The American Journal of Sociology/Volume 01/Number 6/Social Control: II

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SOCIAL CONTROL II.

LAW AND PUBLIC OPINION.

LAW.

Legal sanctions are aimed at the acts of men rather than their neglects, because it is more important to prevent interference than to enforce coöperation. Our laws thus appear to restrain from acts rather than to incite to them. Still, when people trust their lives to a combination of men, say a train crew, in the confidence that each will do his duty, failure to coöperate becomes disastrous, and is punished as criminal negligence. In the army, where failure to do appointed tasks may bring ruin, physical punishments are used to stimulate as well as to restrain. The punishments of the civil and the military courts comprise most of the control directly exercised over the individual by the state.

While conceivably the state might secure obedience to its laws by punishment, by reward, or by both, punishment is the chief instrumentality used. Nor is this strange when we remember how easy is the infliction of great pains and how difficult the affording of great satisfactions. However preferable a scale of prizes to a scale of dooms, the latter will be used so long as it is so cheap to give pain and so expensive to confer pleasure. In dealing with a disturber, society seeks to guard itself not only against future acts of this particular offender, but against would-be offenders as well.

The first object might be gained by killing, disabling, confining or reforming him. The first three make further wrong-doing impossible, but as they succeed by power over the body rather than by power over the mind, they are not cases of control at all. Reformation, on the other hand, does aim at psychic control rather than physical constraint, but it employs religion, morality, habit or education, instead of fear of consequences. The detention and the reformatory discipline are no more punishments than the strait-jacket of the asylum. The strict theory of reformation regards the offender as a moral invalid, who cannot help his offenses and whom no penalty will deter. The reformatory is thus a hospital of psychiatry and its punishments are mere hospital discipline. It is therefore not a form of control by intimidation.

The second object in dealing with the offender, viz., protection against other evil-disposed men, is attained by punishment. While the barbarous idea of retribution has dominated the use of punishment in the past, and even today enjoys high repute in some quarters through the support of certain theological and pseudo-ethical dogmas, it is not too much to declare that the sole sociological justification for afflictive punishment is its deterrent effect. Though the satisfaction of giving a ruffian his just dues, may supply an important motive to the enforcement of law, science can see no other ground for inflicting pain than the protection of the group. If it were possible to spare and seclude the offender, while keeping the public in the firm conviction that the penalty will surely be inflicted in every case, punishment could not appear other than wanton cruelty. This idea of deterrence or control by dread crops out through the whole series of repressive instruments used by society. In damages the idea is hidden simply because sufficient deterrence can be got by enforcing compensation to the injured party. In exemplary damages the idea of deterrence becomes obvious, but is not allowed to appear as the ruling motive.[1] In penalties such as fines or forced labor the aim of deterrence overshadows the reparative idea and in afflictive punishments, such as whipping or hanging, it rules alone.

Getting rid of the idea of retribution permits the exemplariness of punishments to be emphasized. If inflicted for the evil-disposed public and not at all in order to "get even," or "square accounts" with the criminal, they should not only be keenly realized by that public, but they should seem to be severer than they really are. Just how severe they should be, depends in the first place on the position of the offense in the scale of crimes. There must be a proper gradation of penalties so that the psychological pressure over the entire series of offenses may be uniform. Consequently penal provisions tend to form a system, wherein each part has necessary relations to every other part.

But the penal system as a whole is limited in severity by the social situation. While pains must be harsh enough to terrorize most of the evil disposed, they must not outrun the approval of society. They must not be so harsh as to forfeit the endorsement of current morality and religion, or to outrage instinctive feelings of fair play or humanity. Excessive rigor will arouse feelings of hatred or revenge which overcome fear.

While it is all-important that a knowledge of punishments leak out and percolate that stratum of society which is to be held in awe by them, it should not be thrust upon the law-abiding, lest the growth of humane sentiments be checked upon the one hand or, on the other, the punishments under the influence of public opinion be made too lax. It is a mark not of degeneracy, but of moral progress when the mass of the people become unable to regard without horror and pity the salutary pains necessary to restrain certain classes. It is likely that the problem of the repressing crime without demoralizing the public, can be solved only by committing the penal system to the hands of official experts watched by non-official specialists. Punishments might be withdrawn from the public gaze, except when necessary to enlist the sympathy of the people in the task of humanizing them.

