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JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
THE NUMBER OF MEMBERS AS
AS DETERMINING THE SOCIOLOGICAL FORM OF THE GROUP. I.
The following investigations constitute a chapter of a Sociology to be published by me in the future, the prolegomena to which have already appeared in this JOURNAL.?
In respect to the fundamental problem which appears to me solely to form the basis of a sociology as a distinct science, I refer to the introduction of these two monographs. I repeat here merely that this problem rests upon the distinction between the content or purpose of socializations, and the form of the
The content is economic or religious, domestic or political, intellectual or volitional, pedagogic or convivial. That these purposes and interests, however, attain to realization in the form of a society, of the companionship and the reciprocity of individuals, is the subject-matter of special scientific consideration. That men build a society means that they live for the attainment of those purposes in definitely formed interactions. If there is to be a science of society as such, it must therefore abstract those forms from the complex phenomena of societary life, and it must make them the subject of determination and explanation. Those contents are already treated by special sciences, historical and systematic; the relationships, however, of men to each other, which in the case of the most diverse purposes may be the same, and in the case of like purposes may be most various these have not as yet been the subject-matter of a particular science; and yet such a science, when constituted, would for the first time make manifest what it is which makes the societythat is, the totality of historical life-into society.
* Translated by A. W. Small.
2"Superiority and Subordination as Subject-Matter of Sociology,” Vol. II, Nos. 2 and 3; “The Persistence of Social Groups,” Vol. III, Nos. 5 and 7.
I deny myself at this point all further explanation and justification of this program, since it is, after all, less important to propose a program than to show by carrying it out its significance and its fruitfulness; and I proceed at once to the special problem, namely, how the form and the inner life of a societary group are determined by the numerical relationships of the same.
It will be conceded at the first glance, without hesitation, that the sociological structure of a group is essentially modified by the number of the individuals that are united in it. It is an everyday experience - yes, it is almost to be construed from the most general social-psychological presuppositions — that a group of a certain extent and beyond a certain stage in its increase of numbers must develop for its maintenance certain forms and organization which it did not previously need; and that, on the other hand, more restricted groups manifest qualities and reciprocal activities which, in the case of their numerical extension, inevitably disappear. A double significance attaches itself to the quantitative determination: first, the negative significance that certain forms which are necessary or possible from the contents or the conditions of life can come to realization only before or after a certain numerical extension of the elements; the positive significance that other forms are promoted directly through definite and purely quantitative modifications of the group. As a matter of course, these do not emerge in every case, but they depend upon other social circumstances in the group.
The decisive matter, however, is that the forms in question never spring from these latter conditions alone, but are produced from them only through the accompanying numerical factor. Thus it may be demonstrated that quite or nearly communistic formations have up to the present day been possible only in relatively small circles, while they have always failed in large groups.
The presumption of such socialistic groups — namely, justice in the distribution of effort and of enjoyment- can no doubt be established in a small group, and, what is at least quite as important, it can be observed and controlled by the individuals. What each does for the totality, and wherewith the totality rewards him, is in such cases close at hand, so that comparison and equalization easily occur. In a great group this practice is hindered, particularly by the unavoidable differentiation of persons within it, of their functions and of their claims.
A very large number of people can constitute a unity only with decisive division of labor, not merely on the obvious grounds of economic technique, but because this alone produces that interpenetration and interdependence of persons which puts each through innumerable intermediaries in combination with each, and without which a widely extended group would break apart on every occasion. Consequently the more intimate the unity demanded in the same, the more exact must be the specialization of individuals, in order that the individuals may be the more immediately responsible to the whole, and the whole may be dependent upon the individuals. The communism of a great community would thus promote the sharpest differentiation of the personalities, which would naturally extend over and beyond their labor, to their feeling and desiring. Hence a comparison of services with each other, of rewards with each other, and equilibration of the two, is infinitely difficult; but upon this the feasibility of approximate communism for small, and therefore undifferentiated, circles rests. What limits such circles, under advanced culture, by a sort of logical necessity, so to speak, to restricted numerical extent, is their dependence upon goods which under their peculiar productive conditions can never be furnished. So far as my knowledge goes, there is in present Europe only a single approximately socialistic organization, namely, the Familistère de Guise, a great iron foundry, founded by a disciple of Fourier in 1888, according to the principle of complete guardianship for every workman and his family, security of a minimum standard of living, of gratuitous care and education of the children, of collective production of the income. This society gave work in the last decade of the nineteenth century to 2,000 people, and has proved that it is capable of life. This is evidently the case, however, only because it is surrounded by a totality existing under entirely different conditions of life. From this environment the organization can cover the necessarily remaining gaps in the means of satisfaction which are left by its own production. For human needs cannot be so rationalized as is the case with production.
A previously calculated, mechanically working life-system, in which every detail is regulated according to general principles, can be applied, to be sure, in a small circle which can draw from a greater one whatever it requires for the establishment of its internal equilibrium. But human needs appear to contain an accidental or incalculable element, and this fact permits their satisfaction only at the cost of carrying on parallel activities which produce countless irrational and unavailable by-products. A circle, therefore, which avoids this, and confines itself to complete responsibility and utility in its activities, must always remain minute, because it has need of a greater group in order to be reinforced with the requisite capacity for life.
Moreover, there are group-formations of the ecclesiastical sort which, from the very fact of their sociological structure, permit no application to large numbers; thus the sects of the Waldenses, Mennonites, and Herrnhuter. Where dogma forbids, for example, the oath, military service, occupation of civil offices; where quite personal matters, such as modes of earning a living and the division of the hours of the day, are subject to the regulation of the community; where a special type of dress separates the faithful from all others, and distinguishes them as belonging together ; where the subjective experience of an immediate relationship to Jesus constitutes the principal solder of the community-in such cases, evidently, expansion into large circles would snap the bond of union, which consists largely in their exceptional and antithetical attitude toward larger bodies. At least in this sociological respect is the claim of these sects to represent primitive Christianity not unjustified; for precisely this early form of faith, manifesting a yet undifferentiated unity of dogma and form of life, was possible only in those small communities within a greater one which served them at once for supplying their external necessities, and also as an antithesis, in contrast with which they were conscious of their peculiar nature. Consequently, the extension of Christianity to the whole state has necessarily changed completely its sociological character not less than its psychical content.
Moreover, that an aristocratic body can have but a relatively narrow compass is given in its very idea. But, besides this trivial consequence of the dominance over masses, there appears to be here also a numerical limitation, which, although in large extent variable, is yet in kind absolute. I mean by this that not only does a definite proportion exist, which would always permit that with increasing number of the ruled the ruling aristocracy would likewise increase pro rata and beyond any limit; but that there is an absolute limit beyond which the aristocratic group-form can no longer be maintained intact. This limit will be determined partly by external and partly by psychological conditions. An aristocratic group must be capable of survey by the individual member; each must be able to have a personal acquaintance with each; relationships of blood and marriage must ramify through the whole body, and must be traceable. If, therefore, the historical aristocracies, from Sparta to Venice, have a tendency to the utmost possible numerical limitation, this is not merely the egoistic disinclination to partition of control, but it is the instinct that the conditions of the life of an aristocracy can be fulfilled only with a not merely relative, but also absolute, restriction of the number of its ele. ments. The unlimited right of primogeniture, which is of aristocratic nature, constitutes the means for such prevention of expansion; under its presumption alone was the ancient Theban law possible, that the number of landed estates should not be increased, and also the Corinthian, that the number of families must always remain the same. It is, therefore, entirely characteristic that Plato once, when he spoke of the ruling oríyou, designated the same directly as the μη πολλοί.
When an aristocratic body gives place to the democratic centrifugal tendencies, which constitute the unavoidable trend of