General Sociology

Chapter 34: Association; the Social; the Social Process

Albion Small

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1. ASSOCIATION.—The sociologist looks out on the same world of people that other students of the social sciences confront, but he looks with an interest that focalizes his attention in a distinctive way. Other students want to know orders of facts and relations that to him are merely helps to perception, and then to comprehension of other facts and relations which inhere in the same social reality. The ethnologist, for instance, wants to know the facts of racial association. The sociologist says : " Perhaps we assume too much when we start with the presumption that the profoundest truths about racial association are to be discovered by studying racial associations alone. It may be that some of the peculiarities which we find in racial associations, and which we regard as attributes of race, are incidents of geographical, or political, or vocational, or cultural, or sexual, or merely personal association. It may be that some of the things which we attribute to race occur in mobs made up of an indiscriminate mixture of races. There are innumerable sorts of association in which there is action and reaction of individuals with very marked results,. Consequently we need to investigate associations of all orders, if we are to be sure that things which we attribute to membership of one association are not equally or more characteristic of other associations. It is by this extension of view alone that we shall be able to trace the ultimate and fundamental relationships between individuals."

When we approach the study of men from this center of attention, we at once perceive in the world of people certain facts that are evidently of tremendous significance, which, however, have not yet attracted sufficient notice to be made the objects of severe scientific criticism. We have these facts

( 502) given to us piecemeal by all the perceptive means and processes within the competence of ordinary experience and of the traditional social sciences. Our education makes it impossible for us to think of the world of people without thinking certain relations between people. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage, from the sociological point of view; for, on the one hand, we must use these particular means of knowing people in association in order to get our data; but, on the other hand, we thereby get our data mixed with conventional construings of the data that, to a greater or less extent, prejudge the very questions which our center of interest brings into focus. This, however, is not peculiar to sociology. It takes place in every field of research, as knowledge advances from the less exact to the more exact.

The sociologist has taken up the clue that certain principles of regularity run through all human associations, and he wants to find out what these principles are. There are various possible ways of approaching the study, and we are now exhibiting the beginnings of one of them. In a word, the preliminary process that we are outlining is this: We survey all human associations that we can bring within our present field of view, and we set down features that seem to us to be common to human association in general. If there is any force in the precedents of all other scientific inquiry, the data that we thus select as the material to be studied have a very different look at the outset from the appearance which they will have after all available processes of investigation have been exhausted upon them. We do not select specific data and forthwith pronounce them dogmatic conclusions, any more than we sit down at the beginning of a journey and declare ourselves at the end. The things that we see in human associations in general, with such insight as we are able to bring to bear on them now, are merely some of the data of sociology, and with these data sociology must begin to do its peculiar work. How accurate are these preliminary generalizations? What similar generalizations must be added in order to sched-

( 503) -ule all the traits common to associations of men? What more intimate laws are contained in these data? Such questions set the problems for sociology.

To illustrate : We have long had statisticians of various sorts. They have tried to enumerate and classify various details of human association. Whether or not they have ever thought it worth while to formulate such an obvious truism as that association always involves a greater or less numerousness of individuals associating, the generalization is a datum of common and of scientific experience. The query arises : Do associations take on varying qualities with varying numerousness of the associated individuals? This query at once makes the axiom and truism of statistical science a datum that demands a whole system of inquiries which belong in wider reaches of sociological science.[1]

Again, the ethnologist discovers that one human association is what it is because of other associations with which it is in contact. The church historian discovers that religious associations have been molded by political associations, and the political historian tells us that governmental associations in one State have been modified by contact with governmental associations in another State. Here is the fact of interdependence. The sociologist says : This is not an isolated phenomenon. Wherever there are human associations there are interdependences among the units, and between the association itself and other associations. This fact of interdependence must be understood, then, in its full significance, if we are to comprehend the conditions and laws of human association in their widest and deepest scope.

Again, demography, and the history of science and philosophy, show people in their spatial distribution and in their various degrees of remoteness from each other in ideas. The social psychologist generalizes this commonplace circumstance,

( 504) and detects in it a clue to significant regularities of fact and process in association. He derives from all that he knows about men in association the datum that discontinuity of some sort and some degree is universal among men in association. He sets this datum down in the list of things that must be

known more completely in all its bearings upon the actions of men in contact with each other.