In order to avoid demoralizing those who inflict them, corporal punishment must proceed in a decorous way without display of wrath or other personal feeling. Sheriffs and wardens must feel themselves to be, and must be looked upon as functionaries, not foes. Hence, developed law insists on procedure according to precise rules and use of prescribed formulas which help to purge punishment of its personal element.[2] It is the absence of this protective regularity and ceremonial which distinguishes a lynching party from a court and makes it so demoralizing to those who participate. It is formality that makes a difference between civilized execution and mere collective killing.

Ceremony has, however, a far deeper use than the protection of the penal officials. Much of the efficiency of punishment for culprit or spectators lies in attendant circumstances that stir the imagination and excite awe. Punishment must not appear as mere brute force, but as the act of God or of society. By significant ceremonial it must firmly ally itself with current religion and morality.[3] It will not do for the legal protection of society to appear to the evil disposed as a mere case of "dog-eat-dog."[4]

Not only should hanging or whipping be a ceremony but the preliminaries to the inflicting of pain, such as trying or sentencing, should likewise avail themselves of the ceremonial backing. While the efficacy of ceremony will be shown later in studying control of men through their feelings, it needs no psychological analysis to show that court procedure may be made a powerful instrument of intimidation both of accused and of on-lookers. When we note the corrosive flippancy of the daily press it is comprehensible that jurists should defend the grave demeanor, the deliberate pace, the solemn formulas, the prolix and archaic language, the sonorous oaths, the stiff formalities, the rigid and decorous procedure of the court of law. If the process of adjudging imprisonment or death to a man were allowed to appear careless, trivial, cynical, personal, passionate, hurried or undignified, it would be impossible to ally to the brute force of law the might of those ideals and feelings that rule the average man. Hence the wig and the robe, the cocked hat and the sword, the "O yes, O yes!" of the crier, the "Guilty or not guilty?" the kissing of the book, the "So help me God," the "May God have mercy on your soul!"

Those who would apply to these proceedings the same tests that will do for a committee meeting, the session of a school board, a business conference, or a newspaper interview, quite overlook the nature of the problem. The task of dispatching business, of discovering the guilt or innocence of the greatest number of accused people in the least possible time, is quite subordinate to the impression made on the minds of actors and beholders. While formalities that have lost meaning and impressiveness become mere obstructive mummery to be got rid of as soon as possible, it is still true that the more good ceremony is used in trying people, the fewer there will be to try. In the light of the foregoing the effect on the public morale of the undignified and demoralizing procedure of many of our American police courts presided over by vulgar minded political henchmen needs no comment.

The punishments of a social, moral or religious nature attending legal guilt are not legal punishments, being neither allowed for nor inflicted by the minions of the law. They are supplementary pains with which society sees fit to surround the primary pains. But they are none the less important because indefinite. Could we imagine a society in which prison or pillory carried no hint of shame, caused no forfeiture of public esteem, no loss of religious peace, no wound to self-respect—and this is the case of political offenders in many countries—its legal penalties would have just the deterrence they would have in the hands of brigands pirates, invaders or despots. It is when this wholesome alliance between society and the police is broken that virtue departs out of the law and it ceases to bind men. In a democratic country without a specialized police under central authority a breach between the judicial arm and society at large is avoided by the non-enforcement of unpopular laws. The futility of forcing law much in advance of public sentiment is therefore more striking in this country than anywhere else.

The social prevention, as distinct from the repression of crime lies, as I conceive it, beyond the strict limits within which I have sought to confine my subject. It is true that the lessening of violence by closing the dram shops, of incest by preventing overcrowding, of prostitution by instituting working girls' clubs, of illegitimacy by making marriage easy, of rioting by keeping people "on the move," of bribery by isolating the voter, is identical with the results reached by the modes of social control proper. But the method is different. In prevention, by what we might call social betterment, it is sought to reach the will, heart or judgment of the individual by altering the strength or direction of some of the forces of his social environment, or by transfering him to new surroundings. For instance, for street Arabs we can close the saloons and open play grounds, or we may remove them from the city entirely. The methods of social control, on the other hand, reach the individual by specially-devised stimuli, such as punishments, rewards, works of art, ceremonial. The end is attained by the employment of new forces rather than by the manipulation of old ones.

