The American Journal of Sociology/Volume 01/Number 5/Social Control

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THE AMERICAN

JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY



Volume I
Number 5
MARCH, 1896


SOCIAL CONTROL.

Even when sociology outgrows the stage of vealiness, so that the question "What is society?" can be relegated from the beginning of a text-book to the end, we shall still feel the need of expressing in a few words the characteristics that mark off a true society from all manner of aggregates and combinations of men. This compels us to look for these marks, and having found them to arrange them in order of importance, the essential features first, the non-essential last. In seeking that which is most distinctive in society, it is not necessary to pause at the threshold, finger on lip, and contemplate the outlines of a colossal Something, Leviathan, Superorganism, Social Organism, Social Body or other amorphous monster, composed of millions of human beings, and having distinct parts, motions, activities and aims. Society there certainly is, but it is better to begin the study of the human complex by surveying its work, rather than by describing a half-mythical entity.

We observe two broadly contrasted types of human life—the isolated, admitting only of the family, and the associated. Between these types of life, and between the men and women who lead them, are certain great contrasts that must be due to the presence or absence of association. By the difference between the lone man and the social man, between the associated state and the life of single units or pairs, we can gauge the sociologic problem. The changes that attend association afford the best evidence that there exists a source of influence worthy of most zealous study. It is by these signs and proofs of transforming power in the individual life that we come to discern in the human swarm the presence of that we call "society."

As the achievements of society are registered chiefly in the modifications wrought in men, we arrive at the nature of society by noting and comparing these modifications. What changes are outward and slight can never point to the very essence of a society, nor can those changes that go deep into the nature and life of men be merely its by-products or refer to its secondary characteristics. The gradation in the changes that mark the social man justifies a corresponding gradation in the traits that distinguish the social aggregate from other aggregates.

The organic concept of society has taught us to look upon mutual aid, division of labor, formation of industrial groups, specialization and exchange with its facilities for communicating and transporting, as the underlying features of society, corresponding to the growing unlikeness of organs and functions, interdependence of parts and unity seen in living bodies. But regarding them from our new point of view, they fail to justify any such preeminence. The practice of mutual aid causes as such no far reaching change in the cooperating individuals. By this happy device of uniting strengths for such tasks as killing game, dragging a boat or building a hut, desired results can be reached with less trouble in the isolated state—that is all. The kind of efforts is the same; they are altered only as regards times and amounts. When division of labor takes place, we have, it is true, a greater change in the life of the individual. The numerous unlike acts of the isolated man, in furtherance of the satisfaction of his wants, yield to the repetition of special operations not directly related to his wants. Occupation, surroundings, training, work-discipline are greatly modified, and lead to no small change in the man himself. The exchange of wares that comes with division of labor multiplies the interrelations of men by compelling the flaker, weaver or skin dresser to communicate with others and to come to an understanding with them. As exchange develops and the distances between exchangers increases, some men can profitably charge themselves with the carrying of messages or the conveyance of goods, and thus set up a communicating and transporting system. These trite phenomena rebaptised as "circulatory system," "internuncial apparatus," "social nervous system," are supposed to open a broad vista into the very depths of social philosophy.

Yet all that is absolutely bound up with this development is a complete change in the outward industrial activity of the individual, coupled with a growing power to satisfy his wants by means of this activity. The interrelations of men on which so much stress is laid need be in no sense relations of fellowship or sociability. One may adapt his craft to the likings of buyers as the hunter suits his arts to the game, or the boatman times his strokes to the waves of the lake. Nor does the fact that the adaptation is reciprocal relieve the deadness of it. If in the differentiating economic group there is anything to hinder each from using his fellows in furtherance of his private schemes in just the same spirit in which he would use farm animals or tools, it is not brought out in Mr. Spencer's sociology. The word "organism" with its suggestion of complete unity does not fit such a group. When without change in motives, aims or ends individuals enter into and live in the associated states, merely that they may thereby gain their private ends by a new and easier route, the aggregate thus formed is a mechanical affair, no more organic than a board of trade, a factory group or a whaling crew. It is dead mechanism—a handy combination-form of great industrial efficiency, but no more. If this be the essence of social development, we may dispense with sociology, for the economist long ago described the social system of wealth far better than the sociologist has ever done, and that without aid from biology. It must be admitted, therefore, either that the phenomena of specialization, communication and exchange are not the sole primary characters, or else that society is nothing more than the long familiar economic aggregate.

