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Sociology - Cycle In An Institution

The cycle through which an institution goes starts with a human need and develops an organization to meet that need. It grows in extent up to the limits of the population which it serves or the limits set by competing institutions. It grows in complexity up to the capacity of human nature to operate it. Each increment of growth means some expected increase in effectiveness ; but more than that, it means an outlet for the devotion of the members ; growth in an institution, as in a plant, reacts upon it to give strength and prevent decay. But when the limits of growth have been reached, when greater effectiveness in one direction can be secured only by loss in some other, then this invigorative reaction ceases ; the effort is no longer to grow but to keep the growth which has already been attained. The look is backward instead of forward. Inventiveness and heroic endeavor become more rare. The organization tends to become institutionized to keep the form and forget the substance. The human need is largely forgotten; the institution comes to be sup-ported for its own sake as an end in itself. Even old features which are no longer of any use continue to be maintained at a cost of energy which may be sadly needed in other directions. Then, of course, the institution declines. New institutions arise to supply the needs, and perhaps in time to encroach upon the functions of the old institution. Grandir ou mourir, grow or die, seems to be the law of the firmest social organism as well as of physical organisms.

But an institution can be rejuvenated in ways which are impossible to a physical organism. There is no organ so vital to a society but that it can be made over or even discarded altogether and leave its functions to be assumed by other organs. In this respect institutions are more like buildings than organisms ; there may be times of general renovation when outgrown structures are discarded and decayed or unsuitable ones made over. By renovation the life of an institution may be prolonged indefinitely, but the cycle of growth, stagnation, and decay is there just the same. During the last third of the nineteenth century Harvard, the oldest college in the United States, was thus rejuvenated so that for a number of years it was the largest institution of its kind in the country and led the way in a number of radical reforms in higher education.

But the rejuvenation of an institution can be accomplished only through conflict between the radical and conservative forces within it. Even an institution as small as a college, and with as capable a leader as President Eliot, must go through conflict before it can get new life. States commonly have to go through war and revolution. Much of what passes under the name of history, possibly the greater bulk of it as written up in literary form, is merely the story of the struggles by which states have been rejuvenated. Russia under Peter the Great, and again to-day, is a case in point. The French Revolution is the most prominent example in modern times, and in ancient times the century of civil war in Rome. The most fortunate way by which a state can get through this internal struggle is to be confronted by some great crisis, say a foreign war, which makes it evident to the most conservative that an internal readjustment is necessary. Ancient Greece and modern Germany illustrate this. The Persian wars gave the Greeks a new political organization to hold them together for nearly a century, while they did their greatest work for civilization. The transformation of Germany from 1801 to 1871, the most complete perhaps in the history of politics, received its stimulus from two wars with France, beginning at the dictation of Napoleon I and coming to completion after the triumph over Napoleon III. Though it was accompanied all through by bitter internal strife, there was relatively little bloodshed; the one internal war, in 1866, lasted only a month ; the nearest approach to a revolution was in Vienna in 1848, and even there the old order never broke down completely. Japan is to-day a new state, not an old one. China, the oldest state of all, is in process of being born again. A radical transformation of some kind would now seem to be due for the British Empire ; the war has demanded new kinds of activity, and these are bringing new forms of organization into existence.

... I am not sure that the gang ought to be wholly innocent in its activities. When is a boy going to cultivate the less innocent, undovelike but necessary, qualities if he does not get such training in the gang?

... A set of boys I knew, who had the sea and woods to play in, and plenty of boats, swimming and baseball, nevertheless found it necessary toward the end of each summer vacation to go on what they called a raid getting themselves up as tramps, ringing doorbells and demanding food or money, frightening householders or getting them seriously excited, and ending in glorious retreat before the advance of the patrol wagon... .

... The gang has enemies because enemies are needed in its business; they are a psychological necessity, a prerequisite to its attainment of full self-consciousness. . . . A gang can fully know itself only against the background of a hostile world. Lee, Play in Education, pp. 351-355.

The study which we have made of the psychology of play and sport enables us more easily to understand the psychology of war. The high tension of the modern workaday life must be periodically relieved by a return to primitive forms of behavior. . . . War has always been the release of nations from the tension of progress. Man is a fighting animal ; at first from necessity, afterwards from habit. . . .

... The warring nation is purified by war, and thereafter, with a spirit chastened and purged, enters again upon the upward way to attain still greater heights of progress. .. .

In war, society sinks back to the primitive type, the primitive mortal combat of man with man, the primitive religious conception of God as God of battles, and the primitive morality of right as might. It brings rest to the higher brain, it brings social relaxation, it brings release from the high tension which is the condition of progress. . . . Patrick, The Psychology of Relaxation, pp. 244-246.

The question is really one of progress, of what makes progress. Progress, if there be such a thing, certainly must imply the rise from one type or level of action to another, from one system to another system of values. .. . Democratic leveling under the earlier type, natural only when the possibilities have been practically exhausted, must be a condition of rise to the later. In other words, as all that has been said here so far has constantly implied, democracy must mark at once the closing stage of an aristocracy of some lower order, this being an object of its legitimate at-tack, and the inception of an aristocracy of some higher order, this being the proper object of its ideal endeavor. . . . American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 21, p 9, Lloyd, "The Duplicity of Democracy."

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Sociology:
Sociology - Cycles Of Change

Sociology - Rhythm In Nature

Sociology - Cycle In Communication And Social Mind

Sociology - Cycle In An Institution

Sociology - Cycle In Civilization



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