So we might go through a list which we may name " incidents " of association. They are data of sociology, deposits of much observation of the world of people from many points of view, but raw material with which we begin a study of men from the point of view of the sociologist; i. e., when we want to correlate all that we can learn about the world of people into accounts of the laws of human association in general. In other words, there are larger truths in the laws of human association than emerge when we study in turn particular kinds of association. Those studies of particular kinds of association are incomplete, therefore, until they are merged into knowledge of these larger truths. The task of finding out precisely what these larger truths are, and how they are related to each other, furnishes the primary problems of sociology.

Our survey up to this point suffices to sharpen a simple perception which must presently afford much needed light on sociology. There has been endless perplexity among sociologists about the concept " society." It has been asserted, on the one hand, that if there is to be a science of society, there must first be a definition of society. By others it has been urged, with equal confidence, that the definition of society must of necessity be a product of a science of society, and cannot be had until the science is relatively complete. There is an element of truth in both these contentions, and both may be urged with somewhat similar force in connection with the reality " association."

The perception that should resolve the difficulty, however, is that the universal fact of association in the world of people is not to be taken as a closed concept, containing assorted

( 505) implications to be drawn out by deduction as a system of sociology. The fact of association is rather an open world, to be inductively described and explained. It is a fact of indefinitely varied forms, kinds, degrees, extents. Wherever there are two men there is association. Between all the men in the known world there is association. There is the close, constant, firm association of the family group. There is the loose, transitory, precarious association of the world's sympathizers with Dreyfus or Aguinaldo or the Boers. There are associations spatial, vocational, purely spiritual. There are associations as persistent as the Celestial Empire and the Roman Catholic Church, and there are associations that form and dissolve in a day. In short, association can be defined in advance only in a formula which is essentially interrogative, viz., as the functioning of related individuals. This functioning has to be traced out, not merely at the first point of contact between individuals, but throughout the whole chain of relationships of which a particular contact closes the circuit.

Sociologists are accordingly less and less inclined to go through the motions of performing the impossible. Indication, not definition, of subject-matter belongs at the beginning of every inductive process. The task of sociology is primarily to make out the orders of human association, and so far as possible to determine the formulas of forces that operate in these several orders. Association is activity, not locality. Like states of consciousness, it has to be known in terms of process, not in dimensions of space. To make headway with the sociological task we must abandon pretentious a priori conceptions of all sorts, and patiently investigate concrete human associations until they reveal their mystery. Human associations overlap and interlace and clash and coalesce in bewildering variety of fashions. Sociology has at last become conscious of the problem of reducing this complexity to scientific statement of form and force and method.

Human association is men accomplishing themselves. Here is a dialectic the two poles of which are perpetually

( 506) reinforcing each other. The men are making the association, and the association is making the men. Parallel with this reciprocity in fact, there must be a reciprocity in theory. The two poles of the dialectic must perpetually interpret each other. We cannot know the men except as we discover them in terms of their accomplishing; and we cannot know the accomplishing except as we discover it in terms of the men. If we are satisfied with any less comprehensive statement of the case, we either make up a false process, or we fail to see that the whole thing is one process working itself out from centers of consciousness that are poles of other centers of consciousness. The psychologist and the sociologist are trying to tunnel the life-process from opposite sides; the one from the individual, the other from the associational side; but there is no way for either of them through the life-reality, unless it is a way in which they meet at last. Dropping the clumsy figure, we may say literally that the sociologist has the task of formulating man in his associational self-assertions. The psychologist has the task of formulating man in the mechanism of his self-assertions.[2]