When settled social life permits the greater knowledge that comes with division of labor and wider leisure to be integrated by aid of a communicating system, and to pass on from generation to generation forming a living, growing trunk of sciences and arts, the outgrowth of the labors of countless individuals through many centuries, associated life is able to do much more with the individual. By contact with a body of social knowledge his whole intellectual world is transformed; his ideas about the universe, about himself and about his relations to it and place in it are revolutionized; his comprehension of substances, properties and laws and his power to seize and turn to account the forces of nature is magnified. And with all this his activities are again changed and his efforts receive a new direction.

Yet he is not straightway made into the social man. The individual may help himself gladly from the fund of transmitted knowledge, he may rely upon the labors of specialists, he may bow to the dicta of recognized authorities, he may increase his rate of absorption by assuming relations to more people; but if with it all he relentlessly pursues his egoistic aims, availing himself of the socially collected and transmitted knowledge to gain his goal the sooner, he makes of society a mere convenience. The associated state has ground to a finer edge the intellect nature has given him, and taught him to handle it with fuller knowledge, but his heart and will are those of the solitary man. To a cluster of such individuals thus cleverly availing themselves of their joint wit and art in compassing their private and separate ends we should hardly give the name "society."

A deeper change is wrought in a man when his judgment as to the worth of things is modified by the wisdom born of association. Not only does light as to the properties and laws of things help him to gain his ends, but knowledge as to himself, his body and his mind, and as to the course of man's life often affects his choice of ends. His estimates as to the relative worth of food, drink, shelter, cleanliness, ornament, safety, repose, action, offspring or power change with greater contact with other lives and fuller intercourse with men. The opportunity to compare experiences and gratifications leads to revision of values and modifies the intensity with which certain aims are pursued. Dormant desires are awakened by intercourse, suggestion and imitation multiply wants, the range of choice broadens, the standard of life develops, new stimulus is supplied to exertion, and the whole man is made over. This revaluation of experiences that comes with living in association reaches farther into human nature than anything we have yet considered and must be deemed one of the most striking consequences of the social state.

When, last of all, desire itself is altered in its fundamental direction, we have the greatest imaginable change of the individual. For the probe of science shows the innermost core of a man to be not his activities or perceptions, not his judgments or thoughts, not his opinions or beliefs, but his feelings. As Professor Ward shows, the part held to be the undying kernel of man—the soul—can be nothing else than "the feelings taken collectively,"[1] i. e., the desires, inclinations, preferences, aversions, hatreds, jealousies, hopes, aspirations and longings. It is the feelings that constitute the person and to them all activity, whether of body or of intellect, is strictly subordinate. They make the character, and so long as they are unreached, a man is himself, no matter how he may change in other respects. Let them be modified, and we describe the change with the emphatic word "regeneration." So long as we are invited to observe in social development only such changes as are quite compatible with the feelings that belong to the isolated state, we may well doubt if there be in association anything truly organic. If desires be untouched, social organization is to those who embrace it simply a device, an expedient, a bit of economic tactics; while the social man is the lone man, who has learned to utilize mechanism.

The social evolution I have traced is logical, not chronological. As a matter of fact, there is no stage of development where the feelings are net greatly modified. In view of the discovery that incipient social life often consists, not in working together or mutual help, but in play and festivity, we might well assert that the influence of group life on the likings, aversions and desires is more potent and pervasive than its influence on activities. But because the shaping pressure of the combined units on the individual is invisible and elusive, and causes inner changes not easily observed, while the structural and functional differentiation for economic effectiveness is visible and striking, and leads to readily observed outward changes in men's rank, actions and groupings, sociology has neglected the impalpable psychic effects of association for the trite phenomena of the economic aggregate.

As the moulding of the individual's feelings and desires to suit the needs of the group is the profoundest alteration of associated life, we must regard it as the highest and most difficult work of society, the achievement which most signally shows its presence and power. When an aggregate reacts on the aims of the individual, warping him out of his self-regarding course, and drawing his feet into the highway of common weal, it merits the title of "society," whether or not there be rule and obedience, division of labor and exchange. It may be literally true, that the chief formation of a long-drawn social life is not the relation of authority and subordination between parts of the group, not the gradation of its members into classes, not the systems of sustaining, transporting or regulating organs, but certain ideals and standards, certain likes and dislikes, certain admirations and abhorrences become common to its members. Here then, I venture to suggest, is the ultimate test of association. The abiding of men in the same neighborhood without conflict is mere aggregation. The mind to tolerate or even to make use of each other by cooperation does not compel us to admit association. Not until the feelings have been changed in force and direction, not until the crossing and clashing of many desires has neutralized opposing impulses and achieved a kind of artificial parallelism of wills, must we predicate the presence of society with all its characteristic workings.

