack of college education. Accordingly, the phenomena of the continued consumption of liquors, in spite of laws against intemperance, and of persistent non-consumption of school privileges, in spite of laws against ignorance, are equally and alike inevitable manifestations of the actual assortment of desires out of which the community life is composed. We repeat, then : The problem of changing the facts is the problem of transforming the interests (desires) that make the facts. Social efficiency, on the part of persons zealous to alter the facts, involves skill in discovering the actual character of the desires present, knowledge of the psychology of desires, and tact in the social pedagogy and politics and diplomacy which convert less into more social desires.

These statements imply all the reasons for the study of fundamental sociology. From first to last, our life is a web woven by our interests. Sociology might be said to be the science of human interests and their workings under all conditions, just as chemistry is sometimes defined as "the science of atoms and their behavior under all conditions." Man at his least is merely a grubbing and mating animal. He has developed no interests beyond those of grubbing and mating, or those tributary to grubbing and mating. Every civilization in the world today carries along a certain percentage of survivals of this order of interests, and societies still exist wholly on the level of these interests. On the other hand, some men develop such attenuated spiritual interests that they pay only perfunctory and grudging tribute to the body at all, and live in an atmosphere of unworldly contemplation. Between these extremes are the activities of infinitely composite society, moved by infinite diversities of interests. These interests, however, as we have seen, are variations and permutations of a few rudimentary interests. Our knowledge of sociology, i. e., our systematized knowledge of the human process, will be measured by the extent of our ability to interpret all human society in terms of its effective interests.


  1. Cf. chaps. 14 and 15.
  2. Cf. note below, p. 472.
  3. This subject is continued at the beginning of chap. 32.
  4. Social and Ethical Interpretations, p. 81.
  5. E. g., Stephen, S. Alexander, Höffding, Tarde. We show in Part VII that our emphasis at this point by no means commits us to acceptance of "the imitation theory."
  6. Op. cit., p. 87.   
  7. Cf. chap. 32.
  8. Here again we have a term which has insensibly grown into force in sociology, and it would require long search to trace its history. It may be found almost indiscriminately among the sociologists. Its use sometimes leaves the impression that the author attaches to it very little importance. In other cases it seems to be cardinal. No writer has made more of it than Ratzenhofer, Sociologische Erkenntniss, chap. 2, et passim.
  9. Social and Ethical Interpretations, pp. 15.16, 21, 22.
  10. Professor Dewey's formula is: "Interest is impulse functioning with reference to self-realization." Our formula attempts to express a conception of something back of consciousness, and operating more generally than in facts of consciousness. Whether this philosophical conceit is defensible or not, is unessential for the remainder of our analysis. All that is strictly necessary for sociology proper is the later analysis, which might be performed in terms of "interest," either in our own or in the psychological sense, or of "desires" in a more empirical sense. Indeed, the latter is the method to be applied in the following discussion.
  11. Quite in harmony with this formula is the conclusion of Professor Ludwig Stein, Die sociale Frage, 2d ed., p. 519. Closely connected with this conception of the social process is Stein's formula of the ultimate social imperative : ibid., p. 522.
  12. Probably it is needless to say that the term "interest" in this connection, whether used in the singular or the plural, has nothing to do with the economic term "interest."
  13. We might reserve the term " interest " strictly for the use defined above, applying the term " desire " to the subjective aspect of choice, and " want " to the objective aspect, i. e., the thing desired. Precisely because the term "interest" is in current use for all these aspects of the case, we prefer to retain it.

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