Human Nature and Society

Hi Readers, This time Informasi Ahli will discuss about Human Nature and Society.
We have already seen how the changing technological basis of labour gradually brought about what is usually described as the Industrial Revolution. The great shift in population and industry that took place in the eighteenth century was due to the intro­duction of coal as a source of mechanical power, to the use of the steam engine, and to new methods of smelting and working iron. Out of this coal and iron complex, a new civilization developed. This paleotechnic or industrial civilization created new concepts of the nature of man and society, which, although their development was gradual, ultimately led to an ideology totally different, from that which had prevailed during the eotechnic or medieval period. Whereas eotechnic society had been a society of small towns and villages predominantly agricultural, its industry based on the work of small craftsmen, merchants, and peasants, its religion all-pervading, and its members’ status largely determined by birth, paleotechnic society was in all these respects something quite new in human history. Large cities replaced small villages or towns; the unskilled and uprooted labourer the skilled craftsman; the large factory the small home industry; unrestricted competition replaced co-operation, and an individual’s position in society became dependent upon his own unaided efforts in the struggle for status.
Naturally enough, the new outlook had a considerable influence upon thought in the social sciences which were be­ginning to develop from the middle of the eighteenth century onwards. Prior to that time, what we now know as sociology, psychology, and anthropology had made little use of scientific method, and were, in fact, merely branches of theology or philosophy based on arm-chair speculation or travellers’ tales. During the last quarter of the eighteenth and the first quarter of the nineteenth centuries, such writers as the German Herbart and the Scotsmen Thomas Brown and James Mill (father of the better-known J. S. Mill) had attempted to found a scientific psychology based upon the concept of the association of ideas, but, as we have already noted, the serious application of experi­mental method in the field of psychology did not begin until Wilhelm Wundt in 1879 opened his research laboratory at the University of Leipzig. It is true that, to the layman, the results of this early experimental work were likely to appear somewhat dull and uninspiring – as William James unkindly said, German experimental psychology could only have arisen amongst a people who were incapable’ of being bored. But it is necessary to realize that those aspects of human behaviour which lend them­selves most readily to experiment are precisely those which tell us least about human personality as a whole; one may readily carry out laboratory experiments on memory, attention, vision, hearing, and sensation, thereby gaining much useful information – but the same cannot be said of those aspects of the mind which most nearly concern us – for example fear, hate, love, or guilt. This obvious limitation of early experimental psychology was perhaps most apparent to physicians and others who found themselves confronted by the problems of psychiatry, which, following the humanitarian revolution initiated by Pinel about 1792, was slowly becoming a more or less respectable branch of medical science. The psychiatrist, unlike the academic psy­chologist, was impatient. He could not always wait until science had validated his methods, because, like the revolutionary, he wished not only to understand but to change the world, or at any rate that part of it which confronted him in his clinic or consulting-room. In short, the bias of the psychiatrist, as of any other physician, was basically empirical, and this bias is signific­ant because it led to the development of theories of personality such as those of Janet and Freud and all their many offshoots which, whether or not they are true, undoubtedly go far beyond what is positively known. It is important that the reader should note this basic dichotomy in the field of psychology, and should realize that psychology, psychiatry, and psycho-analysis, are not synonymous terms, as is so often supposed, nor do they have the same attitude concerning scientific method. Psychology, it is true, is the study of human behaviour, but the psychologist ordinarily takes the view that his science can only be built up by the gradual accumulation of knowledge in many separate fields of human action, and, as we have already seen, the fields most readily open to such research are likely to pertain to such matters as per­ception, learning, memory, intelligence, and so on – to the simpler aspects of behaviour. ‘The psychologist’, writes Dr Zangwill in his Introduction to Modern Psychology, ‘may be said to nibble at personality; he does not venture to swallow it as an indigestible whole’, and Professor Notcutt in The Psychology of Personality goes so far as to say: ‘Even now, the study of personality belongs to the adventurous and not wholly res­pectable frontier regions of psychology, which it is not altogether wise to explore without a safe academic reputation in some entirely reputable field, like colour vision, or the ability of rats to learn their way through a maze.’
Psychology, then, is the study of human behaviour; it is based wholly upon scientific method, and although most psychologists are quite prepared to take one or another of the many theories of human personality as a working hypothesis, very few would be prepared to suggest that it is anything more than a useful frame of reference. Psychiatry is a branch of medicine which deals with the treatment of mental disorders, and even if there is a good deal of agreement amongst psychiatrists about certain funda­mentals, its approach is fundamentally empirical. Psycho­analysis, on the other hand, is a word which refers exclusively to the theories and methods of psycho-therapy discovered by Sigmund Freud, and a person who accepts and practises these methods in their entirety (having received an appropriate train­ing) is a psycho-analyst. Whilst most psycho-analysts are also psychiatrists, by no means all psychiatrists are psycho-analysts. This does not mean that psychologists or psychiatrists in general reject Freudian theory – on the contrary, nearly all modern psychiatry is largely based upon Freudian concepts. But psy­chiatrists certainly do not accept the theory in all its details, rather they pick and choose what they find useful; without the concepts of infantile sexuality, of a personality which develops during the first five years of life within the complex relationships of the family circle, of mental conflict as the root of neurosis, of the unconscious, of mental mechanisms in explaining behaviour, of the importance of sex and aggression – all of which were originally formulated by Freud – modern psychiatry could hardly exist. In psychology, too, most psychologists (unlike Dr H. J. Eysenck, whose criticisms of psycho-analysis the reader will find in Uses and Abuses of Psychology published in this series) take the view that Freud’s work was of fundamental importance and believe that it has revolutionized the whole field of the science. Typical of the general view is that of Dr Zangwill who writes in the book from which we have already quoted: ‘The academic psychologist, in virtue of his scientific training, is necessarily something of a sceptic. He has been taught to react with healthy suspicion to broad generalizations founded on imperfect evidence. He argues that the theories of Freud cannot be tested by any of the methods which science has slowly and laboriously evolved to disentangle truth from opinion. The standards of evidence upon which the principal theories of psycho-analysis are based cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be held to fulfil the requirements of scientific precision. But this does not mean that Freud’s theories are necessarily wrong. Indeed, in so far as the outcome of clinical observation furnishes valid evidence, his views have turned out to be more often right than wrong . . . As a result of Freud’s researches, psychology today differs from psychology of fifty years ago in a manner so fundamental as to justify the comparison with biology before and after Darwin.’