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It is true in more than one sense that "none of us liveth unto himself." We live and move and have our being as parts of each other. There is no such phenomenon within the range of our knowledge as an absolute individual. Every member of the human race gets his personality through direct and immediate partnership with other members of the human race, and through indirect contact with all the human family. We are what we are by virtue of association with other men. This association is conscious or unconscious. It is constant or variable. It is intimate and inclusive, or casual and exclusive. It is friendly and conservative and constructive, or it is hostile and disintegrating and destructive. If there are absolutely universal facts in the world of people, besides the existence of the people themselves, surely one of those facts is the existence of associations between the people, or the existence of the people in associations. The physical life of each individual is, in its origin, a phenomenon of association. The nurture of the young is an episode of association. The daily walk of the vast majority of men, civilized or uncivilized, is in part activity within one or more assocations. We may think of separate persons as pursuing a career that is an affair of their own isolated individuality, or strictly between themselves and nature or between themselves and God. If we put this construction upon the life of any person, however, we falsify his life. Every man is what he is as a resultant in part of the pressure of the human associations within which his personality has its orbit. The concept " human life," whether we try to construct it for individuals or for the race at large, is a fictitious and unreal picture, unless it includes the notion " association." Association is the universal medium in which the individual comes to separate existence. Association is the universal activity in which the individual completes his existence by merging it into the larger life of all individuals.

Some of the concepts in our schedule may be classed as highly imaginative. They may be criticised as theoretical and

( 508) even fanciful. Of course, we would not admit the claim, but there might be plausible pretexts for urging it. The present term, however, is only in the slightest degree open to that impeachment. It calls attention to one of the constant and universal facts of the human situation. It puts that fact in the form of a generalized expression. It thereby registers a fundamental condition of every human problem. This condition cannot be eliminated or ignored without reading the situation itself out of existence. In a word, the term means that whatever has to do with human society thereby has to do with men associating or in association. Society and association connote and presuppose and imply and involve each other. As terms they are correlates, as facts they are essentially identical.

But it is objected, on the other hand: " This goes without saying. It should be taken for granted. We cannot talk about society without assuming it. To say that society is association, or that all men live in association, is a commonplace and a platitude. It is not science, but only a parody and a burlesque of science." The answer is that the fallacy of all fallacies is the turning of the real into the unreal by neglecting the obvious. This concept " association" thrusts itself upon every man in his senses, but the history of philosophy down to the present moment is strewn thick with proof that men may be preternaturally skilful in avoiding it. Rousseau would have been a man without an occupation if he and his dupes had accepted association as a literal, universal fact. The theory of the "social contract" would have perished still-born, if this commonplace of association had been brought to bear upon it. The whole individualistic philosophy, in all its shades and qualities, from Cain to Nietzsche, would have been estopped if men had given due heed to this fact of association. The world would have been spared most of the theological controversies of the Christian centuries, and we should not have wandered until now in a labyrinth of ethical theories that apply only to a world which never was, if this commonplace

( 509) of universal association had been allowed its natural and necessary value. All that we are, all that we think, all that we do, is a function of our fellow-beings before and beside and beyond ourselves.

We are not professing that the term "association" reveals anything new, except in the sense that every generalization of familiar things is a revelation. Every man who had ever seen apples on a tree knew that, if the stem broke, the apples would fall to the ground; but it took Newton to express the fact in a form that took in all the like facts in the world. When Newton made his generalization of the law of gravitation, it did not tell any new facts, but it enabled people for the first time to see a like element in a multitude of old facts which had not seemed to have any common element of likeness before. So our present term does not purport to increase the sum of knowledge. It merely arranges knowledge so that it may be put to more intelligent use.

Of course, there is no magical value in a word. This term "association" explains nothing, although the moment we get the perception that every individual or social situation is a fraction and an episode of an association, we have a pointer toward explanations. The term, like all those which this résumé emphasizes, merely affixes a name to a constant phase of human facts. It thereby signalizes the reality of that phase of things. It records the importance of the reality, and it invites attention to the reality. In thus proposing a technical term for one of the universal conditions of human life, we remove one of the excuses for false, distorted, fictitious versions of the facts of life. Like each of the terms in our schedule, our present term, " association," proves to be a mute cross-examiner of all evidence and theory about social facts; e. g., we have a concrete problem, say a juvenile delinquent, a widespread practice of tax-dodging in a city, an astounding indifference of the Christian nations of Europe toward Turkish misrule.

There is not only a possible, but a very familiar, way of

( 510) treating situations of which these are types, as though the fact of association did not exist. To be sure, it cannot be utterly excluded from anyone's attention, but it is made almost a negligible quantity. If the total-depravity theory of the individual is used as the explanation, if the action of a community or a nation is accounted for solely by hypotheses of qualities within its members, the fact and the force of association are virtually ignored. With this concept in mind, on the other hand, we are bound to ask : What have the associates of the boy or the men or the nations to do with their acts?