The system of legal control, with its written code and its specialized machinery is so obtrusive that we are apt to give it the primacy, forgetting that definite physical punishment adjudged and inflicted by constituted authorities is only a part of the great apparatus of control. It is doubtful if it is anything but a minor part. How inept is law without ceremony and without the ancillary sanctions we have seen. Certainly no modern society could hold together if it relied exclusively on dread of physical pain. In stimulating positive social service such as valorous fighting, a sense of honor or of duty is a hundredfold more efficacious than the knout or the gallows tree. The lash will make the slave work but it will not make him fight.

Yet it will not do to look upon law as an obsolescent form of control beyond which society is rapidly passing. Granting that out of a hundred law-abiding only one obeys the law from fear of its penalties, it does not follow that the penal system holds a correspondingly insignificant place in the system of control. If the one rascal out of a hundred men were permitted to trespass with impunity, the force of example and the contagion of lawlessness would weaken the higher forms of control and detach man after man from the ninety-nine honest men. And the deadly infection would spread with increasing rapidity till social order lay in ruins and anarchy prevailed. However subordinate, therefore, is legal punishment at any moment in the actual coercion of the members of society, it is still the corner stone of the entire edifice of control.


PUBLIC OPINION.

The law punishes acts rather than neglects, weighs conduct rather than motives or intents, and adjudges when strict rules apply rather than when circumstances should be taken into account. Its ponderous and slow-moving machinery is, moreover, far too clumsy to be relied on for the minor discipline of society. Hence law must be supplemented by the control proceeding from the unorganized mass or public and resting on what we may call "social sanctions."

In this field the forces relied on to control men are three, viz., the opinion, sentiment and action of the public, the last being quite distinct from the first two.

Public opinion, so far as it is an instrument of discipline, is the judgment the public pronounces on an act as to whether it is righteous or wicked, noble or ignoble.

Public sentiment is the feeling of admiration or abhorrence, approval or derision, or resentment expressed by the public with regard to an act.

Public action comprises those measures, other than mere manifestations of opinion or sentiment, taken by the public in order to punish or reward conduct.

The penalties inflicted by one's fellows form a graduated series ranging from the lightest breath of disapproval or the least perceptible chill of manner up to ostracism and mob-murder. The punishment mildest and most suited to slight faults appears in social intercourse and takes the form of coldness, constraint or avoidance. The offender is not greeted so warmly, his hand not clasped so cordially, his presence not sought so often. Men evade breaking bread with him and he meets with less hospitality. Customary and merited precedence in church or lodge or club is denied him. Though avoiding formal expression, the public displeasure deprives the offender of his outer circle of associates and so contracts the horizon of his social life.

If the transgression is graver all these effects are intensified. There now appears an active section of the public aggressively propagating their disapproval and seeking to detach from the wrong-doer his adherents. Greater inroads are made upon his social life. The cut direct, the open snub, the patent slight, the thinly veiled sarcasm, the glancing witticism are the order of the day. The confidence of his intimates is shaken and another zone of friends falls away. If he exercises authority as chairman, officer, foreman or schoolmaster, obedience is more grudgingly rendered. If he has been first, he is ignored and placed last. Expected tokens of confidence or esteem are withheld and services for others fail of their usual acknowledgment.

In the next degree of punishment the mass organizes. Hitherto the members of the public, though swayed by a common impulse, have acted each on his own motion. They have punished the offender as bees punish an intruder—by a thousand separate stings. Each as feeling has prompted has cast a stone, uttered a hiss, flung a gibe or offered an insult. But now collective manifestation of feeling is sought. The resources of different communities and different social strata are, of course, extremely varied. The jeers of a crowd, the cat-calls of the street, the taunts of the corner loafers, the hoots of the mob, the groans of the regiment, the hiss of the audience, or the stony silence of the after-dinner company recall familiar modes of jointly expressing disapproval.

Besides these mass utterances, the regular organs of public opinion begin to be heard. The scathing denunciations of the press, the solemn arraignment of the pulpit, the pictorial pillory of the caricaturist, the witticisms of the topical song, the insults of the poster and the hand bill, the resolutions of churches, societies and lodges, the broadcast lampoon, epigram or pasquinade, all help give vent to the public indignation. Or special organs may be created. Mass meetings may be held, committees of investigation may be appointed, or spokesmen may be selected to denounce the offender to his face.

Long before the common mood has found such ample manifestation, an entirely different type of punishment will make its appearance. In the communities of today one lives not on the fruits of his own toil, but on the products of other men, that is, men live by the practice of coöperation at various removes from the self-sufficing stage. Most of one's well-being comes through coöperations that are advantageous to both parties, some comes as aid that benefits one but does not burden the other, and some succor in times of misfortune comes in way of help that imposes a sacrifice.

