Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Processes Of Socialization

( Originally Published 1915 )

THE processes by which society is changed from a simple, unorganized state to an organic, complex, heterogeneous body may be enumerated as aggregation, communication, association, cooperation, combination, and organization. They are here named in order of their initial sequences. But for the purposes of analysis they are taken up in the order of their beginnings.

Aggregation. By aggregation is meant the collection or massing of individuals, the coming together of the population. There are many causes for human aggregation, most of which are also common to animal societies. First among these are the impelling forces of physical environment, discussed in an earlier chapter? People gather together because of a warm climate and the repulsion of a cold one, or because of an abundant food supply, as illustrated by tribes of Indians who, during the fishing season on the Columbia River, assemble from the surrounding valleys and camp near the banks of the river, or by people who assemble where there are quantities of shell fish, or plenty of wild game, wild fruits, and berries. A supply of good water, forests sought for their protection, or shunned because their density diverts a migratory group, determine to a degree where aggregations of people shall occur. When pastoral and agricultural pursuits began, the tribes were obliged to seek the open glades. Sea coasts and mountains have proved barriers preventing the dispersion of the race and confirming its habitation within limits.

But there were subjective influences as well that caused people to assemble. Foremost among these was the simple desire for companionship. Only preying animals like the lion and tiger spend a great deal of their lives alone. Feared by people, they are avoided as dangerous companions. Moreover, under certain conditions of food supply, only solitary animals can survive. Man is both carnivorous and herbivorous by nature, and therefore he had in the beginning larger resources for survival than other animals. Yet his preservation has not been due so much to fleetness of foot, or savageness of attack, as to cooperative ingenuity in enlisting the forces of nature to fight his enemies, and serve his need. The individual could not cope single-handed with his enemies, nor, indeed, could his mind be developed without association.

After the peaceful stage of early human society had passed into the age of conflict,' in which each group struggled with all others for survival, aggregation was increased by social pressure. Many of the smaller groups were forced to unite for the sake of protection. Social integration began and continued with increasing power throughout the entire process of socialization. The sexual instinct became a powerful force in the close relationships of the groups and caused a continuous and permanent association. The physical influences, also, creating individuals of the same type and temperament, made the aggregation more compact and unified. The people of similar characteristics and desires were inclined to go the same way and to be influenced by like satisfactions.

Communication. While aggregation could scarcely be separated from the development of communication, yet communication naturally follows aggregation. Moreover, the expression of wants and desires by individuals to each other sets in motion psychical currents which are veritable social causes in the sense that they produce results in social phenomena. Through communication different individuals come to have like feelings and ideas, the sine qua non of common activities. A group of people may be assembled at a fire or at a public meeting, or, indeed, in an open park without any effective influence upon each other until there is an interchange of feeling or thought through forms of communication. An expression of want or desire may unite people into a common organization. There is, then, a difference between the mere grouping of people together and intercommunication, for out of the latter comes the development of a common sentiment and a common intelligence. In modern life our special methods of communication are the human voice and such mechanical contrivances as the post, the telephone, and the telegraph. An adjunct to these is the newspaper, and, in general, the printing press. By means of these methods of communication millions of people may have the same knowledge, think the same thoughts, and per-form the same deeds at the same time. There is nothing more powerful in binding a community together into one social body than this common knowledge and common thought brought about by rapid communication.

Communication always leads to the exchange of commodities, and the use of the same articles has a tendency to develop homogeneity of social life. Moreover, the practice of trading has a tendency to develop unity of sentiment among groups. Savage tribes always express social good feeling to other tribes or to foreigners by the exchange of articles of value. These may be mere trinkets or shells, bits of cloth, or weapons, but they establish good feeling between those who exchange the gifts. Wherever nations or tribes will not exchange commodities, there is little opportunity for social unity.

When tribes have reached the stage of development where communication is possible and desirable, they are ready to adopt the customs and habits of one another through imitation. This is done more or less unconsciously at first, then a later stage is reached when it is recognized as advantageous to adopt foreign customs. When once people adopt the same social custom, they become more alike from day to day, not only in their personal habits, but also in their larger social life.

Association. While the term " association " might in general apply to all acts of socialization, still there is a particular use to which it properly belongs. People may be collected in a body and communicate with one another without having community of residence, but permanent association can scarcely take place without it. Community of residence leads to an association in which persons regard each other as permanent members, having acquired many social relationships as a result of habitual companionship. Among settled forms of association that of family relationship should be mentioned first. Here we have represented intimate relationship in thought, sentiment, and feeling, as well as practical cooperation in all forms of social life. This could not come about without more or less permanent association. This idea is exemplified in the fact that people closely related by blood or marriage frequently lose their interest in one another after years of separation, while perhaps their next-door neighbors may be taken into a close social relation because of their proximity. We have many evidences to show that the love and affection exhibited in the family life depend largely upon close association in the home.