The result is that we find a ground for the familiar proverbial wisdom of all times and peoples; e. g.: "Evil communications corrupt good manners;" "A man is known by the company he keeps;" "Cherchez la femme;" etc. ; i. e., whatever our philosophy, we have always in practice looked in other people for some part of the reasons for the actions of given individuals or groups. The boy in the slums may afford no more real evidence of depravity than the boy on the boulevards, but the difference of his associates, young and old, turns the scale. The men who dodge taxes in New York or Chicago may be in themselves no worse than other men, but they may have a belief that other men turn the public revenues to private benefit, and that still other men, in other parts of the state, escape burdens that are loaded upon the cities. Their tax-dodging may be no more praiseworthy, but, instead of being an act of unmitigated meanness and unsociability, we find it has an element at least of self-defense, and quite natural, if not justifiable, retaliation. So England's inertness in the face of Turkish atrocities proves to be less from English indifference than from Russia's watchfulness of opportunity, and vice versa. In a word, all human facts, from those most narrowly individual to those which concern the whole living population of the world, are to be understood fairly and fully only as phases of the larger ranges of facts with which they are associated.

2. THE SOCIAL.—With this term we denote a concept

( 511) which is less directly available outside of technical sociology than many in our schedule. For the professional sociologist, however, it is a matter of prime importance to find for this concept a distinct and clear content. If he is confused or vague at this point, his whole sociology will be indistinct.[3]

The social fact is, first, the evolution of the individual through, second, the evolution of institutions, and the incidental reaction of all the individuals and institutions upon each other. That is, at any given moment individuals and institutions are alike in full course of modification by the action of each upon the other. The individual of today is being modified by his contacts with other individuals, and by his contacts with today's institutions. Tomorrow's individuals will not be wholly the causes or the effects of tomorrow's institutions. Each is both cause and effect of the other.

One of the primary tasks of sociology is to make out the proper content of the concept " social," by which we distinguish that which is more-than-individual in the human process. We may vary our proposition by saying that the formal term " social " is a symbol for all that in associations which is of direct concern to sociology. Or, conversely, sociology is in quest of those things which pertain to associations as such, and the general term for those things is " the social."

The " social," then, is the reciprocity and the reciprocality between the persons that live and move and have their being as centers of reaction in a world filled with like centers. Here is the material for the "organic concept." It gets its meaning as the antithesis of all atomistic individualistic philosophies. We are what we are by virtue of the fact that other men, from the remote past and from the immediate present, are continually depositing a part of themselves in us, and taking a part of us into their make-up in return.[4] This inter-

( 512) -action of persons is the realm of the social. It is the next higher order of complexity above that set of reactions which we call the individual consciousness.

Tennyson gave us a picture of the " Two Voices " in the same personality —a very slight variation in detail upon St. Paul's psychological analysis of himself : " For the good that I would I do not; but the evil that I would not, that I do." [5] Each man is in himself a society, not of two, but of innumerable voices, severally striving for utterance, but resolving themselves into some resultant activity that stands for the algebraic total of stimulus and response in the whole.[6] Two men become a society in which conditions that were possible in the consciousness of each without contact with another personal factor now have to compose themselves with reactions set in motion by contact of each with the other.

The social, then, is all the give-and-takeness there is, whether more or less, between the persons anywhere in contact. The realm of the social comprises all the give-and-takings that occur among men. If we want to know the quality or the qualities of the social, we have to inspect these givings and takings in the largest possible number and variety of associations, and to note and classify their qualities. So far as we have gone, we find that the social is, qualitatively, not one thing, but many things. It is Tarde's " imitation" and it is "Ward's "misomimetism." It is Durkheim's "constraint" and it is Nietzsche's defiance of constraint. It is attraction and it is repulsion. It is mutual aid and it is mutual hindrance. It is consciousness of kind and it is consciousness of unkind. It is selection and it is rejection. It is adaptation and it is the tearing to pieces of adaptations. Furthermore, if we want to know the laws of the social, we have the task, first

( 513) of formulating these give-and-takings in all their meaning relations, and then of deriving the equations of their action, just as astronomers or chemists or physiologists have to derive the laws of reactions within their several fields.

3.THE SOCIAL PROCESS.[7] —Again we have to deal with a concept which the psychologists have been elaborating simultaneously with the sociologists. It is impossible to distribute credit for work at this point. It is sufficient to acknowledge that the sociologists have doubtless been assisted by the psychologists more than they are aware, in expressing the social reality in this aspect.

In this case, too, we are dealing with a concept which is among the most necessary of the sociological categories, for organizing all orders of social knowledge, from the most concrete to the most generalized. That is, we have not arrived at the stage of sophistication peculiar to our epoch, unless we have learned to think of that part of human experience to which we give attention as a term or terms in a process. The use of the word is immaterial. The possession of the idea, the perception of the relation between portions of experience, is essential. We do not represent human experience to ourselves as it is, unless we think every portion of it as a factor in a process composed of all human experiences.

In the absence of any canonical formula of the concept "process " the following is proposed : A process is a collection of occurrences, each of which has a meaning for every other, the whole of which constitutes some sort of becoming.
The thesis corresponding with the title of this section is:
Every portion of human experience has relations which require application of this concept " process." Human association is a process. Every act of every man has a meaning for every act of every other man. The act of Columbus in discovering America is going on in the act of reflecting on this

( 514) proposition, and our reflection upon this proposition has a bearing upon every act of every man now living or hereafter to live in America. All the acts together which make up the experiences of men in connection with America constitute the becoming of a social whole, and an organizing and operation of that whole beyond limits which we can imagine. " At the beginning, then, of every uniformity may be found a process, which process exhibits a regularity that permits the formulation of laws."[8]

Our present thesis anticipates nothing with reference to the nature of the social process, or its mechanism, or its results. We are concerned at the start merely with the empty, formal conception that, so far as it goes, whether taken in its minutest fragments or in the largest reaches which we can contemplate, human experience is a congeries of occurrences which have their meaning by reference to each other. The task of getting for this concept, "the social process,"vividness, impressiveness, and content, is one of the rudiments of both social and sociological pedagogy. That is, if we are trying to get the kind of knowledge about society which the sociologist claims to be all that is worth getting, because it is all that is complete in itself, all that goes beyond partialness and narrowness and shallowness, we must learn to analyze that portion of experience which we are studying, in terms of the process which it is performing. For instance, suppose we are studying history. Our attention will be given either to more or less detached series of events, or we must ask : " Just what phase of the social process is going forward in this period ?" A conception of the general meaning of the period as a whole gives us clues to the proportions and other relations between the particular events. It gives us pointers about the classes of occurrences best worth watching in the period. It enables us to determine in some measure whether we have actually become acquainted with the period, or have merely amused

( 515) ourselves with a few curious details which had a certain fractional value within the period.

To make the illustration more specific, suppose our attention is given to the French Revolution. Thousands of writers have described facts and essayed interpretations of the Revolution, without having approached the sociological conception of the meaning of the period. Expressed in the rough, study of the French Revolution, under guidance of the sociological categories, would proceed somewhat after this fashion :

First : All the activities of the French during the period accomplished some portion of the process of realizing the essential human interests. What was that portion of the process in its large outlines? The question sends us forth to get a bird's-eye view of the Revolution from some altitude which will reveal the great lines of movement usually obscured by the picturesque details which first attract attention. Let us suppose that we make out the following as the general process : The French, from lowest to highest, had become conscious of wants which the traditional social system arbitrarily repressed. The Revolution is in part a spontaneous, spasmodic effort, and in part a reasoned plan, of the French to release themselves from those inherited restrictions, and to achieve a social situation in which the wants of which they are now conscious, or semi-conscious, will be free to find satisfaction.

Second : What, then, were the actual wants which impelled different portions of the French people? In brief, the peasantry wanted to eat the bread which their toil produced, instead of giving most of it to the landlords who did not toil; the wage-earners in the towns wanted work enough and pay enough to improve their condition, and they saw no way to get either without abolishing the privileges of the rich. The third estate, according to Sieyès' famous dictum, had been nothing in the State and wanted to become something; the thinkers were enamored of new notions of individual rights, and were romantically eager to change the situation so that those rights might be realized; on the other hand, the privi-

( 516) -leged classes, the political, the economic, and the ecclesiastical aristocrats, wanted to preserve their privileges. They wanted to defeat the purposes of their fellow-citizens. They wanted to perpetuate a situation in which the wants antagonistic with their own would continue to be defeated.

Third : To understand the Revolution as a section of the social process, we have to follow out the details of analyzing these several classes of wants, down to the concrete demands which each interest urged, and of tracing the relations of each occurrence worth noticing, during the entire episode, to the whole complicated interplay of these desires throughout the complex movement.

Fourth : To complete our insight we have to reach at last a new expression of the new situation in France, at a selected period after the crisis. We have to discover the form, and the manner, and the degree, in which the wants that expressed themselves in the upheaval realized themselves in the situation that remained after the upheaval. We thereby have a measure of the absolute motion accomplished by the French, as a result of the relative motion between the units during the period. That is, we have followed the process from something to something else, through intermediate correlations of actions.

Of course, everyone who has written history, or read it, has had some more or less vague instinct of the program just indicated. It would be hard to find a recent writer of history who might not maintain a plausible argument that his plan of work implied all, and more than all, just specified. Whether a given writer or reader gives due place to the process-category is a question of fact, to be decided on the merits of each case. Our present business is to bring the necessity of the concept into clear view. If it should prove that everybody in practice uses the concept already, our contention that it is necessary will surely not be weakened. If it should prove that the concept is not as distinctly or as comprehensively before our minds in studying history as the contents of experience require, our contention will in the end not be in vain.

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Recurring to our proposition above, that we must employ the concept social process, whether we are getting intelligence about society by studying strictly past events or present problems, we may put the case again, in more concrete form, by applying the argument to the present " labor problem " in the United States.

To some people the case of the coal operators and the workmen in Pennsylvania in 1902-3 was merely a fight between two parties for their rights under the law. Without implying an opinion about the merits of any specific case, we may assert that no one has a proper point of view from which to form an opinion about a similar controversy, until he can present the situation to himself in more adequate terms. The fact is that the production and distribution of wealth occur now under conditions that have been changing very rapidly, not only since the so-called "industrial revolution" of nearly a century ago, but particularly during the last twenty-five years. In the course of this changing, a parallel mental process has been going on ; our concepts of social rights have undergone decided modifications. A hundred years ago American men had to deal only with other men like themselves. Today the distinctive factors in the situation are, first, that racial intermixture has radically changed the character of the population; and, second, that a host of artificial persons are actors on the scene, and they are relatively as much superior to real persons as the mythological gods were in turning the tide of battle now one way and now another before the gates of Troy. Corporations — i. e., legal persons ; giants as mighty in the economic field as ancient mythical gods were in the field of war—have transformed the situation in the working world.

Our social process in the last century has been the play of five chief factors: first, the composition of the population; second, the development of a technique of production ; third, the development of a technique of control; fourth, the development of general social or moral ideas; fifth, the development of a system of distributing the output of our productive

( 518) technique. Today we are confronted by the fact that our system of production has developed along one line of least resistance, viz., that discovered in the economics of the productive process, while our system of distribution has developed very largely along other lines of least resistance, viz., in accordance with the relative power in competition of men, on the one hand more able, and on the other hand less able, to get artificial helps in the struggle for distribution. One consequence is that the results do not conform strictly to the ratio of contributions to production. Meanwhile our politics and our social philosophy have developed in a sort of alternating current between these main factors of the process. Consequently, the inevitable problem immediately upon us is that of reconsidering and readjusting our whole scheme of distribution, with its underlying concepts of justice.

This being the case, every strike, or other interruption of the process, becomes an implicit challenge to the thinkers to find out what meaning the interruption has, with reference to the healthiness or unhealthiness of the process itself. The immediate question is: Has either party failed to meet the requirements of public law and of private contracts? This immediate question, however, is relatively trivial. The more important question is : Do the law and the social situation make it morally certain that one party can and will take an unjust advantage of the other party in deciding how the burdens and the products of industry shall be divided? Especially, has the legal creation of artificial persons so changed the balance of power between men that those who are simply left to their individual resources as natural persons are in an unjust degree at the mercy of those who are clothed with the power of artificial persons?

These questions open the whole problem of the actual process which is going forward in our own day. They require knowledge of the demographic, economic, legal, and moral factors of our present activities, sufficient to justify the same

( 519) kind of judgment about a given labor difficulty which a train-man forms about a cracked wheel or a hot bearing.

The most characteristic feature in our American social process today is the instinctive effort of all to defend themselves against the superior power which some have gained by combination, and then to find a way of getting for themselves the advantages of combination. The secret of multiplying individual power, and of intrenching individual security, by combination of interests, may prove to have been the most important technical discovery which the nineteenth century made. The present stage of the social process is a typical reaction against a monopoly of that discovery by the few, and a typical effort to get the benefits of the discovery for the many.

This concept the social process is so central that the emphasis of but slightly varied restatement will not be excessive.

Although the generalization the social process is familiar to the sociologists, its implications for both philosophical and practical theory are hardly suspected. If we have in mind the essentials connoted by the concept, we are forewarned and fore-armed by it against temptations which play the mischief with the special social sciences. Starting with their selected phases of social phenomena, the sciences that center about racial, or industrial, or political, or religious development, as the case may be, have each tended to treat human association as though it were merely variation of species, or production of wealth, or administration of government, or search into the mysteries of the infinite. When these sciences try to interpret real life, they too often lapse into narrow dogmatism or mere academic abstraction. The assertion is not impeachment nor disparagement of the special social sciences. It is a means of pointing out that every particular social science is an implicit demand for the reinforcement of all the other social sciences, if between them there is to be adequate description of actual human life. Society is a grouping of groupings, each of which constantly modifies every other.

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Let us take the simplest illustration possible. Yonder is the walking delegate of a carpenters' union. He is inspecting a half-completed building. He is a social phenomenon. How shall we analyze and classify him? The ethnologist essays to deal with him. He goes to work on his physical marks. He detects this and that and the other kind of heredity. He tells us that the real significance of this man is his place in the course of evolution from which a new physical type is being created; and with his tools and methods this is substantially all that the ethnologist can discover about him. Then comes the political scientist. He cares nothing about the ethnology of his specimen. He sees in him a political atom. This man is incarnate democracy. He has certain relations of descent from former régimes. He is in the line of influence making toward another régime. He sustains certain relations to the existing legal order. With that our political scientist as a specialist is done with him. Then the orthodox economist takes his turn. To him civil laws are merely the records made by accomplished industrial development. Not the law, but the industry that goes before the law, is the really important matter. Our carpenter to him is a term in the industrial series, and a factor in the economic system. What he amounts to as a wheel in the producing mill is the economist's concern. It may be a social psychologist examines him next. He is interested in his general range of intelligence, in his nervous organization, in the sources of his mental impulses, in his type of intellectual activity. He interprets him as a term in the equation of influences that are evolving the brain-processes of the population. Then a minister of religion comes. He learns his ecclesiastical connections, his theological status, his religious quality. He forms conclusions about his spiritual condition. Between them these specialists have pretty thoroughly dissected the specimen, but all of them together may have failed to discover the social reality he exhibits. Someone is needed to combine these different dissections of the specimen into a view of the real man. He is an intersection of all the groupings which

( 521) human beings form in the pursuit of all the ends of life, and all the ends of life are epitomized in that single man's character. He is a function of the whole process by which they are working together to organize their physiological, and economic, and personal, and scientific, and aesthetic, and religious interests. Make a cross-section of him, and we find we have in him every fiber of civilization. In weaving the web of the ages, every strand of influence that goes out from man, or returns to man, sends a filament through this mechanic. In a sense we may say of him, as Longfellow said of the Ship of State :

Humanity with all its fears,
With all its hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate.

Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee.
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith, triumphant o'er our fears,
Are all with thee—are all with thee.

That is, this man, typical of all men, carries in himself the evidence that all the phases of human association are ceaselessly working together in a process which binds each man to every man, which makes each man both a finished product of one stage of social production and the raw material of another. Accordingly, the sociologists confront the task of making out the different groupings of persons, and of detecting their interrelations, in such a way that the content of the whole life-process will appear, both in kind and in proportion, in the interrelations of their activities.

As we have urged before, an adequate conception of human association as a process involves something in addition to analysis of what has actually taken place, or what is occurring. It extends to perception of what is coming to be in course of this occurring. Here we must leave the solid ground of certainty and venture into the dangerous region of inference. Yet no knowledge is worth having unless it is convertible into forecast of the future. What we want to know of the social

( 522) process first of all is whether it is likely to continue beyond us. Are there indications of what the process will amount to if it does so continue? Do we get any light from the process, so far as it has gone, about the elements in the process which are best worth promoting? Does the process reveal anything about the means available to direct and develop the process? In other words, do we discover in human attainments and achievements details and tendencies which impress us as good and desirable in themselves? Do we conclude that the future human process must be a tragedy of sequestrating those goods to the uses of a few, or that it will be a widening epic of the advance of the many toward the same attainments and achievements and enjoyments? At this point is the critical position in our whole attitude toward the social process. Is it to us a process of the advance of all men toward all the goods that seem good for some men, or is it a perpetual process of the preferment of some at the cost of others? Do the good things that men discover, and think, and perform, belong forever to select men, or are they merely samples of the things which the continuance of the social process will procure for the general typical man?

It is not essential to an exposition of the concept " social process " that this question should be answered here, but so much must be compressed into this outline that a theorem of which no demonstration can be presented may be ventured gratuitously, viz.: If we are justified in drawing any general conclusions whatever from human experience thus far, it is safe to say that the social process tends to put an increasing proportion of individuals in possession of all the goods which have been discovered by the experience of humanity as a whole, and that all social programs should be thought out with a view to promotion of this tendency.

In other words, the social process, as we find it among men thus far, bears testimony that the inclusive aim which men should set up for themselves ought to be the perfection of social co-operation, to the end that the lot of every person in

( 523) the world may be to share, in a progressively widening proportion, in all the developing content of the most abundant life. The social process does not reach its limit as a consumption of men for the production of things. It tends to become more and more a consumption of things for the production of men. This human product is in process of completion in all the qualities and dimensions of life. More and better life by more and better people, beyond any limit of time or quality that our minds can set, is the indicated content of the social process.


  1. Vide Simmel, "The Meaning of the Number of Members for the Sociological Form of the Group," American Journal of Sociology, Vol. VIII, pp. 1 and 158.
  2. The conceptions which these last paragraphs try to fix are not the property of any one individual, certainly not my own. So far as I can trace my share of them to definite sources, they are due largely to a sort of telepathic communication for years with my colleagues of the philosophical department of the University of Chicago, and to Professor J. Mark Baldwin's Social and Ethical Interpretations. My debt to the latter source is none the less clear, although I am unable to adopt all of Professor Baldwin's conclusions. For instance, I am disposed to dissent from his views on three out of the four cases of the " extra-social " which he specifies in the American Journal of Sociology, Vol. IV, pp. 650 f. As a sample of the former sort of stimulus, a remark by Professor Dewey may be quoted : "The effort to apply psychology to social affairs means that the determination of ethical values lies, not in any set or class, however superior, but in the workings of the social whole ; that the explanation is found in the complex interactions and interrelations which constitute this whole. To save personality in all we must serve all alike—state the achievements of all in terms of mechanism, that is, of the exercise of reciprocal influence. To affirm personality independent of mechanism is to restrict its full meaning to a few, and to make its expression in the few irregular and arbitrary." (Psychological Review, March, 1900, p. 123.)
  3. I have illustrated this at some length in a review of Professor Giddings' Inductive Sociology, in Science, May 2, 1902.
  4. I hope to be forgiven for a figure that harks back toward the notion of stuff, rather than process, as the reality behind associational phenomena. No one will feel the difficulty but the psychologists, and I trust any of them who may chance upon these pages to accept my word that I do not mean to press the figure to that length.
  5. Rom. 7 : 19.
  6. Cf. quotation from Tarde below, p. 546.
  7. Vide Giddings, Principles of Sociology, Book IV, chap. i, "TheSocial Process;"chap. 2, "The Social Process, Psychical;" also, Ratzenhofer, Sociologische Erkenntniss, Part IV.
  8. Ross,Foundations of Sociology, p. 91.

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