Now the instinct of an angered public is to refuse these coöperations by which we live and have our being. First to be refused will be, of course, those offices that spring from good will and entail trouble. Disapproval will interrupt the friendly aid rendered between neighbors. Stopping the straying ox, warning of the unsafe culvert, helping house the hay from the wet, lifting the mired cart, nursing the sick—all these services that require one to go out of his way—cease. So with those coöperations, the benefits of which are one-sided, "accommodations" we call them. Indulgence is no longer granted in the payment of a debt, the rendering of a service, or the keeping of a contract. The helpful disposition dies out and one is held down rigorously to the rights secured by the law.

Finally even those coöperations are refused which are the groundwork of our economic system, and which are of advantage to both parties. The employer loses his employes or his business associates. The business man loses his credit, the merchant his customers, the lawyer his clients, the physician his patients, the clergyman his parish, the clerk his office, the laborer his job. The politician loses his nomination, the hotel keeper his guests, the editor his subscribers, the author his readers, a corporation its franchises. The boycott may go yet further. In small communities it is possible for tradesmen to refuse to sell an egg, a loaf or a candle to him who is under the ban. The result of all this is to shut out the breaker of social laws from the life of associated men and in the full tide of congregate life to condemn him to the isolation of the savage. One by one are severed the roots that spread into the social soil, supporting and sustaining the individual. One by one the breathing pores are sealed up, little by little the ligature is tightened till communication ceases, and the dead member drops from the social body. This system of slow suffocation is without the brute force implied by law, but its clemency is that of the priests who avoided the shedding of blood by using the stake and the faggot.

But the climax is reached when society invades the family of the offender. Though affection is a powerful bond in holding the family together, yet it is rarely the case that the actual relations of the members do not involve ideas as to rights and duties, support and loyalty, authority and obedience. In other words, the family relations do not spring wholly from natural feeling, but are in a measure shaped by certain ideals abroad in society and stamped with its authority upon the minds of the members of the household. But so far as this is true it is possible to reverse the signs and destroy these ties. If wife or child be impressively assured that the loyalty and obedience once a duty is now a sin, they may be detached from the wretched man who has incurred the extreme wrath of his fellows. When thus the nearest and dearest have recoiled in horror, when the evil doer has become an outcast, under the social ban, bereft of kith or kin and vouchsafed in the world of men only the bare rights the law guarantees to him, the full might of public wrath has been made manifest. Farther in this direction it is impossible to go.

Sometimes, especially in rude or new communities ere the legal habit is formed, the public ventures on molestation or violence, thereby forsaking purely social punishment and laying hand to an order of penalty belonging to the organs of law. Egging, hazing, whipping, branding, mutilation, riding on a rail, running out of town, tarring and feathering, lynching—any and all of the personal indignities and corporal pains that can be inflicted by a mob—may be used. This occasional resort to physical force must not be allowed to obscure the characteristic feature of social punishments which is refusal to esteem, communicate or aid.

The system of rewards emplo3'ed by the public answers to its system of punishments.

The minor acts that win general approval meet recognition in unusual warmth and cordiality of social intercourse, in greater deference, in more bountiful hospitality, in praises, congratulations and friendliness. If the service is greater, the hero is made the target of outspoken praise, pulpit and press belaud him, applause greets him everywhere and processions form in his honor. Haughty patricians vie for his company, the social circle lionizes him and in all his dealings his word and deed meet with greater respect.

If his merit be a signal social service, displaying rare courage or self-sacrifice, more formal expressions of public admiration are adopted. Honorary offices, degrees and titles, membership in exclusive societies, the freedom of this or that city are conferred upon him. He encounters public deputations, serenades, demonstrations, pageants, banquets and solemn ceremonial functions. Medals and decorations are showered upon him and he is embarrassed with swords, canes, gold snuff-boxes, parchment memorials and engrossed resolutions. The popular hero, moreover, finds the struggle for a livelihood materially lightened. Rewards, purses, popular subscription funds are presented to him. Place is made for him and he is boosted into a position he could not have hoped to attain competitively. In many direc- tions and ways the returned veteran, the heroic fireman, the brave engineer, the fearless physician, may find facilitation.

Reward, naturally the appropriate stimulus to incite to service on behalf of the group, is most lavishly employed when the group is most in need of service, i. e., in war time. While punishment may keep the nation's defenders up to a certain level of deed, it is necessary to distinguish by reward all achievement of valor or fortitude or devotion rising above this plane. The stimulus that might be applied by a discriminating public in marking with instant and due recognition every service rising above the ordinary is incalculable.

It will be observed that the rewards held out by the public are not chiefly the material compensations by which ordinary services are secured. They are rewards, not of goods, but of honors and glory, which, while superlatively prized by most men, cost but little to confer. By careful and well considered bestowal of public attentions and marks of distinction, a people can reap the fruit of heroic exertions, that, if recompensed by material rewards, would entail a prodigious burden of taxes. Its good will and admiration is an asset that, if well husbanded and prudently spent by a community, will procure it most precious services and sacrifices from its members.

The agent relied on to dispense the punishments and rewards just described, is public feeling. To many it will seem going too far to expect from the sentiments that fitfully agitate the amorphous mass of unreflective people a rational pressure steadily urging the individual away from his egoistic aims in the direction of the social welfare. The public it will be said, has all manner of likes and dislikes, doubtfuUest of which is its liking for genuine social service and its dislike of brazen egoism. Borne high on the crest of popular idolatry the soubrette, the bruiser, the jockey and the skirt-dancer share the honors with the soldier, the patriot and the philanthropist. Is it a man's social service that wins admiration? or is it certain qualities, such as courage, prowess, magnanimity or genius that may or may not be connected with unselfishness? Is it egoism that the mass detests, or is it failure, narrow heartedness or insignificance? How can the public that suffers the plunderer of its money to bask for years in the sunshine of its favor be of any aid in social control?

The answer to this is that the public sentiment we rely on is not at all the primitive feeling called up in the breasts of men on beholding this or that example of conduct. In the first place the feeling, whether of love or hatred, admiration or contempt, far from being spontaneous appears only on reference of the act to certain inner standards. But these standards have been slowly worked out by society and stamped upon the minds of its members. The public, therefore, is a packed jury already coached and trained to render a particular kind of verdict. In the second place the first impressions left on the public mind are not permitted to guide its policy. Scattered through the heedless mass who throw up their caps for bold rascality, and jeer at patient labor for the unmanifest public good are sagacious men, who say "Do we dare encourage this?" "Do we dare discourage that?" By reasoning, by expostulation, by warning of consequences the mass is enlightened, the sober second thought prevails and the public is prevented from quarrelling with its own interests. The public opinion, therefore, that serves social control is an enlightened sophisticated opinion, and the public sentiment is in a way a manufactured sentiment. It is only an intelligent public, accustomed to rally about certain approved centers of authoritv that can be trusted to use in its own interest its power over the conduct of the individual.[5]

Public control is better in some respects than legal control. It is not so mechanical or automatic and permits a larger view of the situation. The public can weigh provocation, can take into account mitigating or aggravating circumstances of time, place, motive, or office. It can have regard to one's entire career, letting past service condone present fault, or present heroism wipe out the memory of past infamy. The blade of the law playing up and down in its groove with iron precision, is hardly so good an instrument for regulating behavior as the flexible lash of public censure, which can delicately graduate the penalty of the offense. To most of us the law is far away and its chastisements accepted on hearsay, but all of us have some time or other felt the smart of public disapproval, and from experience have learned to shun its heavier stripes.

For most offenses the law must wait till the deed is done. Public opinion, on the other hand, is ever present, ready to interfere at any moment and apply a pressure gradually increasing from zero to infinity. As it is more prompt and preventive than law, it regulates in a great many more ways. It can give a tap to break a watch crystal or a blow to forge an anchor.

Public control is not only more alert than law but it is much cheaper. To keep a man in order merely by letting him know your mind is as much simpler than legal process, as faith-cure is simpler than surgery. On the other hand when public sentiment fails to coerce and public action must be invoked, the waste of energy in securing cooperation and giving feet and hands to the amorphous public is enormous. Too often it is like forging a sledge hammer in order to crush an eggshell. The principle of the division of labor would originate courts and bailiffs if nothing else did.