Common religious belief, a great force in the establishment of social order and in the establishment of unity of thought and feeling, springs up through association. As religion is a social rather than a personal matter, it is doubtful whether any religious system would prevail for any length of time with-out community of worship. For an example, it is observed that as soon as any group ceases to worship together, its religion declines. It is evident from this and other observations that religion is much more a social function than we are generally willing to admit. The church in which exists a common sentiment thrives, but it declines when its members begin to hold diverse religious beliefs.

Gathered together in a common territory and living in close association, people naturally played together. With the stimulus of social games the process of socialization went rapidly on. We have but recently come to have a proper appreciation of the social value of recreation. Not all peoples have had educational systems, but all have had games. The process of socialization that process whereby the many are welded together into a unity goes on most effectively in play. Games connected by mimicry with the most important vicissitudes of savage life stir the deepest emotions. Such games are usually imitations of the critical moments in chase or battle and as such call forth the liveliest emotional stimulation. They relieve and relax the nervous organism and at the same time lift people out of the dead monotony of their humdrum lives. In the stir and emotional tension of such critical moments in games men throw off the reserve which usually separates them from each other as if by a wall. Their association becomes more intimate for the time being ; they understand each other better. They are released from their narrowed selves and enjoy the expansion of personality which the emotional " spree " provided by the game affords. In the pleasure experienced during these games the basis of social cooperation is laid.'

Not only association in active games, but association around the camp fire at night in the groupai settlement, did much to solidify the feelings of the group. Stories were told and songs were sung recounting the deeds of famous heroes and mighty warriors, and group actions were set forth in the lyric dance. Moreover, household and community meals did much to cultivate that common feeling and idealism which makes possible cooperation. Among every primitive people of which we have any evidence feast days were very numerous and played an important part in the formation of social unity. So ingrained in the very roots of the race is the habit of eating together and so effectively does it, even in our highly artificial society, conduce to the cultivation of sociability, that no great project is launched, no occasion for securing cooperation among men, who to begin with may not be agreed upon a program, is complete without a dinner or a luncheon or a banquet. With primitive men the feast counted even more in the development of a social mind.

Furthermore, in connection with games and feasting there was usually to be found another influence making for cooperation. Primitive man made such gatherings the occasion for breaking over the ordinarily accepted sex taboos which sexual jealousy had established. Wife lending and a promiscuity of sex relations prevailed at such times to a degree which was not tolerated at other times. This liberality, while abhorrent to our sense of the proprieties, was in the nature of a social re-lease from the rigidity of established custom for the individuals and at the same time cultivated friendliness between those of the same sex who otherwise might not have been brought into social relations with each other. Moreover, as Giddings has pointed out, genetic relationships in consequence of these irregularities became complicated.2 This at a time when blood relationships counted much in social relations made for social cooperation.

Cooperation. This must have begun very soon after people began to assemble into groups. Unconsciously they acquired the habit of working together in procuring food and shelter. After social order was well established in the community, each individual seeking his own immediate interest was, in a measure, ministering to the welfare of all. It must have been very early in the development of group life, perhaps even before man had developed from the animal precursor, that individuals united in the hunt. Bands of animals like wolves hunt in packs. Even pelicans have been observed to fish in bands, -some of them stationing themselves at riffles in the river, while others form a segment of a circle and drive the fish towards the riffles.' It seems certain that prehistoric man assisted the members of his group in capturing the larger animals upon which he lived. The bones of extinct species of animals were found near the bones of the prehistoric man recently exhumed in France; and it is more than probable that the cave dwellers of this period worked together to capture such animals as wild horses, cave bears, and mammoths.

Moreover, in the offense and defense of war primitive men found it necessary to work together. The strife which prevailed so universally in the age of conflict made it necessary for an individual to attach himself to a group and join with his fellows in defense, or perish. Community of interests in war essentially led to cooperation in other affairs. When the division of labor first appeared it was between the sexes, the women doing certain things and the men following different pursuits. Thus the immediate care of children, the care of the home, the preparation of the food, the making of the clothing, and frequently the building of the home fell to the lot of woman. On the other hand, men did most of the hunting, fishing, and fighting. But as industries became diversified, as new pursuits sprang up, there gradually appeared a more general division of labor. Some killed the game, and still others cooked it. Some carried water, some brought the timbers for the building of the home, while others completed the structure. Then came new occupations, such as the keeping of flocks and herds, and later, agricultural pursuits which caused people to divide into groups. These separate groups were all worked for the common good of the community. Our modern economic life, so complex and so universally organized, is but a result of the simple, unconscious cooperation of individuals in a community. There came a time, however, in primitive development, when groups were organized for a specific purpose, such as the building of highways, the carrying on of commerce, the making of tools and weapons, and there is some evidence that there were sometimes guilds of citizens, such as arrowhead makers. Many of these methods find full expression in modern cooperation.

