DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes Chapter 10 Charles Horton Cooley (1864—1927)
Examine Cooley’s theory of relationship between society and individual.
Cooley adapted integral approach towards an idea or theory and opined that no idea is complete within itself. The pivotal point of Cooley’s social thought is the’ relationships between the individual and society, and Cooley tried to tackle problem of assigning importance cither to individual, or society in a unique way, and disbelieved the proposition individual or society had an indepen-dent existence, the relation between the two is organic. He held that both individual and society are equally important and none can be disregarded. According to Cooley, “an individual apart from society is mere abstraction which is beyond empirical experience and the same is true of society. The entity of society if inconceivable apart from individuals who compose it.
The real thing is human life which can be understood either in its social or individualistic aspects. In fact, it has both aspects. The society and the individual are not separate entities, but the collective and distributive aspects of the same complex which is integral.” Charles H. Cooley made it very clear that there is no fundamental difference between an individual and society, rather both are interdependent, inter-related and complementary. In his book Social Process, Cooley writes : “If then we say that society is an organism, we mean, I suppose, that it is a complex of forms or processes, each of which is living and growing by interaction with the others, the whole being so unified that what takes place in one part affects all the rest”.
There exists an organic relationship between the individual and society; according to Coolley, “As in a human organism various organs can not exist apart from the organism, so an individual has no existence apart from society”. Cooley’s idea of organic relationship (which is inseparable) between individual and society has not only theoretical value but has practical importance also. Particular when the one sided theories (i.e., theories emphasising (i) individual is supreme or (ii) the society is supreme). Acceptance of these onesided theories either leads to anarchy or suppression. Cooley has avoided both extremes and presented a balanced point of view and there lies the importance of his idea about organic, relationship between individual and society.
Cooley and the Looking-Glass Process. Cooley, had some stimulating ideas about the socialization process. He was interested, ‘in how the individual takes on the proper attitudes, ideas, sentiments and habits to become a cooperative member of society. Cooley was extremely perceptive and gifted with empathy, the unusual capacity to feel one’s way into the mind and emotions of others. From the study of his own children Cooley arrived at an idea about socialization that he called the looking-glass process.
As people familiar with infants and small children will have observed, the child at first seems to react to the parent’s face more than to the spoken word. When the mother says ‘No” the child attempts to read her face to see whether she really means it. Children look into the mother’s face, Cooley says, for other reasons as well – mainly to See whether they are loved and accepted and whether they are looked, upon as good or bad. The essence of Cooley’s looking-glass process is that we always look into the faces of others in an attempt to read their attitudes toward us, and that the form our own self-concepts in terms of our idea of what they think. We learn to know ourselves through the eyes of others’.
It has never been Cooley’s point that we always see ourselves as others see us, but what he does say is that we try to do so and that we see ourselves as we imagine others to see us. Cooley also hypothesized that the looking-glass process begins with the very first day of life.
Evidence from an interesting experiment in infant perception (although not intended as a comment on the looking-glass theory) tends to confirm Cooley’s idea. New born infants in their first few weeks of life were tested by having a number of objects presented to them, noting which objects they focused their attention upon. The objects included brightly coloured balls and balls with various markings on them. One was marked with the outlines of a human face. Without exception, the face was the object preferred by the babies. The other objects with markings on them received very little attention, and brightly coloured balls were completely ignored.
A frequent criticism of this study has been that new born infants must learn the ability to perceive forms and patterns. However, recent research by the school of medicine at the University of Southern California supports the position that infants respond best to the outline of a human face. Forty babies with an average age of nine minutes (the range was three minutes to twenty-seven minutes) were shown four head-shaped forms : one represented a normal human face, another a moderately scrambled face, a third a very scrambled face, and the fourth a blank form.
The babies had no previous opportunity to learn the normal configurations of a human face, because they had been exposed only to capped, masked, and gowned personnel in the delivery room of the hospital. Nevertheless, they responded most frequently to the form with the normal face, next to the moderately scrambled face and the very scrambled version, and least frequently to the blank form. The researchers concluded that the “infant enters the world predisposed to respond to any face”, and later develops the ability to discriminate among adults who cate for it.
Cooley’s looking glass in infancy would reflect the clearest self-image from the glances of the mother and father. In later years the child becomes more sensitive to playmates. In the romantic years of early adulthood the sensitivity is greatest to the object of one’s love. Always, however, we are interested in what others think about us, and we adjust our reactions to our perceptions of their attitudes. Often we carry this reaction so far as to pretend interest we do not really feel in order to make the right impression.
The rejected child could be understood in Cooley’s analysis as one with a destructive self-concept based upon rejection by others. Even the young tough can be explained as developing a personality that will win acclaim from the most important members of the peer group. The important people, the ones we look to for our self -image, are the significant others. Although the first examples to come to mind are based upon childhood experience, there are significant others throughout life. Relatives and close friends are always significant; so also are our professional colleagues.
The self-image follows us through life, and we will do fantastic jobs of rationalization to preserve a favourable self-image. Think of such expressions as “I was just not myself when I did that”, “That just wasn’t like me” or “If they had been decent to me I would have turned out all right”. No one likes to abandon a favourable impression of himself. Reckless and Dinitz did a study supporting the hypothesis that in a neighbourhood of high delinquency rates the nondelinquent boys were the ones who bad the most favourable self-image. Their conclusion was that a self-image of the “good boy” was a major protection against delinquency.
Criticisms of Cooley’s idea of Looking-glass Self. Inspite of these words of praise for Cooley, it must be admitted that there are criticisms of his concept and also of the socialization picture developed by sociologists after them. ‘One who is familiar with the works of Sigmund Freud can see that he perceived much of socialization as a ^struggle between the individual and society. In this respect, the view of psycho analysis has been in opposition to that of Cooley. Whereas Cooley is inclined ‘to picture a harmonious adjustment to society, Freud saw the individual as constantly desiring to throw off the fetters of society’s rules and regulations. Rationally, we can see that there is much to be gained by conforming to the rules because the very law that prevents us from committing murder or mayhem also protects us from other people of violent intent. Nevertheless, there are always feelings of resentment against rules, routines, customs, time schedules, and the patterns that social life imposes upon us. The poet Amy Lowell ends her famous poem “Patterns” with the line “Christ ! What are patterns for ?”.
Dennis Wrong, in an article entitled “The Oversocialized Conception of Man”, contends that, sociologists have looked a little too much to the harmonious adjustment between individual and society. A great amount of small group research has been done on how the individual responds to the group not enough has been done on why, the individual often does not respond and why the human being remains a recalcitrant character. Although there is no definitive answer to the questions raised by Wrong, an examination of the widely conflicting agencies of socialization and pressures upon the growing individual will help to make clear why the socialization process is difficult and fraught with “danger”.
Explain Cooley’s concept of Primary Group.
Meaning of Primary Group. The primary group is a small group in which a small number of persons come into direct contact with one another. They meet “face to face” for mutual help, companionship and discussion of common questions. They live in the presence and thought of one another. Charles H. Cooley, the first sociologists to draw the attention to primary groups describes them in the following words :
“By primary groups I mean those characterised by intimate face to face association and co-operation. They are primary, in several sense, but chiefly in that they are fundamental in forming the social nature and ideals of the individual. The result of intimate association, psychologically is a certain fusion of individualities into & common whole, so that one’s very self, for many purposes, at least, is the common life and purpose of the group. Perhaps the simplest way of describing this wholeness is by saying that it is a ‘we’, it involves the sort of sympathy and mutual identification for which ‘ we’ is the natural expression. One lives in the feeling of the whole and finds the chief aim of his will in that feeling…
The most important spheres of this intimate association and co-operation – though by no means the only ones—are the family, the play group of children, and the neighbourhood or community group of elders. These are practically universal belonging to all times and all stages of development, and are accordingly a basis of what is universal in human nature and in human ideals.”
Characteristics of Primary Groups. The essential characteristics of a primary group are intimate feelings and close identification. In a primary group we directly co-operate with our fellows and our relations with them are intimately personal. Cooley’s definition of the primary groups implied three conditions : physical proximity of the members, smallness of the group, and enduring character of the relation.
It may also be understood that face to face characteristic which is a major aspect of a primary group does not mean that it exerts a compelling influence over its members. Members of a family may not necessarily cast a magic-spell over each other; points and habits. A group may be called primary because it has exerted an influence in the early life of a men i.e., before other groups could influence him. Family in this sense is a primary group beeause its influence over the child is the earliest.
Close identification means direct co-operation. In a primary group men do the same thing together.’ They directly and face to face co-operate with each other to achieve their common interests. Their relations are not based on personal interests. They do not act independently or inter-dependently but all participate in the same process. They share a common experience and have common aim. Though there may be division of labour in a primary group yet it must act together.
In a cricket group, there are batsmen, bowlers and fielders but they all play together. Similarly, the member of a research group may undertake study of different. problems, but they must bring together their result into a common process at the point, where the group activity begins. The members of a primary group are, thus, united not only in the product but also in the process. The relations are spontaneous. There is nothing like compulsion or pressure between mem. Face to face group and direct co-operation not only increase the economy and convenience of the members but also satisfy the need of their nature the need for society.
Thus, in a primary group :
- There is physical closeness among members;
- The members have common aims ;
- The relations of the members are an end in themselves ;
- The relations of the members are spontaneous ;
- Members have personal relations ;
- Relations of the members are inclusive ;
- There, is continuity in the relations of the members.
Besides the above features, Cooley has also mentioned two Other features of the primary group. The first important feature of the primary group is that they are found everywhere in the world, that is, they are universal. The second feature of the primay group is that every one must be a member of some primary group.
Write short note on
(i) The Concept of Institution and (ii) The Concept of the Self,
(i) The Concept Of Institution
In ordinary, non-scientific speech or -.writing, people often use the word ‘institution’ to mean an organisation with some specific purpose, usually a public or charitable one.
Cooley defines an institution as, “a complete organisation of collective behaviour established in the social heritage and meeting some persistent heed or want.” Thus, an institution is simply a definite and established phase of the public mind different in its ultimate nature, from public opinion.
Cooley opined that various institutions help and aid the growth of human personality. ‘The family, the state, the law and the religion’ are institutions which in different ways help us in the growth of our personalities.
(ii) The Concept Of The Self
Cooley finds no basic difference between individual and society. An individual forms and develops the concept of self in response to his interaction with society. This also influence the nature and habits of an individual thereby making individual and society are in separable, to nature of the self. Cooley attempts a socio-psycho- logical analysis to give a concept of self. He said that “it is through introspection that an individual comes to form his concept of self. In encounter with primary groups an individual feels compelled to think about his self.”
This introspection covers:
- the imagination of an individual about other’s idea about ” him,
- individuals reflection of himself according to the idea and
- feeling of pride or shame or embarassment; on his image in the minds of other people.
In order to explain the concept of self, Cooley formulates a theory wherein he compares the society to ajoolqpg glass.
Point out the contribution of Cooley to social thought.
Critically point out Cooley’s place in the history of social thinkers.
Cooley was one of the exponents of ‘symbolic jnter- actionism’, a branch of Social Behaviourism School, propagating the idea that sociology deals with behaviouristic analysis of the subject matter. Symbolic interactionism seriously centres around the ‘self’ and ‘personality’.
His idea of primary group, though significant has been criticised. According to Bottomore, “The work of Cooley already fare-shadowed one error he wrote that primary groups ‘are primary in several senses, bnt chiefly in that they are fundamental in forming the social nature and ideals of the individual and again that they do not change in the same degree as more elaborate relations, but form a comparatively permanent source out of which the latter are ever springing., (they) are springs of life not only for the individual but for social institutions.” He further adds, “Cooley and some recent sociologists seems to imply that it is possible to move directly from the study of small groups to the study of inclusive societies. This is associated with the view that all sm$ii groups have a determining influence upon social life. Yet all the evidence points to the opposite conclusion.”
Cooley’s works are characterised by avoidance of particularistic explanations and dogmatic assertions. Interestingly Cooley’s version of sociology is referred to as psychosocioiogy, he never ignored other factors of interplay and influence in the social process. Cooley’s philosophic’ ideas helped him to gain in breadth of vision and to consistently avoid the zeal or narrowness of a social reformer.
His “Human Nature and the Social Order’ deals authoritatively with the integral relationship of the individual self and the social process.
Looking-Glass Self –
Cooley’s formulation of the ‘self’ through his idea of looking glass self, is very important contribution. It affects the daily life of all individuals. In the words of’ Cooley, “We are ashamed to seem evasive in the presence of a brave one, gross in the eyes of a refined one”.
While discussing ‘conscience’ Cooley distinguished between ‘self-consciousness, social consciousness and public consciousness, the first being what I think of myself ; the second what I think of other people and the third a collective view of the self and the social consciousness of all the members of a group organised and integrated into a communicating group’. ‘These three types together with moral life is a part of organic society.
According to Cooley, “the development of a society does not depend upon the change in human nature but to a large and higher application of its familiar impulses.”
Discuss Cooley’s contribution to Modern Sociological Theory.
Cooley’s name is quite commonly associated symbolic interactionism, which lays stress on behaviouristic analysis of subject matter as against conflict and organism theories. In this theory, stress is laid on attitude, self and personality. He took into consideration several factors- which inter-play and influence social processes.
Cooley’s Concept of ‘Self’. According to Cooley there is no basic difference between the individual and the society. Personality of an individual is reflected through his society. His ‘self’ develops only with his. interactions in the society. It is his interaction with the society which is responsible for his nature and nabits. He thus believes that individual and society cannot be separated from each other.
His concept of the self is based on Psychology. He has said that in the first instance all individuals try to imagine what others think about him. Then he reflects and reacts about what other feels about him- feels either sorry or happy. He also responses to social environments which very much count about his ‘self’ making. Society is thus a mirror for self. Each individual is affected by what others think about him. Each one has power of introspection and that makes him conscious of the self.
Cooley on Primary Group. In Cooley’s concept of self primary group plays an important role and occupies a significant position. He has defined primary group as g group in which there is face to face association and cooperation with each other. According to him they are primary because they are basic both in the formation of social nature and ideals of the individuals. These develop a sense of ‘we’ which develops a sense of sympathy and identification for each other. Thus for Cooley members of primary group are related to each other and for this it is necessary that they should live in close proximity.
The relationship in such a group is informal and members have sense of belonging. Members of primary group in certain respects have no sense of individualism. A primary group is universal and found everywhere and it helps both in the development and formation of personality of the individual. Every one must be a member of some primary group family, playground and neighbourhood are main primary groups.
Cooley also stresses that primary groups also help in socialisation of the individual. Family helps in shaping mental attitudes and prevents in developing what is disliked, by the society. Playground helps in developing feelings of cooperation and neighbourhood that of adjustment.
His Faith in Human Nature: According to Cooley a clear distinction should be maintained between self consciousness, social con-sciousness and public consciousness. According to him all the three are part of the organic whole. He has said that from self consciousness what is meant is that one thinks about one-self, the second is social consciousness i.e. when one thinks about others and the last is public consciousness and that comes..when one thinks of betterment of all members of the group. f He has great desire that all individuals should make a stride in controlling human situations. He looks forward to a day when unconsciousness activities will be replaced by deliberate human activities.
His Concept of Comunmication. According to Cooley Communication is that mechanism through which human relations develop. He has said that it is an increased degree of communication which makes individual conscious about the important role which he can play in improving the quality of social life. He is opposed to freedom of communication which according to him has resulted in worries, over work and in such a competitive reach for which the people .are not ready. He believes that public opinion is cooperative product of communication.
His Views About Social Process. Cooley is of the view that to some extent cooperation and communication are useful in social pro-cesses because these lead to some activity. But at the same time it is essential that there should be some controlling factors. He does not favour social stratification because in his opinion it cuts off communication and throws majority of the people in the dark well of ignorance. He has laid stress on the importance of institutions in social processes. These provide stability and save energies for under taking new tasks. But at the same time because of formalism in institutions these result in dissatisfaction.
Cooley’s Contribution. Though for a very long time Cooley was considered to be a modest thinker and writer, yet this contribution to the growth of sociology is now being very much appreciated. He is now considered to be a deep thinker. He has given a very clear picture of social processes, which he has linked with the rise of personalities and organisations. He has appropriately discussed the role of communication in social progress. He has contributed significantly in paying way to the theories of middle range. It has been said that, “…the fruit of Us reading and introspective analysis are still indispensable elements of present day social thinking while the labours of many fact gathers are long forgotten.”