Freud, however, in spite of his great contribution to psy­chology, shared with other social scientists of his time the out­look of the paleotechnic period, and in what follows, an attempt will be made to trace the manner in which our concepts of human nature and society have changed during the past few decades. Facts, of course, are always facts, although we may agree that how they are regarded, and even whether or not they are perceived, is likely to be strongly influenced by the prejudices of the times. But it is the assumptions lying behind the facts and the frame of reference into which they are fitted that most clearly show the prevailing ideology. During the Middle Ages, although the prevailing philosophy of mind had been one of dualism – that is to say, one which affirmed the independent existence of both body and soul – it would appear that body arid soul were never­theless thought of as being intimately related during life. Thomas Aquinas, for example, appears to have thought of man as a ‘be- souled’ organism, rather than merely a body plus a soul. The soul of course, was believed to survive bodily death, but was neverthe­less thought to be linked to the body in a peculiarly intimate way during life. During the seventeenth century, however, Descartes, presumably hojping to bring human biology within the sphere of the natural sciences, suggested that spirit and matter, body and mind, were totally different entities, interacting in some way which was never clearly explained, and thus Cartesian theory opened the way to the view that the body was basically a ma­chine, whilst the mind or soul moved ever farther away from human ken. Once mind and matter had been separated from each other it was but a short step from Descartes, the devout (but doubting) Catholic, to the thorough-going mechanistic material­ism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The typical philosophical theory of mind during the paleotechnic period, then, was that which Professor Ryle has described as the theory of ‘the ghost within the machine’, but, so far as the scientist was con­cerned, the ‘ghost’ was merely a polite concession to conven­tional morality; in fact, man was a machine. In the field of medicine, the influence of Descartes came to be felt in the views of the seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century schools of iatromathe-matics, iatrochemistry, and iatrophysics, all of which interpreted illness as a failure in function of part of the machine, and merely differed as to whether the defect could best be explained in terms of mathematics, chemistry, or physics. Another medical school known as Vitalism, although claiming to be violently opposed to those we have already mentioned in that it accepted the existence of the soul, was in practice no different from its opponents – the body remained a passive machine guided, in this case, by an im­mortal spirit, which, since it was clearly out of therapeutic range, really played little part for all practical purposes when it came to dealing with the sick patient. Nineteenth-century medicine, under the influence of Virchow and others, was totally mechanistic.
Freud, as is well known, was a materialist, who believed that in the course of time all mental activity would be explained in terms of physics and chemistry. He described his theories as a ‘mythology’, and clearly supposed that they would ultimately be replaced, not by other psychological theories, but by the advance­ment of knowledge in neurology and physiology. Psycho-analysis is fundamentally a biological theory of personality. That is to say, it is founded upon certain preconceptions concerning man’s biological nature and in particular upon the theory of instincts. ‘In Freudian theory,’ says Erich Fromm, ‘those passions and anxieties that are characteristic for man in modem society were looked upon as eternal forces rooted in the biological constitu­tion of man.’ In this respect, of course, Freudian theory was in no way different from many other contemporary psychological theories; McDougall, for example, gave a list of no less than seventeen ‘propensities’ or instincts which were alleged to form the innate basis of human behaviour. In fact, Freudian theory, which postulated only two instincts, sex and aggression, had at least the advantage of simplicity. Now this emphasis upon the instinctual basis of human nature led to the belief that certain traits common to individuals in the industrial civilizations of Western Europe and Northern America were innate in human nature. The waging of wars, competition and the striving to dominate, the patriarchal family, Christian attitudes to sex, the activity of men and the passivity of women, the Oedipus complex, the Puritan conscience, and so on, all came to be regarded as rooted in biological traits and therefore universal and inevitable. Animals, as is well known, demonstrate clearly-marked instinctual reactions; man, as Darwin had shown, was an animal amongst other animals; so why should not men have instincts too ?.
It is now realized that much of this discussion of instincts is based upon verbal confusion; for the word ‘instinct’ may be used in at least two widely differing ways : (1) it may be used to refer to a specific and fixed reaction pattern which is determined by the structure of the central nervous system (much of the complex behaviour shown by such creatures as ants, bees and wasps, fish and birds, comes into this category), or (2) it may be used to refer to what are now more generally known as ‘bio­logical needs’ or ‘drives’. When, for example, we say that the nest-building habits of birds, the migrating cycle of the salmon, or the social behaviour of ants is ‘instinctive’, we are using the word in the first sense to imply that the behaviour in question is largely inherited, more or less automatic, and has little or nothing to do with intelligence in fact, it is typical of ‘instincts’ in this sense of the word that they are not modifiable, or only very slightly modifiable, by experience. Modern biologists and psychologists are agreed that such behaviour is a disappearing category in man and the higher animals, since intelligent and flexible learned behaviour is, in the course of evolution, replacing inborn, inflexible, and unlearned behaviour. Virtually, men have no instincts in this, the original, sense of the word. In the second usage of the word, we are discussing needs such as sex, hunger, sleep, thirst, and so on; but, although the existence of such needs or drives does explain why men initiate certain actions (e.g. why they want to eat, drink, or obtain sexual satisfaction), it does not in any way explain how they do these things, why they sometimes do them when they do not wish to, or do not do them when they do wish to. That man possesses certain needs is a biological fact; how he satisfies them is a social or cultural fact. The modern view is that human behaviour cannot be understood purely in terms of the satisfaction or frustration of biological drives, because social life generates new needs which may be as powerful, or even more ppwerful than, the original biological ones. That men give away their last crust of bread, permit themselves to be des­troyed rather than give up their convictions, are patriotic, religious, and so on – these forms of behaviour cannot be wholly explained biologically, but only in terms of society and culture. There are, it need hardly be said, certain constants relating both to man’s biological needs and the situation of the human being vis-a-vis his environment which inevitably limit his way of life and which no social group could afford to ignore. Thus women, not men, give birth to children; all children are born helpless and must therefore be supported by the family (or a family substitute) for some years; in most climates clothes are necessary, and at all times human beings need food, water, shelter, and a minimum of warmth. Even apart from these biological constants, there exist others which are the universal result of social interaction. If a society is to exist as a society, there must be rules regulating behaviour which reflect a spirit of give and take. Whatever the appearances, all societies must be based upon co-operation – indeed, the failure to realize this obvious fact was one of the more obvious fallacies of paleotechnic civilization, which did not understand that no society can exist on a basis of all-out com­petition. Competition presupposes a pre-existing state of co­operation ; for, as Stuart Chase has pointed out, if more than 5 or 10 per cent of the members of a group did not for the most part do what was expected of them, the group would simply cease to exist. In order to co-operate, individuals must know where they stand and what is their duty in relation to the society as a whole (i.e., they must have a clearly-defined status and function), and they must be able to communicate with each other (i.e., they must have language). As they are related not only to each other but also to their natural environment, to the universe, this relationship also must be defined (i.e. a body of religious belief or some similar ideology, whether mythology, philosophy, or scientific knowledge, tends to arise). As a result of all these constant factors in the social, biological, and material environment we find that all known societies possess the follow­ing institutions :
  1. Language.
  2. Materials, shelter, food, clothing, and the knowledge of how to deal with them.
  3. The status of the individual within the group is defined so that he knows his duties, his functions, and his expectations.
  4. Art forms, tales, poems, sculpture, architecture, etc.
  5. Mythology and scientific knowledge.
  6. Religious belief and practices.
  7. The family and social organization (although, of course, the family takes many different forms in different societies).
  8. Rules regulating property, trade, barter, and money.
  9. Government.
  10. War, although a very ancient and widespread element, is not found amongst all societies.
In company with most other psychologists of his time, Freud seems to have supposed that there was a universal ‘human nature’ capable of explaining all human behaviour, and that this nature was basically biological. As we have seen, there are indeed certain more or less fixed constants which must apply to any human society, but there can now be no doubt that the concept of a more or less fixed ‘human nature’ is a figment of the imagina­tion. This assumption began to fare badly in the 1930s when the American anthropologists Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict produced a series of studies which effectively demonstrated how very flexible ‘human nature’ is when observed against differing cultural backgrounds. Margaret Mead found, for example, that the storm and stress which is taken for granted as typical of adolescence in Western civilization does not occur amongst girls in Samoa where custom permits early sexual experience. Similarly, sexual differences between men and women cannot be said to be wholly due to innate biological factors, as Freud supposed, if, as Mead found in New Guinea, neighbouring tribes with differing cultures show variations in masculine and feminine traits which, in some cases, amount almost to a reversal of the roles as we know them. ‘The Arapesh ideal is the mild, responsive man married to the mild responsive woman; the Mundugumor ideal is the violent aggressive man married to the violent aggressive woman. In the third tribe, the Tchambuli, we found a genuine reversal of the sex-attitudes of our own culture, with the woman the dominant, impersonal, managing partner, the man the less responsible and the emotionally dependent partner.’ These cultural differences extend into all fields of personality: the Arapesh are co-operative, unaggressive, and gentle towards their children, the Mundugumor un-co-operative, aggressive, and harsh. Aggression is so distaste­ful to the Arapesh that it almost seems to take the place filled by sex in Victorian society – anger, boastfulness, and even any sign of mild competitiveness or self-assertion, are strongly disapproved of, and the sight of anyone in a rage shocks them as profoundly as if in England someone were to tell a smutty story at the vicar’s tea-party. Arapesh children are never punished, and during their early life it is incessantly suggested to the children that everything is ‘good’ – good sago, good house, good uncle, and so on. Amongst the Mundugumor, on the other hand, ‘social organization is based on the theory of a natural hostility that exists between all members of the same sex, and the assumption that the only possible ties between members of the same sex are through members of the opposite sex. Ruth Benedict found that the Zuni Indians of New Mexico resemble the Arapesh of New Guinea in their lack of assertiveness and competitive spirit – the Zuni try to lose a race, and insist upon not occupying positions of dominance. Whereas the unfortunate capitalists of Europe and America compulsively collect wealth on the assumption that it is perfectly natural to do so (doubtless as a result of McDougall’s acquisitive propensity), to the Kwakiutl Indians of Puget Sound the main problem is how to get rid of it; prestige is obtained in this tribe by burning money or tearing it in pieces at the so-called ‘potlatch’ ceremonies. The Dobu of New Guinea live in such a state of persecutory suspicion, as would seem to justify in Europe or America the diagnosis of paranoia, and in Bali, says Roheim, we find ‘the unthinkable – a schizo­phrenic culture’. Most of us are aware, or would be had our school-books not been so carefully expurgated, that the ancient Greeks regarded homosexuality favourably, and even psy­chiatrists with little knowledge of the social sciences cannot fail to note how, in Britain, social change has brought about changing fashions in mental disorder – for example, hysteria, once the prevalent neurosis of Victorian times, is now almost unknown in its pure form, whereas anxiety neurosis is rapidly increasing. At a later stage in this book we shall have to discuss the important problem of the selection of leaders in industry, but at this point it is difficult to deny oneself the luxury of sug­gesting that one method we have not as yet tried which might prove extremely effective, at any rate in eradicating a certain type of industrial ‘leader’, is that employed by the Zuni. In this happy tribe, we are told, . . . when leaders are required, groups of men are locked up and virtually imprisoned until someone’s excuses against being put in authority have been battered down. Once chosen, the leaders are regarded with little respect, have little power, and at any sign of authoritarian behaviour, they are hung up by their thumbs until they confess to their crime.’ However, we must reluctantly drag ourselves back to reality from these pleasing sadistic fantasies to note that the important point about such anthropological observations is the extreme variability of ‘human nature’ which they demonstrate, a vari­ability which biological theories of personality fail to explain. In the words of Ruth Benedict, we have come to realize that ‘most of these organizations of personality that seem to us most incontrovertibly abnormal have been used by different civilizations in the very foundations of their institutional life. Con­versely, the most valued traits of our normal individuals have been looked upon in differently organized cultures as aberrant (abnormal). Normality, in short, within a very wide range, is culturally defined.’
We must now examine a second assumption which Freud shared with other psychologists of his time, the origins of which have already been traced in Chapter 1. This is the belief that there exists a basic dichotomy between man and society. Human nature, it is supposed, is, at the roots, evil – man is ‘naturally’ antisocial, and it is the function of society to domesticate him. In Freudian theory, society is pictured as a conglomeration of human atoms, each at war with the other, each separated irrevocably from his fellow-men by the limiting membrane of his own skin. In order to keep this rabble quiet, some expression of the crude instincts may be permitted, but ordinarily these must be checked and refined, and through the thwarting of the sex- impulse and its deflexion to symbolic ends there arises, by the process described by Freud as ‘sublimation’, what we know as ‘civilization’. If we grant this assumption, it follows that there must exist an inverse relationship in any society between the satisfaction of man’s instincts and the level of cultural attainment, so that the more suppression the more elaborate the culture (and the greater the incidence of neurosis) and the less suppression the less neurosis (but also the less civilization). Neurotics are those who have fallen by the wayside in the drive towards a civilized society; for whereas criminals rebel openly against their society neurotics do so in secret. All behaviour is basically self-interested, since love is merely sublimated sex and kindliness a reaction- formation against one’s latent sadism. But although the more positive emotions of love, friendliness, and generosity are in some sense ‘secondary’ and derived, the negative ones of greed, cruelty, and aggressiveness are allegedly innate and primary. This sug­gestion is so preposterous that Karen Homey, one of the Ameri­can group of neo-Freudians, felt bound to comment: ‘That over­kindliness may be a reaction-formation against sadistic trends does not preclude the possibility of a genuine kindliness which arises out of basically good relations with others. That generosity may be a reaction-formation against greediness does not disprove the existence of genuine generosity.’ Erich Fromm specifically derives the social aspects of Freudian theory from the ideology of the Industrial Revolution. He writes: ‘Human relations as Freud sees them are similar to the economic relations to others which are characteristic of the individual in capitalist society. Each person works for himself, individualistically at his own risk, and not primarily in co-operation with others. But he is not a Robinson Crusoe; he needs others as customers, as employees, or as em­ployers. He must buy and sell, give and take. The market, whether it is the commodity or the labour market, regulates these relations. Thus the individual, primarily alone and self-sufficient, enters into economic relations with others as means to one end: to sell and to buy. Freud’s concept of human relations is essentially the same: the individual appears fully equipped with biologically given drives, which need to be satisfied. In order to satisfy them the individual enters into relations with other “objects”. Other individuals thus are always a means to one’s end, the satisfaction of strivings which in themselves originate in the individual before he enters into contact with others. The field of human relations in Freud’s sense is similar to the market – it is an exchange of satisfaction of biologically given needs, in which the relationship to the other individual is always a means to an end, but never an end in itself.’ (The Fear of Freedom.)
Much of this gloomy picture is beyond the reach of scientific discussion for the simple reason that it is based upon mere value- judgements which could not conceivably be settled by any factual observations. We cannot usefully discuss, for example, whether man is basically antisocial or society basically repressive, because these are pseudo-problems with no discoverable meaning. Man, it is true, is born without morals, since morals arise only in social interaction, and society certainly encourages some of his traits and discourages others, but without society he would not only not be human in any meaningful sense of the word, he could not even survive. As Professor Sprott tells us in his Social Psychology: ‘It is a mistake to think of the “person” as a pre­fabricated structure waiting at birth to be erected, well or ill, by the adults in charge of it. Prior to an infant’s earliest contacts with other human beings it simply does not exist as a “person” at all.’ No modern sociologist or social psychologist would accept the atomistic view of society which Freud seems to have accepted as natural, because it is not nowadays believed that human beings exist in a random state, bumping against each other like marbles in a boy’s pocket. They are invariably organized in one form or another, and the individual is always related to the larger national or tribal society through the mediation of smaller and more intimate social groupings. The most fundamental of these is the primary or face-to-face group, about which we shall have a great deal to say in subsequent chapters. In an important sense it is true to say that it is not the individual but the primary group which is the basic unit of society. At this stage, we shall merely mention the existence of primary groups, emphasize their significance in the life of man, and contrast them with the more formal and deliberately organized secondary groupings which play much less part in the actual development of character. The most familiar primary groupings are the family, the play­group, the neighbourhood group, the work group, and the group of elders in the village. ‘These groups’, writes Professor Kimball Young, ‘are primary in several senses. They are the first groups in which the individual builds up his habits and attitudes. They are fundamental to the development of the social self and the moral sense, and give one the basic training in social solidarity and co-operatic*n.’ (Personality and Problems of Adjustment.) Any national or tribal society, therefore, is built up from a network of primary groups, and it follows that the theory, prevalent during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, that society consists of a horde of basically selfish and unorganized individuals – the so-called ‘rabble hypothesis’ – is totally untrue.
One aspect of social organization which not only demonstrates the falsity of the ‘rabble hypothesis’ but requires to be em­phasized for the purposes of our argument is the fact that the culture or way of life of any society is a patterned whole which can never be regarded as a patchwork quilt of unrelated elements. ‘The different parts of a culture are all related to one another and do not function separately; the culture of any one area or people is thus like a machine or an organism with all its parts interlinked.’ (Ogbum and Nimkoff : A Handbook of Sociology.) That this is so is demonstrated by the way societies respond when an attempt is made to introduce a new trait into their culture, whether the trait is a new belief, a new tool or invention, or a new custom. When this happens one or other of the following reactions is likely to follow :
  1. It may fit into the pattern and be accepted.
  2. It may clash with the existing pattern and be rejected.
  3. It may be found unsuitable in its original form, but capable of modification or substitution so as to make it acceptable.
  4. If a trait which conflicts with deep-seated elements in the cultural pattern is forced upon it, whether by con­quest or extreme environmental pressure, the society may disintegrate, or it may, after a period of disintegra­tion, manage to restructuralize itself around the new trait. Disintegration may also result from the sup­pression of a cultural trait which has played an important part in a particular society (e.g., the banning of head-hunting by the British authorities in New Guinea led to the beginnings of disintegration in the tribal society which had been based on this custom, but the situation returned to normal when the spearing of a wild boar was substituted for the original practice).
There are many examples of this selectivity of cultures to new traits – a selectivity which could certainly not exist were the ‘rabble hypothesis’ true. The Plains Indians, who valued dreams and delirium, readily accepted alcohol from the white man; the Hopi, who valued regularity and order, did not. Hunting societies accept firearms, fishine societies do not. Tribes which value uniqueness in objects reject mass-produced goods. ‘The accept­ance of any new culture element entails certain changes in the total structure configuration. Although the full extent of these can never be forecast, certain of them are usually obvious. If the new trait is of such a sort that its acceptance will conflict directly with important traits already in the culture, it is almost certain to be rejected.’ (Ralph Linton : The Study of Man.) Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown, and other anthropologists of the Functionalist school, have suggested that each custom, belief, or trait in a society serves some function within the culture as a whole. Thus, although a culture element may have no objective use, it may nevertheless serve a subjective function. For example, the per­formance of magic rituals during work does not add to the success of the work in any objective manner, but it does con­tribute to the assurance and peace of mind of the worker, to what is generally described as his morale, and, as we shall see later, the distinctive dress, ‘mythology’, or beliefs of a working group in modern industry help to increase its social solidarity, and thereby its effectiveness.
It is apparent, of course, that whereas the Zuni, the Mun- dugumor, or the Arapesh tribal societies have shown little change over many centuries, there are other societies, of which our own is one, which have radically altered even in the past fifty years. There are two reasons why this is so, as Professor W. F. Ogbum of Chicago tells us in his book Social Change : ‘Primarily,’ he says, ‘the cause of social change is the making of inventions, mechanical or otherwise, and secondarily, the diffusion of inventions already made.’ Each new invention (as contrasted with new discoveries), is for the most part a combina­tion of old elements – that is to say, it is dependent upon principles already known. It therefore follows that the more of such elements there are in a particular culture the greater will be the number of possible new inventions. Technical progress moves at an ever-increasing rate for just this reason. Roughly speaking, as Ogbum shows, material culture grows according to the exponential principle (i.e., it grows like compound interest).
But, as we have already noted, each technical invention has an effect on those who use it, or, to say the same thing in another way, each invention becomes an aspect of the material environ­ment to which the society must adjust itself. This process of adjustment happens in three stages : (1) the invention or technique is created and accepted into the society, (2) individuals react towards it, and, finally (3) cultural institutions and beliefs are altered to allow for it. For example, the invention of the steam engine replaced manual work and water power in workshops (stage 1); it made the workers adjust to a new situation in which the machine and not the man set the pace (stage 2); there were more accidents, and ultimately workmen’s compensation laws came into force (stage 3). In the sphere of belief, the idea that the worker had to take care of himself wholly upon his own res­ponsibility had to go. (This was, of course, only one effect of the introduction of the steam engine, and a large part of Chapter 1 was taken up with describing the other results – the development of paleotechnic society). Another aspect, and a very significant one, of the impact of modem industrial technology upon society, has been the break-up of the family as a social unit. In pastoral or agricultural communities, the family is not only a biological unit – it is also a unit of production, and children, being junior members of the productive unit, sharing in the work of the family, are social assets to their parents. This association of biological and psychological with socially productive unit disappears under industrialism. Children are no longer an economic asset, but an economic liability, and an increase in industrialization runs parallel with a decline in the birth rate. The home and the family are no longer the focal point of modem society. Peter Drucker, in his book The New Society, describes graphically the impact of the new mass-production techniques on ancient and long- established societies : ‘The sweep of mass-production technology is undermining and exploding societies and civilizations which have no resistance to the new forces, no background or habit- pattem of industrial life to cushion the shock. In China the mass- production principle, swept into the hinterland from the coastal cities by the forced migration of industries during the Japanese invasion, is destroying the world’s oldest and hitherto its stablest institution : the Chinese family. In India industrialization has begun to corrode the Hindu caste system: ritual restrictions on proximity and intercourse between castes simply cannot be maintained under factory conditions … In America the Old South, hitherto least touched by industry and still living in the ruins of its ante-bellum rural order, is speedily being “tractored off”. Indeed, conversion of the Southern farm into a rural assembly line seems on the verge of “solving” the Southern race problem in a manner never dreamed of by either Southern Liberal or Southern Reactionary: by pushing the Negro off the land into the industrial cities.’
This rather long digression into the nature of society has been made for three reasons. Firstly, in order to make it quite clear to the reader that any society, whether at the national, tribal community, or even at the single factory level, is of the nature of an organism. One cannot do just anything by way of changing it; for it can only be changed in terms of its existing organization and structure, and in terms of its needs. Secondly, it is necessary to create a healthy scepticism in respect of what one can, and cannot, do in the way of social change. Many years ago, Herbert Spencer, in his book The Study of Sociology, described the process of attempting to change a society and likened it to the novice’s attempt to beat out a dent in an iron plate. The novice hammers at the offending dent and soon succeeds in making it quite flat, only to find that another dent has appeared near the opposite edge of the plate. ‘Where it was flat before it is now curved. A pretty bungle we have made of it. Instead of curing the original defect, we have produced a second.’ ‘Even a sheet of metal’, continues Spencer, ‘is not to be successfully dealt with after those common-sense methods in which you have so much confidence. What, then, shall we say about a society? “Do you think that I am easier to be played on than a pipe?” asks Hamlet. Is humanity more readily straightened than an iron plate?’ A whole series of social experiments, from the Prohibition Laws in the United States to the attempt to foist a democratic constitution upon a basically undemocratic Germany at the time of the Weimar republic, demonstrate that, however good our intentions, good intentions are not enough without knowledge. Thirdly, it is important to realize that all we have said here of national or tribal societies relates with equal force to the factory society. To send supervisors on a course to learn a more democratic approach, when they have to return to an autocratic factory, is in no wise different from the similar attempt to ‘democratize’ German policemen and return them to a society which is auto­cratic from the family upwards – both experiments will fail. To introduce new types of machinery which demand a totally different method of social organization in order to work them – to do this without adequate preparation – is, as we may see today in the British coal-mines, to court disaster. To ignore the little peculiarities of industrial groups – their ‘rituals’, customs, their concepts of what is, or is not, done, may lead to much the same effect as the banning of head-hunting amongst the New Guinea tribesmen, namely, the partial or complete disintegration of the group.
The nineteenth-century Rationalist approach assumed that individuals or societies could be changed by argument, by reason. It was assumed that when one had a good idea all that was necessary was to convert enough people and the idea would become reality. Alternatively, if one were in a position of power, the idea might be made reality simply by passing a law. This position is no longer tenable, because it is becoming increasingly apparent that many problems, both in industry and elsewhere, are such that they can only be radically solved at the national, the European (or American), or even the global level. Well-meaning moralists who talk as if all that were necessary to make people ‘good’ or ‘industrious’ is to tell them not to be ‘wicked’ or ‘lazy’ are scientifically illiterate Canutes ordering the ocean to retire. Increasing cruelty to children, crime, and divorce rates, whilst filling the Sunday newspapers, are not signs of merely individual wickedness (or, at any rate, it is not profitable to think of them as such). They are symptoms of a diseased society. Take, for example, the problem of gambling, superstition, and belief in luck which is nowadays so prevalent. Gilbert Murray has pointed out that ‘the best seed-ground for superstition is a society in which the fortunes of men seem to bear practically no relation to their merits and efforts. A stable and well-governed society does tend, speaking roughly, to ensure that the Virtuous and Industrious Apprentice shall succeed in life while the Wicked and Idle Apprentice fails. And in such a society people tend to lay stress on the reasonable or visible chains of causation.’ But in a society in which promotion does not seem to bear much relation­ship to ability or performance, and, even more so, when there is mass unemployment with skilled and experienced men out of a job, people begin to feel that their fate is out of their control and come to depend on ‘luck’. The moralists who so bitterly com­plain of certain forms of behaviour are, in fact, not infrequently those who have played a large part in bringing about the social circumstances which lead to the acts of which they complain. People, to be sure, are no worse than they ever have been, but it takes a moral giant to go against the tide of circumstance – and few of us are moral giants.
A final point of distinction between the picture of man preva­lent during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and that of today is that we no longer think of man as a machine either with, or without, a ‘ghost’. Modern science is neither mechanistic nor vitalistic, since it regards body and mind as inseparable. ‘Mind’ is not thought of as a separate entity, but simply as an abstract noun which is used to refer to certain processes going on in living matter at a certain level of development. ‘Mind’ exists in the same sense that ‘ digestion’ exists, not as a ‘thing’ but a process, and, as we shall see later, it is now an accepted fact in modern medicine that prolonged emotional stress may eventually lead to organic disease with structural changes which may ultimately prove fatal, in fact, to what is known as psychosomatic disease. This does not occur as the result of what used to be described as ‘mind over matter’ – except in a very metaphorical sense – it occurs because what we subjectively experience as an emotion is a physico-chemical state of the body. Thus resentment repressed over a long period of time may lead to the disease of hypertension or high blood-pressure (the blood-pressure is normally raised during anger), or chronic anxiety may lead to gastric ulcer (the muscles of the stomach contract during anxiety). These psychosomatic or ‘stress’ diseases, which include $ot only certain cases of high blood-pressure and gastric ulcer, but also colitis, many skin diseases, some serious heart diseases, exophthalmic goitre, some forms of rheumatism, and so on, are, as we shall see later, on the increase in all highly-industrialized coun­tries. Other disorders, which are at least partly emotional in origin, are rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, the predisposition to tuberculosis, and numerous gynaecological conditions. Industrial accidents are often psychologically motivated, and the so-called ‘industrial dermatitis’, apart from that due to recognized skin irritants such as strong alkalis and acids or other caustic sub­stances, is almost entirely a psychological problem. It is the modem view that the neuroses, whether psychosomatic or mainly psychological in their manifestations, are social diseases. This being the case, the psychological conditions of work in the factory become even more important. When it is realized that the » emotions aroused in industry: resentment, anxiety, fear, and hatred, not only make people unhappy and ‘nervous’, but may, and frequently do, shorten their lives, the problems of human relations in the factory become even more important. The well-known quotation from John Donne to the effect that ‘no man is an island’ must be accepted, not as a theological or ethical platitude, but as a realistic statement of scientific fact.
Thus far, we have been mainly concerned with the changing concepts of the nature of human beings and their societies, and to conclude this chapter we must discuss briefly the modern views relating to the development of the individual personality. Although there is still some room for discussion as to the exact details of what is inherited in man, there is good reason to sup­pose that the psychological qualities inherited by the individual are relatively simple in nature and only become elaborated when they come into contact with the culture or way of life of the society in which he is going to live. The human personality is primarily the result of an interaction between the hereditary traits on the one hand and culture as presented through the medium of the family on the other. Or, to use a common analogy, heredity supplies the raw material, culture the design, and the family is the craftman whose function it is to model the given material into a more or less close approximation to the design with which society has supplied him. But, unlike the materials with which the ordinary craftsman has to work, the human child is not passive under the moulding process, and the finished result may not be exactly what the parents intended: the basic character traits, as they later reveal themselves, will depend in part upon whether the child conformed willingly, more or less willingly, or rebelled in relation to the first social demands made upon him. In turn, this is related to hereditary qualities of temperament and to the skill and understanding with which the parents carry out their task. ‘Systems of child training’, writes E. H. Erikson, ‘represent unconscious attempts at creating out of human raw material that configuration of attitudes which is (or once was) the optimum under the tribe’s particular natural conditions and economic-historic necessities.’ The type of character aimed at by any given society is known as the basic character structure of that culture, and we have seen that this differs widely from one society to another.
The biological drives of hunger, thirst, and the rest are primary needs which, owing to the utter helplessness of the infant, cannot be satisfied unaided. Since this is so, there arises very early in life the most fundamental of psychological needs – the need to be loved, protected, and cared for. This need, says Professor Kimball Young, is ‘the underpinning on which all the later motives and the cultural imperatives are constructed.’ In later life, the individual’s continued awareness that he cannot satisfy his needs unaided, that his is dependent upon others makes him fight for social status; his status is the sign that he belongs within his social group, his badge of emotional security. Here we have the answer to the problem of the wide variety of traits which have, at one time or another, been supposed to form original human nature: the fact is that each culture, depending upon its total situation, has set a premium on specific forms of activity which are then untilized by the individual in order to obtain the approval and regard of his fellows. Ruth Benedict has expressed this relationship in the following way: ‘Man is a highly gregarious animal and he always wants the approval of his fellows. Fist, of course, he had to get the means of keeping alive, but after that he will try to get approval in forms which his society recognizes. His society may recognize conquest, and he will engage in conquest; it may recognize wealth, and he will measure success by dollars and cents; it may recognize caste, and he will behave in all things according to the position in which he was born.’
The general design of personality, then, comes from the individual’s culture – ‘personality is the subjective aspect of culture’. But as we have seen, culture, in the early years of life (which are the formative years), does not reach the child directly but only through the mediation of the family. Differences between individuals, therefore, when they are brought up within the same culture or sub-culture, depend partly upon inherited dif­ferences of temperament and intelligence and partly upon differences in upbringing and in the family constellation. During the first five years of life, the child begins to learn, not only by what the Behaviourists describe as ‘conditioning’, but also by a process of trial and.error and by acquiring the habits taught by its parents. These habits are established by differential reward and punishment, indulgence and deprivation, or the implied threat of deprivation of affection on the part of the parents who utilize the infant’s needs to avoid harm and obtain satisfaction of its organic drives to this end. The habits acquired at this stage relate to sleeping and feeding, bowel and bladder control, and the child’s early loves and hates (Oedipus complex) within the family circle. Throughout this period it develops attitudes towards its father and mother, brothers and sisters, which become the proto­type of its attitudes towards all the people it meets subsequently. During the first five years of life, whilst the basic character is being laid down, the child is learning not only control of its excretory and feeding functions but also how to deal with people; if it is not given affection freely, consistently, and unconditionally, it will soon learn more complex and abnormal methods of gaining attention. If being sick produces the required results (i.e., love, or at any rate attention), the child will develop into the sort of person who seeks refuge in real or imagined illness when trouble threatens; if being aggressive or demanding works (‘all right, if you don’t love me I shall at least see to it that you have to pay some sort of attention to me’), the child will utilize these techniques of the delinquent throughout life; if keeping to one­self works (‘if I leave people alone, they won’t harm me’), this attitude, too, becomes structured into the basic personality. In the words of Dr Camilla Anderson: ‘We become acceptable or non-acceptable, helpless or capable, important or insignificant, passive or agressive, busy or lazy, resourceful, or cautious, or sweet, or clever, or polite, or thoughtful, or obedient, or demand­ing, or a thousand and one other characteristics. These are the traits which are produced by the child and structuralized into his very self because of their functional value to him in the earliest years of life. Each one was the trait that worked best and got the best results in the particular setting in which he was placed.’
Since the individual’s personality is an integrated set of respon­ses to life as he has experienced it – is in short a form of adapta­tion, however, inadequate – he feels a need to maintain it, and therefore the more deep-rooted aspects of behaviour are not easily changed. Even when he is placed in a more favourable environment, each individual tends to interpret his experiences in the ways learned during his early years. It is therefore true to say that the core of the personality is set in infancy and early childhood. The attitudes which arise in the first five years persist throughout life, often modified by later experiences but never entirely obliterated. This core personality is rigid in structure and strongly resists change. On the other hand, the more superficial aspects of personality with which we are mainly concerned in this book change very readily; these aspects which are described as relating to the ‘peripheral.’, ‘public’, or ‘social’ personality, will be dealt with shortly. What does not change is the ground­work of the personality: ‘Whether a person will become timid or outgoing, cautious or enterprising, self-confident and optimistic or self-critical and pessimistic, aggressive or submissive, depen­dent or independent, generous or withholding, orderly or careless – all these personality features which make a person a well- defined individual, different from others – depends on the influence of the intimate personal environment (i.e. the early parent-child relationship) on a hereditary substratum.’ (Dr Franz Alexander, Educative Influence of Personality Factors in the Environment: an essay in Kluckhohn and Murray’s Personality in Nature, Society} and Culture.) The basic personality is the result of cultural influences as handed on through the medium of the family, of what Dr Halmos describes as mediated social- cultural influence, whereas the peripheral personality results from the direct relationship between the individual and his society after the formative years are over. The peripheral personality is based on direct social-cultural influence.
Freud believed that the moral compulsions felt by the indivi­dual in relation to his society came to him through the medium of his superego, a sort of ‘psychic gyroscope’, to use the des­cription of Dr Gardner Murphy, which keeps the individual on a straight course. The Freudian account of the origins of the superego is complicated and we need not concern ourselves with the details here. Suffice it to say that, although the child has been learning throughout its early years which actions are rewarded and which are not, in the fourth or fifth year of life (following on the experiences of the Oedipus complex) it starts to learn in a new way. It identifies itself with its parents. This term implies a great deal more than mere imitation. The child takes the parents’ moral code within its own mind or, more accurately, certain aspects of their moral code – and makes them a part of itself. Whereas, formerly, the parent stood outside and said ‘Thou shalt’ or ‘Thou shalt not’, from this time onwards it is as if an internalized parent within the mind gave the commands. A part of the mind is differentiated from the rest which becomes the representative of society and prevents the individual from deing certain forbidden acts or makes him feel guilty when he has done them. It is the ‘still small voice’ generally known as conscience. The concepts of conscience and superego do not completely coincide, however, since, firstly, the superego does not cover the whole field of morals but only a few fundamental regulations, and, secondly, there is no implication, as there is in the term ‘conscience’, that there is some supernatural sanction for the superego’s dictates – it is simply the internalized voice of society, handed on by the parents to their children. This process of handing on is an unconscious one and the superego is, for the most part, unconscious; it may often be noticed, for example, that an individual will suffer severe pangs of conscience after he has done some act which intellectually he believes to be quite harmless – he is more, as well as less, moral than he knows.
What has been earlier described as the ‘peripheral personality’ arises in the social interactions of the individual within his pri­mary, and, to a lesser extent, within his secondary groups. In Chapter 6 we shall discuss the problem of how attitudes change as members move from one group to another, the distinction between membership groups and reference groups, and so on. All that need be said here is that a great deal of behaviour which has been supposed to come from within the individual, to be based on his fixed character traits, is, in fact, a function of the individual within the group. Thus, as was noted in the previous chapter, the worker in a suspicious group behaves differently from the same worker in a happy group or from the way he behaves at home; the agitator who has always been teased and looked on with amused contempt in a happy setting becomes a leader when there is a strike, and, although all doctors, clergy­men, and miners are unique individuals, each profession or trade produces certain uniformities of behaviour within its members. All physicians and clergymen, for example, behave in certain respect according to their social role – the concept society has given them of how men in their position ought to behave. There is no law which says that clergymen may not play the saxophone, or that doctors may not go to work in an open- necked shirt without a tie, but such behaviour would clash with what is considered fitting in the rdles they are playing. The wide range of behaviour which may be noted within the same indivi­dual is a part of his peripheral personality and is related to his group memberships, his status, and his social role. Since this is so, Karl Mannheim can say quite correctly: ‘We are altogether too prone to think of ourselves and our fellow-men in fixed terms; a coward is always afraid, a shy girl is always retiring, a bad worker is always lazy and slow. But the coward may be very active within a rioting group and the valiant soldier may be easily cowed by his boss. The shy and blushing girl may be saucy enough to her mother and sisters in the familiar surroundings of her home; and the slack worker may prove to be a very efficient member of a team. Thus the elasticity of human nature seems to be much greater in various group settings. We form such rigid pictures of people only because we are accustomed to see them in so very few established situations.’ But this statement of Mannheim’s should not be thought to conflict with that of Franz Alexander quoted earlier in this chapter or with what we have said about the fixity of the basic personality. Clearly, people may do very different actions from the same deep-seated motives. We do not suppose that the supervisor who is submissive to those in authority and bullying towards his subordinates has, on each occasion, changed his basic personality. On the contrary, he is acting very much in character in both situations. The manager who is hated by his employees may be civil and even benevolent outside the factory – yet both forms of behaviour may be based on a compulsive desire for power over others. Within his factory, when he has ‘got people where he wants them’ he may show a naked lust for power, but this technique would not work else­where, for he would simply be ignored. He has to buy power outside the factory with gifts, flattery, and in a more indirect manner. The ‘lazy’ worker may be a highly intelligent man who resents being treated as an irresponsible cog in a wheel, and, when he is not so treated, he may be as hard-working as anyone. The ‘bravest’ man may be ‘cowardly’ if he is compelled to fight for a cause he does not consider to be worth fighting for, and the ‘coward’ may be ‘brave’ precisely because he is so afraid of appearing foolish in front of others whose opinions he values. It follows, then, that the relatively fixed and rigid basic personality may manifest itself in a wide variety of different ways in different settings. The human personality is both rigid and malleable – rigid in its depths and malleable on the surface. Finally, we may note the strange – and hopeful – fact that it is easier to change the behaviour of groups of people than to change them as individuals. This, of course, has to do with the nature of social controls on behaviour, a point which will be discussed more fully later. At this point, all that need be said is that the moral control exercised by the superego is not only limited in scope (in the sense that it is concerned with only a limited number of moral problems), but there can be little doubt that in many individuals superego control is very weak. The major controlling force in society is not the superego of the individual but the social con­trols of the groups to which he belongs.
To summarize: the old paleotechnic view in science held that the human body resembled a machine, that every disease was therefore due to a breakdown in one or other of the parts, and that it was the physician’s duty to discover the fault and repair it; it held that humafi nature was explicable solely in terms of biologi­cal instincts and was the same the whole world over. Society was regarded as a mass of unorganized individuals in incessant com­petition with each other, so that the individual and society were inevitably at war; negative emotions were assumed to be primary, positive ones merely derived from the necessity to repress and sublimate the others. Psychology was defined as the study of the individual mind, and the superego was assumed to be the sole source of moral controls (other than the compulsive force of law). The new view holds that the human body is an organism which cannot be defined in terms of non-living categories, it does not think in terms of ‘mind’ but of mental processes, and regards all disease as a total response to environmental threat, whether from germs, poisons, physical agents, or emotions induced by social interaction. It does not accept instinct as an adequate explanation of human behaviour, and is more interested in how the biological drives are socially modified than in their mere existence; i.e., its explanations are in social rather than biological terms. Society is also regarded as an organism – as a body of organized individuals – and man as basically a social animal. All psychology is social psychology, and, without denying the existence of the superego, it is believed that the major instrument of social control is the primary group.
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– J. A. C. Brown, 1954. The Social Psychology Of Industry. Published by : Penguin Books.
Picture Human Nature and Society
Picture Human Nature and Society