Combination. Naturally, growing out of these cooperative activities combinations of groups developed in some cases. While conflicts sometimes arose in the occasional meetings mentioned above, on the whole the social feeling developed was such that normally there grew up closer relations and ultimately a combination of the two or more groups concerned. Sometimes a combination of different groups, which had come into contact in friendly relations, was made permanent by an exchange of women begun in the festivities referred to above. Often an eponymous ancestor was invented to account for the fact of union.' The groups arising under such conditions coalesced into a group both larger and more closely organized. It is probable that in the earliest times before conflict was produced by pressure upon food supplies, many such simple groupings arose out of the sheer social enjoyment as well as the greater social protection afforded by large numbers.

The more important combinations, from the standpoint of social evolution, however, developed in quite another way. Such groups were the result of conflict. Whenever multiplication of the number of the population once reached the point where there was a pressure upon the food supplies, then migration had to begin either amicably or by force. Such numbers necessitated the conquest of other food supplies, the enslavement of the conquered and their subsequent amalgamation by degrees with the conquerors. This amalgamation commenced in the taking of the women of the conquered as wives and concubines of the conquerors and the production of a class of half-breeds, who later became, first, slaves, then trusted inferiors, and then were admitted to all the privileges, forming thus a new race.' In this way all the great historic peoples were formed. A part of this great process is revealed to us when the curtain of history rises. It has been continuing ever since. There is no reason to suppose that it had not been going on for a long period anterior to the time when written records were made. In fact, all the ethnological and anthropological evidence we have points to such a process long continued before the historic races were formed. So intermixed had become the various peoples at the dawn of history that it is now almost impossible to say what the human race, or races, were like which developed in the original home, or homes, of the race.

Very much later in the development of social order came the combination of different groups by agreement for the establishment of government. For government, being a form of social order, is also a method of cooperation. It is easy to see that this combination must have been an implied or real contract for the protection of the whole group, for, through the process of integration, when distinct groups became united for either particular or general purposes, there must have been a tacit or formal agreement between them.

Organization. Out of even the natural combination of groups on the basis of blood kinship and social sympathy there developed organization. An example may be seen in the organization of the tribes of the interior of Australia. After conquest had taken place organization proceeded very rapidly. Organization must begin at once in order to determine the relations of the two groups, the conquerors and the conquered, and fix the status of each for the advantage of the former. This occurred piecemeal and rather slowly at first. However, gradually the organization was perfected, the adjustments went on in both legal and in customary relations, until finally there developed a complete social machinery for the regulation of the two groups. Sovereignty and obedience were established, formal institutions appeared and customs and ideals were modified to meet the changes consequent upon the amalgamation of the two peoples, until, if the process worked out to its logical social conclusion, democracy developed. Together with these more formal expressions of organization there went on at the same time the development of private voluntary organizations within each group, and that more subtle, but none the less real, organization of relationships, in the sense in which Cooley uses the term, which expresses itself in customs and social relation-ships in the more general sense of the term. In more recent periods, as government has grown into a system, organization has found its largest field in industry. In this field large bodies of men have combined to accomplish certain economic results. To a degree these developments have made socialization possible, for they have united large groups of people into a common economic life. Nevertheless, one must not shut his eyes to the fact that the modern system of industry which combines labor and capital in the productive process has also made for the formation of classes which are to a degree antagonistic to each other. The industrial conflicts which are a feature of our day are not without significance for social development. They also teach the members of each group organization of government and thus make them more efficient. That modern industry has solidified each of the various economic classes, the capitalists, the landowners, the entrepreneurs, and the laborers, once scattered and not conscious of their common interests and of the value of their united cooperation, is undeniable.

While organization was inevitable, brought about by all the processes enumerated above, its development also owed much to leaders. As soon as society divided itself into two groups, those who led and those who followed, or, as it might be more formally stated, those who governed and those who were governed, it had gone a long way toward permanent organization. The status of the individual in the home was determined, and also the relation of the slave to the master was recognized. Likewise, the social position of those supposed to be nobly born was firmly established. The development of leadership, which appeared in most striking manner in tribal and civil feudalism, gave a decided spur to what Mallock has called " the struggle for domination," and greatly hastened the growth of organization. Consider what motives leadership, based upon ability, enforcing the domination of others, brought to bear upon human endeavor not only the motive of aristocratic prestige, but hope of the more substantial rewards of primitive wealth, ease, and sensuous enjoyment. These motives aroused with tenfold greater power the desire to emulate and surpass in achievement. They gave a decided impetus to the inventive spirit of man, to his capacity for organization, and to the modern spirit of cunning that reaps where others have sown. They gave direction to the latent energies of large numbers of men. They secured a development of the division of human labor and made each man more efficient in his social relationships. Men who were not spurred by them were forced to labor under the stern whip, not of natural need, but of fear of a directing mind. While this autocratic organization and direction had its dark side, it was a beneficent phase in the development of social cooperation, appearing dark only because it has so often survived into an age when it has ceased to be consonant with developed democracy. Out of it has grown the more humane and democratized organization of our day, and it will end in the more complete democracy of which the best minds of the present dream.