Law with its ponderous axe hews to the line, careless where the chips may fall, but the public rounds off the edges left by law. The law grants the widow's cow to the creditor, it concedes the right of the railroad company to turn adrift an employe crippled in its service, it confirms the right of a husband to administer moderate castigation to his wife. But the public will tolerate none of these things. It supplements law by taking note of offenses that cannot well be brought within a legal definition. Law fences off this or that area for the individual, but the public builds an inside fence, lest one individual should insolently override the interests of the rest.

The delay so conspicuous in the action of law, is not present in public action. To utilize the temper of the community it is necessary to sieze the auspicious moment, to strike while the iron is hot. The public has many things to think of and its attention cannot long be held at one point. The mills of the law may grind slowly but the mills of the public must grind promptly or not at all, for there are many other grists pressing to be ground. Hence often the offender, if he dodges into obscurity and waits till the gust of indignation is over, goes unpunished.

Rooted as it is in the deliberate assent of the majority, law rarely interferes except when the welfare of others is clearly involved. Public sentiment, on the other hand, as it does not always issue from deliberation or involve the assent of the majority, is much more prone to encroach on individual liberty and punish mere non-conformity. It is possible for the vague dislike people feel on regarding wide departures from customary standards, such as vegetarianism, long hair, bloomers or non-attendance at church, to run together into a hostile public sentiment that may lead to persecution.[6] Thus the wholesome sway of public opinion may degenerate into a fierce tyranny of the multitude, making for conformity, conservatism, and stagnation. The only safeguard against such a perversion is an enlightened public conscience which vigorously asserts the right of the individual to be unmolested in his practices and opinions so long as others are not concerned.[7]

Law expresses the will of the entire group so that there can be no clashing of jurisdictions. But the public is often after all only a sect, party or class. In homogeneous communities the common sentiment becomes universal and hence effective; while in stratified communities, the separation of classes hinders easy conduction of feeling throughout the group. Consequently an offender escapes the lowering glances and bitter words of the public by taking refuge in his class where his fault is excused and condoned. The bruiser dives into the sporting class and finds sympathy. The friends of the ballot-sharp close up and shield him from opprobrium. The snob shuts himself away from popular derision in a social atmosphere surcharged with contempt for the herd. This right of asylum with complaisant coteries is a very grave thing for it often transforms an act of punishment into a class war and rends the community in twain. The power of wealth or place to command an entourage of flatterers makes extremely difficult the control of rulers by public opinion. Between throne and people hangs oftentimes a thick curtain of obsequious courtiers and buzzing sychophants that shut away unwelcome murmurs till the gathering whirlwind of popular indignation tears away the curtain and topples over the throne.

The might of public wrath is destroyed by anything that diverts it from an individual and spreads it harmlessly over a network of administrative responsibility. The common indignation always confused by a shifting responsibility is most baffled when responsibility is traced back and is found to be lodged in a body of men. It is this fact that accounts for the increasing disregard of public opinion in the management of business. Corporate organization opposes to public fury a cuirass of divided responsibility that conveys away harmlessly a shock that might have stretched iniquity prone. Witness the ineffectual agitations against grade-crossings, link-couplers or fenderless street cars. In such cases public indignation must be given an arm to strike and hurt with, if it is not to become mere impotent rage. It is of no use to blink the fact that in dealing with corporations, opinion and sentiment avail naught till they lead to the boycott or to legal redress. Those who, overlooking this, ignorantly extol the might of public opinion in all cases whatsoever, thereby stand sponsor for the efficacy of the faith-cure in the field of social therapeutics.

Mass influence is used not only on behalf of the social group but also for many of the various sub-groups and minor combinations of men. Wherever esprit du corps appears we have a basis for the control of each by all. It is often to the interest of each member of a voluntary association, aiming at a common benefit to shirk so long as he does not endanger his participation in the joint results. But this disposition to shirk may be overcome by bringing to bear upon each a common sentiment that admonishes him of his short comings. In a church, a trades-union, a regiment, a chorus, a troupe, an athletic club, an exploring party, a teaching corps, a fire company, an editorial staff, a band of conspirators, or a gang of thieves there are some whose exertions, far from being actuated by zeal for the success of the combination, are stimulated rather by a fear of the disapproval, criticism, resentment or derision of their cooperators and by thirst for their praise, admiration, gratitude or confidence. This is one of the chief ways in which the units in the working organs of society are held together and the organ itself vitalized. When, as in the case of a ship's crew, a factory group, a plantation gang, a railroad service, a corps de ballet, the staff of a shop or the force of a mine, there is no critical attitude of all toward the contribution or service of each and the stimulating principle is furnished by captain, employer or superintendent with power of fine or dismissal and bonus or promotion, the control is of a distinctly coarser quality and the association is of a lower order.

It is probable that an increasing volume of positive restraint will be exercised through public opinion, and that, for individuals at least, this type of regulation will gain at the expense of legal control. For this type of coercion is suited to a higher grade of man than is held in awe by the harsh penalties of the law. Only the criminaloid and the moral hero care not what others think of them. The majority of the men of today are fortified by public praise and wilt quickly under general disapproval.[8] Then, too, certain phases of social development strengthen the rule of the mass. The growing reliance of men upon each other in order to get the economic advantages of cooperation strengthens the grip of the group on the individual. Liable as he is to have his life course changed and his prosperity blighted by the resentful action of his fellows, he is loath to fly in the face of the common will. The increasing contact of men and the better facilities for forming and focusing the public will also point the same way. The day of the sturdy backwoodsman, settler, flatboatman or prospector, defiant not alone of law but of public opinion as well, is gone never to return. We are come to a time when ordinary men are scarcely aware of the coercion of public opinion, so used are they to follow it. They cannot dream of aught but acquiescence in an unmistakable edict of the mass they live in.[9] It is not so much the dread of what an angry public may do that disarms the modern American as it is sheer inability to stand unmoved in the rush of totally hostile comment, to endure a life perpetually at variance with the conscience and feeling of those about him.

Stanford University, Cal.

  1. In exemplary damages, the sociological idea of deterrence had to slip in under moral guise. "In other jurisdictions the same end (exemplariness) is accomplished by allowing compensation for the sense of wrong and injury . . . . " Sedgwick, Elements of Damages, p. 16.
  2. "Our records seem to show that the kind of justice which the criminal of old times had most to dread, was the kind which we now associate with the name of Mr. Lynch." Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law, Vol. II, p. 578.
  3. Probably "characteristic" punishments, such as taking the tongue of the false accuser, or the perjurer's right band may have had some such virtue in a rude time.
  4. "This conviction, that crime is all pervasive and that government is one of the tricks of the trade of dog-eat-dog which all are playing, will paralyze the conscience quicker than any other belief that can take possession of the human heart." Amos G. Warner, in Am. Jour, of Sociology, for November 1895, p. 291.
  5. "Yet, however republican in spirit a community may be, and however intelligent its members, its public opinion is moulded by a few leading minds." Giddings' Principles of Sociology, p. 139.
  6. "It crushes the weak; it worships success, strength and riches, the symbol of strength; its golden calves are conspicuous in every market-place. It affects to set up its laws in the higher regions of speculation, with the result that the great pioneers of progress are generally its enemies. It attempts to make every question a social question; to render its notions fashionable, to get them represented in high places, and adopted by the powerful." Professor Nettleship in International Journal of Ethics, Vol. II. p. 227.
  7. "The greatest of Athenian statesmen claimed for his countrymen that they set an example to the rest of Greece in that enlightened toleration which does not even visit with black looks these who hold unpopular opinions, or venture in any wise to differ from the prevailing sentiment. Such enlightenment is doubtless one of the latest fruits and crowns of a high civilization, and all the more to be admired when it is not the result of indifference but coexists with energetic action in the field of politics or religion or social reform." Bryce, The American Commonwealth, 2d ed., Vol. II., p. 340.
    "Taking the country (United States) all in all, it is hard to imagine more complete liberty than individuals or groups enjoy either to express and propagate their views, or to act as they please within the limits of the law . . ." Ibid. p. 342.
  8. "The power transcending all others, which has influenced individuals and nations since time began, that power which is a convergence of the invisible, intangible, spiritual forces of all humanity is public opinion" Tolstoi, The Kingdom of God, p. 266.
  9. "In the fatalism of the multitude there is neither legal nor moral compulsion; there is merely a loss of resisting power, a diminished sense of personal responsibility and of the duty to battle for one's own opinions, such as has been bred in some peoples by the belief in an overmastering fate. It is true that the force to which the citizen of a vast democracy submits is a moral force, not that of an unapproachable Allah, nor of the unchangeable laws of matter. But it is a moral force acting on so vast a scale, and from causes so often unpredictable, that its effect on the mind of the individual may well be compared with that which religious or scientific fatalism creates." Bryce, The American Commonwealth, Vol. II, p. 332.


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