We may regard the shaping received by the feelings and desires of the individual in the course of community life as due partly to Social Influence and partly to Social Control. These two making up the grand division of social phenomena I shall venture to call Social Ascendency. Social Influence means the ascendency exercised over the individual by the throng of men in which he is embedded. The stimulus given to the lust for wealth by life in money-worshiping communities, the whetting the appetites received in profligate circles, the color the immigrant takes from the vices or aspirations of his adopted people—these exemplify social influence. It is the contagion of emotions, ambitions, desires. Though it may describe a stream of tendency one cannot stem, it results from the contact and intercourse of men as individuals.

By Social Control, on the other hand, I mean that asceadency over the aims and acts of the individual which is exercised on behalf of the group. It is a sway that is not casual or incidental, but is purposive and at its inception conscious. It is kept up partly by definite organs, formally constituted and supported by the will of society, and partly by informal spontaneous agencies that, consciously or unconsciously, serve the social interest and function under constant supervision from above. Though the two forms of ascendency—social control and social influence—shade off into each other, and appear much the same to the man who experiences them, they are profoundly different in that the former is a necessary social function, while the latter is a mere incident of association. The one is a collective term for certain phenomena of social life; the other is a developed system that challenges analysis and explanation.

Social Control must not be confounded with Social Coördination, on the ground that the latter like the former seeks to make certain rules or standards prevail. An ordinance requiring street cars to stop at the further crossing or directing passing teamsters to turn to the right, coördinates rather than controls. Control harmonizes clashing activities by checking some and stimulating others. Coördination combines activities already harmonious in respect to their ends. The rule that social calls should be made in the afternoon, rather than the forenoon, aims to coordinate certain activities, but the rule that in social intercourse one should avoid all topics that may wound the feelings of listeners aims to control them. As social life grows more complicated, it is of increasing importance that each shall know what to expect of others and what others expect of him. But the conventions aiming to secure happy adjustment of essentially harmonious actions and hence needing no sanction, though phrased in the form of laws and scattered through the codes of society, are utterly different from the regulative portions dealing with incompatible aims and actions.

Not all the social feelings have arisen in consequence of Social Ascendency. The modern man and woman receives a fund of altruism, coming down from the relation of male and female, mother and offspring. Though developed by and for the sake of the family, it constitutes an emotional capital, helpful in smoothing the way for the beginning of the social stage. Besides the pre-social inroads or primitive egoism the many centuries of life in society have achieved a certain fitness of men for the social state. Not only has inter-society conflict extirpated the ill-compacted hordes and led to the survival of the best knit groups, but even within the groups perpetual elimination of the anti-social has sifted out the incorrigible stocks and permitted latter-day populations to be more and more made up of men whose desires admit of being bent into some kind of conformity to the conditions of group life.

A person, therefore, enters the vast social organizations of today with an inherited fitness of feeling, partly owing to the fact that for generations his forebears have been strained through ever finer meshes of legal and moral requirement, and partly owing to a familial selection, dating far back into the pre-social stage, but continuing with scarcely impaired efficacy down to the present time. The efficiency of the social system, into which the individual thus endowed is born, is tested by its power to shape him, far more thoroughly than his heredity has shaped him, to life in society, by its power to build on the foundation afforded by instinct story after story of obedience and loyalty and public spirit. As soon as societies acquire this power a striking change takes place in the significance of inter-group conflicts. Whereas formerly the group with the more altruistic members survived, now the victory often falls to the society with the better system of artificial control. Social disciplines are tested in inter-group conflicts, and in the long run, the more efficient survive.

As the socializing of the members of a group is a process that has to do with the life, rather than the progress of society, the study of the system of control belongs to static rather than to dynamic sociology. Control is, like sustentation or defense, a function that must be continually exercised in order that society may live at all. Individuals may be socialized once for all, but in time the socialized material dies out, while new undiscipled persons are always coming on to the stage of action and requiring discipline. The system of control, like the educational system, is charged, not with revising the structure or functions of society, but with the shaping of individuals. It aims not at growth, but at an equilibrium, perpetually disturbed by changes in the personnel of society and hence perpetually in need of being restored by the conscious effort of the group. Though our idea as to the best equilibrium changes from age to age, and though there is progress in the choice of means for securing the happy balance of interests, this is a movement outside of the system of control and superimposed upon it. The function of discipline aims at a static condition, and so belongs to static sociology.

The device of insuring greater harmony of social life by segregation of the insubordinate and elimination of the criminal, aims, on the other hand, at progress, and belongs to dynamic sociology. The thing does not have to be done over and over again in order to hold ground already gained. One such wholesome sifting lifts society to a higher level and achieves a more perfect equilibrium. If the self-purging of the group is continuous, the effects accumulate and the result is progress. Artificial control holds society to a given plane, but artificial selection raises it to higher and higher planes. This slow secular method of socializing the members of society belongs, therefore, to a different department of sociology, and lies outside of the field marked off for investigation.

Were not all our thinking vitiated by the exigences of the disciplinary system itself, it would not be necessary to clear the way for a study of social control by showing the need of it. Any straight, unhampered thinking, even that of an observant child, leads to the conclusion that there is a conflict between the aims of a man and the interests of his fellows, i. e., of his social group. This is not to allege that man is by nature wholly egoistic, or that the keen pleasures and pangs felt on beholding the experiences of others, are illusory or merely the vestiges of past associations of ideas. Biology has barred the attempt to dissolve the phenomena of sympathy into self-seeking, by showing that the law of preservation of offspring is as firmly rooted in organic life as the law of self-preservation. The wonders wrought by a selective process working on variations, quite prepares us to expect unselfishness as soon as the reproductive process reaches a certain stage of development; and, in the light of facts collected by many workers, it is no longer difficult to trace the slender stem of altruism, rising from the lower levels of mammalian life, side by side with the thicker and tougher trunk of egoism. Again it is certain that the visible destruction of passionate, turbulent or predatory men, whether by collision with other men, or by conflict with the agents of society, occurring through scores of generations, compels us to look for a slow adaptation of men's natures to the requirements of healthful associated life. To doubt it is to deny that selection selects. On the other hand it is inconceivable that in so short a time a rather languid improving process, operating by rejection of the few worst rather than by selection of the few best, should have already carried our race across the interval that lies between the seething, explosive passions of the solitary man, and the self-devotion, needed for harmonious communal life. This, moreover, when the tenderest and gentlest have likewise been sifted out, slain by violence, or self-rejected by celibacy. To affirm it, in face of the fact that the growing complexity of the social organization is always making new demands on human nature, is to assert that selection can achieve perfect adaptation of a species to the requirements of a changing environment!

So lies the presumption. But the facts point the same way. Look at the countless clashings between the members of the group. Mark the cases of interference between the desires of the individual and the plain welfare of the community. Note the struggles everywhere going on between law-breakers and the agents of the public. See how complex is the political machinery that must be set up in order to get common interests attended to without betraying society into the hands of rascals. Fathom the flood of blame, invective, appeal, exhortation, command that must be poured forth, in order to stir laggards and self-seekers to social action. Observe these signs of social distrust of the individual, and tell us if all that is needed to socialize men is to give them more light as to their personal interest!

Some there are who admit the existence of unsocial men, but maintain that they are only a handful, and that the mass of the population respond of their own accord to the requirements of social life. The apparatus of control, therefore, while needful to protect the group against the few evil-disposed, does not send its influence very deeply into the life of the community, and is not one of the great systems of social organs. It will be found that those who take this view, understand by "control," merely those restraints imposed by law and public sentiment. Their social units they endow with religious beliefs, moral distinctions, a full-fledged ethical code, a sense of honor and self-respect, various ideals and valuations of conduct, and Heaven knows what besides—all of which, far from being instinctive, are products of education, and by their presence give signal proof that the more delicate devices of control have done their work so well that the cruder and more vigorous machinery need not be put into motion. Rash indeed, would be the man, who, if required to dispense, not only with law and usage, but with all religious faith, all distinctions as to the moral worth of types of conduct, all sense of duty, all pride and self-reverence, should undertake to build an orderly and stable society on the spontaneous sympathies and social instincts of men.

The natural kindness of the human heart, while it is far from being the main pillar of the social edifice, has, beyond all doubt, the leading rôle in forming the family. It was developed in interest of offspring ages before association, and is even today the chief support of that venerable institution. While substitute motives, such as self-respect, sense of duty, or regard for appearances stand in line ready to shore up the walls of the home, if they totter, it is sympathy originating in the specialized forms of sexual and parental love that preserves and renews from generation to generation the familial relations. Besides its services in behalf of the propagating organ of society, sympathy is valuable to the larger group, as a stimulus to spontaneous aid and a main spring of beneficence. With its timely help it mitigates the vicissitudes of the individual life, averts the stroke of misfortune, lessens the smart of disaster, tones down the harsher inequalities of lot, and for the weaker ones, such as women, widows, children and the aged, softens the rigor of individualistic competition. In its collective manifestation, sympathy fixes the legal status of the feeble and defective classes, determines the plane of comfort they shall enjoy at public expense, and is the parent of various forms of control aiming to excite compassion on behalf of the unfortunate. In the form of pity for the victim and indignation at the oppressor, it authoritatively oversees all disciplines and subordinations in society. It throws the arm of the law about the more helpless, weighs and judges legal and social punishments, enforces a standard of humanity in private life, and intervenes actively between man and woman, parent and child, teacher and pupil, master and servant, officer and private, physician and patient, policeman and offender, warden and convict, employer and employé, railway and patron. Nor is sympathy without its services to the economic organization. It smooths daily intercourse, aids in binding together the members of an economic group, sometimes prompts men to abide by their promises and agreements, and helps even to keep men to the due performance of their appointed work. Indeed the functions of physician, nurse, priest or teacher can hardly be discharged, if some human kindness be not mingled with the services.

But after the fullest and frankest recognition has been given to the role actually played by spontaneous altruism, nothing can be clearer than its utter inadequacy to the needs of a modern society. The success of social organization depends on each man, whether watched or unwatched, sticking to his appropriate work and interfering with no one else in his work. Each in doing his specialized task must trust that others will do certain things, at certain times, in certain ways, and will forbear from certain other things. This trust would be sadly misplaced, if affection and impulse were all that could be relied upon. The degree of smoothness we actually attain, in working the complicated organization of today, is due to something else. Moreover the tasks imposed on different individuals are so unlike in respect to hardship, and the rewards granted are so unequal, that sympathy is quite as likely to dissolve as to strengthen the social order. The very name, "fellow-feeling" suggests how repugnant to it is extreme disparity of condition.

Looking from above, sympathy appears as compassion, the impulse to help another by denying one's self. Looking from below, it appears as envy, the impulse to relieve one's distress by sharing in the good fortune of another. In either case, extreme unlikeness of condition inspires feelings which tend to lessen or remove that unlikeness. But the differentiating group is riddled with inequality, so that, did it trust itself to spontaneous feelings, apart from law and morality, it would be ground to powder between compassion and envy as between the upper and the nether millstone. It is law and morality that make the solid bony framework of social order; sympathy is but the connective tissue. Even if kindness might conceivably restrain the well-to-do from taking the house of the widow, the heritage of the orphan or the staff of the aged, it could not protect the accumulations of the rich from the neediness of the poor. That sympathetic Lazarus should shiver in silence, lest he disturb the repose of Dives in his palace, that fraternal feeling should stay the hand of the hungry peasant from the game of the park, lest the lord miss his accustomed pheasant at dinner, is downright unthinkable. Assuredly then, it is not fellow-feeling that makes the wheels of industry and commerce roll forward in their implacable course.

Sympathy will stay the hand of the wife-beater, but it will not spurn the bribe nor spare the lie. It will snatch a child from trampling hoofs, but it will not keep the nightwatchman awake, or hold the contractor to the terms of his agreement. It will nerve the rescuing fireman, but it will not make the postman take trouble with a badly written address. It will give to the beggar, but it will not check the adulteration of goods. It will man the life-boat, but it will not lead men to give just weight, to make returns to the assessor, or to slay their country's enemies on the battlefield. It will care for children, but it will not shun drunkenness, or unchastity.

The strength and the weakness of sympathy must now be apparent. Love of others will safeguard the family and a circle of friends, but it will not hold a man to his duty toward that large body of fellow citizens for whom he has no feeling but indifference. It will check men when the evil of a deed is sure to fall upon a known individual, but not when it lost in the vague mass called "the public." One who will shrink from self-aggrandizement when the harm to others can be clearly visualized, will not hesitate at a foul deed when the consequences, though vast, are vague and indefinite. Tenderness of heart may withhold poison from one, but it will not withhold explosive kerosene or contaminated water from thousands. Blows that will fall on people natural feeling may be able to avert, but it cannot protect social institutions such as marriage, property, the ballot or free speech from being trampled on in the rush for the spoil. And as social development is marked by the substitution of fixed impersonal relations for transient personal relations, leading to growth of institutions and increase of social structure, sympathy proves weak at just the point where the group welfare needs to be most staunchly defended against the assaults of self-interest. For all these reasons social sentiment is less and less able to cope with the problem of subordination and a growing reliance must be placed on other motives.

I conclude then that, rejecting as we must Mr. Kidd's hypothesis that all rational reflection will land one in absolute egoism, and frankly recognizing the sociality ingrained in the nature of man by an age-long family and social selection, we are still justified in affirming that this endowment is not the foundation of social order. What supports the social edifice, is not innate goodwill but an artificial composition of sentiments provided by society through its system of control.

The necessity of social control being thus established it is next in order to discover the trend of control. Before showing how social volitions get themselves executed it is well to inquire the character of these volitions. In what direction is the conduct of the individual modified? This question can be answered by considering the kinds of conduct most compatible with the life, health and welfare of the social group, and by inspecting the actual contents of legal and moral codes.

It is plain that certain conditions are necessary in order to realize a continued life in any body of men in contact. Unless certain requirements of associated living are complied with, the groups breaks apart or goes to ruin. There must be in the first place a tolerance that shuns wanton interference with the life, health, welfare, or freedom of others. There must be respect for ownership, guaranteeing that the object one has made or appropriated will not be torn from him by the power of a stronger. Whatever be the foundation or limits of recognized rights of property, there must prevail a sentiment that causes a good thing in the hand or hut of another to be differently regarded by a fellow member from the same object, lying unappropriated in forest or sea. Besides this, there must be certain observances in the relation of the sexes. The family is older than society and has its own conditions of life and health. If these be widely disregarded in any group, both family and group will come to ruin. These three, then, toleration, respect for ownership, and respect for marriage are the fundamentals of group life. To society they are what food, drink and sleep are to the individual, or union of sexes and care of children are to the species.

Warfare, so universal among primitive groups and all-important even for the societies of today, determines the next development of internal relations. Here we have the basis for a true selective process. A study that indicates those characteristics of a group that favor victory and survival amid intergroup conflicts, marks the path of necessary social development.

War tests not alone physical strength but also the excellence of the social organization and particularly of the group solidarity. The proportion of fighting men that can be got into the field is an element in the result. This, in turn, depends on the amount of social cohesion that has been developed. Indifference of the individual to the fate of the rest, of parts of a group to the fate of other parts, felt divergence of interest, jealousies, dissensions, internal strife, all point the way to ruin and must be provided against by resort to social control. Furthermore, within the fighting body certain qualities are of supreme importance. Such are loyalty and obedience to leaders, respect for superiors, comradeship and helpfulness, interest in the fate or welfare of one's companions. Finally, endurance, courage, fortitude, spirit of self-sacrifice, contempt for danger, hatred of the enemy, rage, war-like spirit, fierceness and even cruelty are precious in the shock of battle.

Besides these conditions of continuance, there are conditions of group welfare and happiness. Care of the old, faithfulness to agreements, honesty, veracity, helpfulness, generosity, hospitality, industriousness, humility, temperance, patience, public spirit and obedience to law come to be recognized in the long run by the wise men of almost any group as favorable to general happiness, and therefore to be fostered by every means at the disposal of the community. On the other hand, it comes to be seen more or less clearly that greed, fraud, dishonesty, false testimony, unfaithfulness, hypocrisy, meanness, drunkenness, cruelty, vengefulness, insubordination, self indulgence and luxury, by leading to antagonism, collision, waste of energy and disappointment, lessen the worth of associated life, and so ought to be repressed with all the sanctions that can be marshaled. While it may take centuries of social experience to disclose to a group the conduct best for its ends, it is likely that, from the first, every effort on the part of the many to control the behavior of the individual will aim at some of the conditions here laid down.

This theory of the direction of control can be verified by examining the facts. The legal, social or moral codes actually enforced in a community express the social will, seeing they are collective products, and intended to regulate conduct. The study of these, therefore, reveals the direction of social control.

If we study undeveloped societies, we find no such formulations of the social will. If we study very advanced societies, we find the social will formulated into such general principles and abstract propositions that its true tendency does not appear on the surface. Moreover, as these ruling principles are entangled with systems of thought and made to appear of philosophical, theological or ethical validity, their derivation from the self interest of the group is not at once apparent. It is therefore necessary to examine codes at the moment of their greatest expansion, when the group will is registered, not in general formulas, but in a multitude of concrete commands.

Taking the Mosaic code, as an example, we find that the laws it contains can be classified as follows:

1. Laws in the interest of the individual observing them.

2. Laws in the interest of persons with whom the subject is in relation.

3. Laws in the interest of an indefinite body—the public.

4. Laws in the interest of the institutions of the community.

5. Laws in the interest of the system of belief which supplies the code with its chief sanction.

6. Laws in the interest of the system of ceremonial designed to promote obedience to the code.

7. Laws in the interest of the enforcement of the code and prescribing penalties and rewards.

8. Laws in the interest of the purity, perpetuity and authority of the code itself.

9. Laws in the interest of a class.

10. Laws of unknown significance.

Excluding 1, 9 and 10, we find that all the other classes of laws aim, directly or indirectly, at securing the above described conditions of social continuance and happiness. While the first class seems to identify group welfare with individual welfare, all the others imply divergence of interest and seek to safeguard the general interest at the expense of private liberty. While groups 2 and 3 aim at this directly, group 4 seeks the same end indirectly, while groups 5, 6, 7 and 8 pertain to the system of control, by which alone obedience is secured and the preceding ordinances made effective. Putting aside the extraneous matter, which often obscures the real purpose of a code, I believe that all bodies of social requirements can be split up into the above groups. If this be true, our theoretical conclusion as to the direction of social control is strikingly confirmed.

Another preliminary task appears, namely, to indicate the relation in which the study of social requirement and social control stand to ethics.

Like theology or astrology, ethics as it stands today is a pseudo-science. It seeks to be at once a science of conduct as it presents itself to the individual and a science of conduct as it presents itself to the group. Attempting to classify and weigh actions from these contradictory points of view, it succeeds in doing neither correctly, and so falls ignominiously from the rank of science. Social ethics, or the study of conduct from the social standpoint, is and will be recognized as a department of sociology. The investigation of social friction, the study of the concessions of each to all to the end that collisions may be avoided, the ascertainment of the acts most conducive to the maintenance of society when engaged in conflict—all these belong to static sociology.

This does not mean that sociology is condemned to a restricted view of conduct looking only to its influence on the group and not at all to its effect on the individual himself. It is not a science of group tyranny, needing, as a corrective to its one-sidedness, a science of ethics that shall regard conduct from the side of the individual. It is quite competent to comprehend in its view at once the benefits of restraints or sacrifices on the one hand, and their costs on the other, and to seek the point of equilibrium between them. It accordingly holds the balance true between the individual as restrained and the individual as a member of the public and hence beneficiary of the restraint. No science of ethics, therefore, can assist sociology to its conclusion.

Sociology, then, is certain to absorb the objective or social department of ethics. But there is a subjective branch of ethics, which, if its basis be broadened from conduct to life, might constitute a science. It is legitimate to compare pains and pleasures, to study the reactions of conduct, to criticise estimates of utility and to set up standards for judging experiences. The effects of grouping and contrast of gratifications may be shown. The laws of bodily and mental health may be formulated to indicate the limits within which choices should be confined. Such an ethics would constitute a science of living, of getting the most into a life for the man who lives it. For the man who ignores other men, it would be profoundly egoistic; for the man of warm sympathies and refined tastes it would commend no small part of the injunctions derived from social ethics. But in any case this hedonistic science taking the individual's point of view, would place all the restraining laws and customs of the social environment on a plane with the hampering restrictions of the physical environment, as disagreeable circumstances to be evaded, got rid of, or brought to terms as soon as possible.

From the social point of view, such a body of doctrine would constitute an immoral rather than a moral science, and could not fail to bring on the head of the expounder a storm of denunciation. Few, in consequence, are the students of human life who in their investigations have held firmly to private interest, and have boldly formulated the conditions of happiness for the individual without regard to social consequences. Thinkers like Rabelais, Machiavelli, Gracian, Bacon, La Rochefoucauld and Schopenhauer have treated the problem of personal life with cynical fearlessness and with more or less fullness.

Most moralists, however, don the cowl the moment they begin a critique and comparison of subjective values. They champion the side of virtue while affecting to advise as to the most prudent ordering of one's life. Though claiming to be experts in values and adepts in the art of getting the most out of life, and all the while professing loyalty to the interests of the individual they undertake to advise, they really hold a brief from society. They are disguised emissaries, unavowed apostles of social order, unaccredited agents of control, bent on gyving the individual rather than on sending him to his goal by the smoothest path. Under color of giving him friendly counsel they betray him into the service of the community. In the cup they mix for him they mingle doubt and scruple and qualm that sickly o'er the ruddy hue of native resolution. Such a moralist, with the one hand stroking the arching back of Self-Will, and trimming its claws with the other, is a most useful, nay, even precious functionary of society. Not small is the service of him who, snaring with the bird-lime of eloquence or the silken net of fallacy that fell ravager the Ego, spares the laborious pit or stockade.

But, if it be true that there is a divergence between the interests of the ordinary individual and the interests of the containing group, we cannot call such a one a scientist. The enthusiastic devotee of Chopin who, during a nocturne, tries to demonstrate to his unmusical fellow listeners that they must be feeling the raptures that thrill his soul, may be an abler propagandist than the lecturer on music. So the eloquent moral teacher, who seeks to convince the commoner order of men about him that the noble emotional experiences so supreme to him have absolute values that can be realized by all types of people, may be rarer and more precious than the scientific sociologist, but he is certainly not a scientist.

In the light of these distinctions we may, therefore, divide those who profess the science of ethics into three groups:

1. Those who systematically examine experiences, ascertain their causes, groupings and effects, compare and measure them in respect to quality and intensity, and formulate the rules for attaining maximum satisfaction. These may be scientists, but such a science, if imparted in unsoftened, unexpurgated form, is so relaxing to social discipline that few venture to submit their work to the public.

2. Those who determine the conditions of continuance and well-being for a group of associated men, discover how these are helped or hindered by men's actions, and elaborate criteria for judging the various types of conduct. These men are sociologists, cultivating a particular department of their science.

3. Those who extend to the sphere of feeling the classification reached by the sociologist and who, mixing up with his distinctions of "right, wrong," "good, bad," other distinctions, such as "good, evil," "agreeable, disagreeable," borrowed from the student of individual ethics, create and propagate an immensely popular, inspiring, wholesome, but unsound body of doctrine, professing to show that the individual, without swerving from his own ends, can become a perfectly virtuous member of society. This is not science, nor are its teachers scientists. They are consciously or unconsciously representatives of the social order. They are social functionaries and differ in no respect but badge and method from those avowed agents of social discipline who frankly preach, inveigh, denounce, plead, or exhort for the sake of the group.

A final preliminary is a basis of classification.

In classifying the concrete facts in the field of social control, we are free to follow either of two distinct principles of grouping. In the first place we may assign each specific exercise of control to the social institution from which it directly comes. Thus we may group together all the disciplinary services rendered by the church, and under the rubric "ecclesiastical" or "religious" mark them off from the control exercised through law, public opinion or literature. This would be in harmony with Mr. Spencer's procedure of dissecting society and studying the various clusters of institutions that come to light. But this method is not only open to the charge of getting at form rather than forces, but is peculiarly inappropriate to the study of control.

The very reason why this department of social phenomena has never been properly explored, is that there is no group of specialized institutions set apart for the task of regulating men. The eye that seeks eagerly for signs of structure cannot but miss seeing a function that has no set of organs devoted exclusively to its service. There is no group of (let us say) ethical institutions answering to domestic, industrial or professional institutions. Social control, as I shall show, is exercised through all kinds of instruments in turn—through religious, governmental and professional organizations, through amorphous masses of people, through individuals and through super-organic products, such as folk-lore, tradition, ceremonial poetry and works of art. A classification, therefore, according to the institution, organ or agency by which control is exercised will not be satisfactory.

An alternative classification proceeds from the mode in which society gains ascendency over its members. If it be remembered that we restrain men from actions by stimulating certain feelings, such as fear, cupidity, pride or love, we may regard all cases of control, both those which repress action and those which incite to action as applications of stimuli. Now it is possible to classify our phenomena according to the kind of stimulus used. And if we classify according to the nature of the stimulus rather than according to the institution from which the impulses proceed, we emphasize forces rather than forms. To use the organic figure, we attend to the living body of society rather than to the dead corpse, thereby bringing to light not only the organs but their actual manner of operating. Hitherto the point of departure, in studying regulation, has been the visible agency such as government, press, or theater. The consequence has been that while the specific disciplines have been perceived we have overlooked that great portion of control which does not proceed from definite organizations, and which, by reason of its pervasiveness, supplies the moral groundwork of all the rest. Like the air, formless and viewless, it has escaped notice because all else was seen through it.

By thus overlooking the moral upbuilding of men going on under the guidance of society, we have invited the taunt of the moralist that our science cannot account for or explain social order, and therefore we must fall back on the "intuitive sense of duty," "divinely implanted conscience," "innate perception of right and wrong," and the other phantasms supplied by men of his ilk. The force of this logic we can avoid only by exposing the entire process by which the ordered social life of today is made possible. To do this we must ignore no portion of the field. Everything that shapes men in the interest of the group—every motive, inducement, incitement, penalty, check, sanction, influence, ideal or custom—every stimulus, in short, of social origin and application must fall within the scope of investigation. Not otherwise may we hope to wrest this central department of sociology from the obscurant sway of theologians, metaphysicians, moralists, sentimentalists and poets.

In accordance with the adopted principle of classification, I shall treat of Modifications of the Will, Modifications of the Feelings, Modifications of the Judgment. When, for instance, the desire for a certain experience is weakened we have a modification of the feelings; when the belief that a certain act or course of conduct will procure the coveted experience we have a modification of the judgment; when desire and belief remain the same, and conduct is controlled by linking to acts extra pleasures or pains in the form of rewards or punishments, we have a modification of the will. It is not implied that these extra motives do not involve feeling and judgment.

Our first duty, therefore, is to explore the field of employment of rewards and punishment as a means of social control.

Stanford University, Cal.

  1. "Psychic Factors of Civilization."


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1925.


The author died in 1951, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.