Differentiation. In the processes which we have described no mention has been made of a phenomenon which often appears in modern societies as they grow from inchoate groups into a real community. Side by side with the development of social unity there is generally seen the growth of groups closely united in opposition to some important individual or another group. In the mixing of ideas and ideals in a new aggregation of people there is bound to be some clashing. Sometimes in the early days of a community this strife of groups within the neighbor-hood is so sharp that the development of a community spirit is very difficult and may be long delayed. Sometimes it takes a considerable lapse of time to heal the wounds made by such quarrels. Examples are to be seen in frontier and mountainous communities where communication is interrupted and association is difficult. It appears, also, however, in communities sometimes by reason of close contact. People who might be on fairly friendly terms together if they were not brought into close association will on closer contact reveal essential differences. This serves the useful purpose of diversification of the mental and social ideals of their community. Before the end is reached in the process thus started there will be compromise and the amalgamation of the two ideals. Out of the conflict will come toleration and a new ideal with a broader outlook than would have been possible otherwise.

Moreover, in older communities there is constantly going on a process of differentiation growing up out of the fact that some people in that community go out of it and come back with new ideas. The young people go away to school, or to the neighboring city to business, sometimes to return with a stock of new ideas which start the process of social leavening of the community ideals. The same thing occurs when men go off to war. They return with new ideas and a new outlook. Again, it occurs when from any community there is an exodus to a new mining field or a new agricultural community, and for some reason the emigrants return to the home community. If the returning members of the community are aggressive, the old process of debate, the ranging of people on different sides, and the old conflict of ideas takes place all over again, but on a different plane.

Now out of this social differentiation which occurs constantly in all dynamic societies, there results social selection. Some tire of the conflict and move away. Some, because of it, are ready to listen to the call of opportunity elsewhere. The struggle for more culture or wealth leads them to choose permanently some other field for their endeavors. In their places others from elsewhere come into the old community. In the end a social ideal becomes established in the customs of the place ; traditions are set forth as the criterion of conduct and opinion. Old age upholds old customs. Established wealth secures a large following. The result is that unless the new comer and the iconoclast is very well intrenched in social prestige, or wealth, or unless he is unusually persistent, what is established will remain undisturbed and he will go where his talent finds more congenial fields of endeavor. Nevertheless, the mingling of new ideas with old by reason of the change in the population is bound to continue in all places where ingress and egress is easy and where the economic opportunity is inviting.' In this way variety is added to the stock of ideas and ideals of a community, culture becomes broader, the spirit of the community more tolerant, and personalities with the widest social interests are developed.


DE GREEF, GUILLAUME. Introduction d la Sociologie, pp. 67-91. FAIRBANKS, ARTHUR. Introduction to Sociology, pp. 189-221.

GIDDINGS, F. H. Principles of Sociology, pp. 299360.

LETOURNEAU, CHARLES. Sociology, pp. 514560.

SMALL and VINCENT. Introduction to the Study of Society, pp. 112-141, 251-266.

SPENCER, HERBERT. Social Statics, pp. 447498; Principles of Sociology, Vol. I, pp. 537-563, 576-585.

WARD, LESTER F. Pure Sociology, p. 112.


1. What difference is there between the motives inducing people to congregate together in the formation of hordes and those which induce people to gather into large groups to-day in our cities and in new countries?

2. Work out the development of the processes of socialization of people gathered together into a new community, by showing how one by one the ties which knit the various families together into a social unity came into being.

3. Show what definite results, if any, in the development of social unity in some community of which you know followed the introduction of the telephone; the interurban; the organization of a literary society in the neighborhood schoolhouse or church; the organization of a farmers' club.

4. Select some rural neighborhood and trace the marriages of people in that community for two or three generations in order to see how interrelated the families of the neighborhood tend to become.

5. Select some community and describe the various organizations which have developed in that place. Show which are general and which are for only a certain selected group.

6. Tabulate the various forms of cooperation which may be found in some neighborhood with which you are acquainted, or may become acquainted.

7. Show how in the process of socialization there develop hostilities and small groups and diques in a neighborhood. What social purpose do these serve?

Outlines Of Sociology:
Theory And Function Of The State

Social Phases Of Production And Consumption Of Wealth

Exchange As A Social Function

Evolution Of Ethics

Social Origin Of Religion

Development Of Religion

Processes Of Socialization

Social Forces

Social Laws

Social Mind

Read More Articles About: Outlines Of Sociology

Home | More Articles | Email: