The Established and the Outsiders: A Sociological Enquiry into Community Problems
Publication Year: 1994
This new edition of this classic text from one of the major figures of world sociology includes an introduction published in English for the first time. In Norbert Elias's hands, a local community study of tense relations between an established group and outsiders becomes a microcosm that illuminates a wide range of sociological configurations including racial, ethnic, class and gender relations. The Established and the Outsiders examines the mechanisms of stigmatization, taboo and gossip, monopolization of power, collective fantasy and `we' and `they' images which support and reinforce divisions in society. Developing aspects of Elias's thinking that relate his work to current sociological concerns, it presents the
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Considerations of Procedure
- Chapter 2: Neighbourhood Relations in the Making
- Chapter 3: Overall Picture of Zone 1 and Zone 2
- Chapter 4: The Mother-Centered Families of Zone 2
- Chapter 5: Local Associations and the “Old Families' Network”
- Chapter 6: Overall Picture of Zone 3
- Chapter 7: Observations on Gossip
- Chapter 8: Young People in Winston Parva
- Chapter 9: Conclusion
Theory, Culture & Society[Page ii]
Theory, Culture & Society caters for the resurgence of interest in culture within contemporary social science and the humanities. Building on the heritage of classical social theory, the book series examines ways in which this tradition has been reshaped by a new generation of theorists. It will also publish theoretically informed analyses of everyday life, popular culture, and new intellectual movements.
editor: Mike Featherstone, University of Teesside
series editorial board
Roy Boyne, University of Northumbria at Newcastle
Mike Hepworth, University of Aberdeen
Scott Lash, University of Lancaster
Roland Robertson, University of Pittsburgh
Bryan S. Turner, Deakin University
Recent volumes include:
The Body and Social Theory
Symbolic Exchange and Death
Sociology in Question
Economies of Signs and Space
Scott Lash and John Urry
Religion and Globalization
The Aesthetics of Modernity
The Consuming Body
Cultural Identity and Global Process
This edition © Norbert Elias Stichting 1994
English version of Introduction
© Norbert Elias Stichting 1994
Introduction published in Dutch translation in De gevestigden en de buitenstaanders by Het Spectrum, Utrecht and Antwerp, © Norbert Elias Stichting 1977
Main text first published by Frank Cass & Co. Ltd, London, © N. Elias and J.L. Scotson 1965
This edition first published 1994
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without permission in writing from the Publishers.
Published in association with Theory, Culture & Society, School of Human Studies, University of Teesside
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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
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ISBN 0 8039 8470 7
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Library of Congress catalog card number 94-61329
Department of Sociology
University of Leicester
who have given us much help and encouragement[Page vi]
The Established and the Outsiders was first published in 1965. It grew out of a study of a community near Leicester in the late 1950s and early 1960s by John Scotson, a local schoolteacher interested in juvenile delinquency. But in the hands of Norbert Elias this local study was reworked to illuminate social processes of general significance in human society—including how a group of people can monopolise power chances and use them to exclude and stigmatise members of another very similar group (for example, through the powerful medium of gossip), and how that is experienced in the collective “we-images” of both groups.
Ten years later Elias dictated, in English, a long new introduction for the Dutch translation of the book. This “Theoretical Essay on Established and Outsider Relations” spelled out how the theory could be applied to a whole range of changing patterns of human inequality: to relations between classes, ethnic groups, colonised and colonisers, men and women, parents and children, gays and straights. For many years it was thought that parts of the English text of this important essay had been lost, but they came to light in 1994, and the final version was assembled by myself and Saskia Visser. The essay is published in English for the first time in this volume, exactly as Elias dictated it, with only minor editorial changes. Shortly before his death in 1990, Elias added a brief appendix on Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird for the German edition of the book which is not included here.
May 1994[Page x]
The Established and the Outsiders is a study of a small community with a relatively old settlement as its core and two more recent settlements which have formed around it. The enquiry started like so many others because local people drew our attention to the fact that one of the neighbourhoods had a consistently higher delinquency rate than the others. Locally that particular neighbourhood was regarded as a delinquency area of low standing. As we began to probe into the actual evidence and to look for explanations, our interest shifted from the delinquency differentials to the differences in the character of the neighbourhoods and to their relationships with each other. In the course of a fairly intensive exploration of the microcosm of Winston Parva with its three distinct neighbourhoods, one got to know the place and some of its individual members sufficiently well. The fascination which its problems had for us steadily increased—all the more so as we became gradually aware that some of them had a paradigmatic character: they threw light on problems which one often encountered on a much larger scale in society at large.
As it turned out, the shift of the research interest from the delinquency problem to the wider problem of the relationship between different neighbourhoods within a community prevented what might have been a waste of effort. In the third year of the research the delinquency differentials between the two larger neighbourhoods (which had supported the local idea that one of them was a delinquency area) practically disappeared. What did not disappear was the image which the older neighbourhoods had of the newer neighbourhood with the formerly higher delinquency rate. The older neighbourhoods persisted in stigmatising the latter as a neighbourhood where delinquency was rampant. The question why opinions about these facts persisted, even though the facts themselves changed, was one of the questions which impressed itself upon us in the course of the enquiry although we had not set out to explore it. Another question was why the facts themselves [Page xii]changed—why the delinquency differential between the two neighbourhoods more or less disappeared.
Thus the study as presented here was not planned as such from the outset. We often followed clues and took up new problems which appeared as we went along and, in one or two cases, what we discovered on the way changed the main direction of the enquiry.
An investigation conducted by not more than two people who were responsible only to themselves, and who were unhampered by set stipulations often entailed by the receipt of a research grant, could be conducted in a relatively elastic manner without the need to stick to a prescribed problem or to a set schedule. The opportunity to follow clues as they offered themselves and to change the main course of the enquiry if they appeared promising proved on the whole advantageous. It helped to counteract the rigidities of any set idea we had as to what was and was not significant in the study of a community. It enabled us to scan the horizon for inconspicuous phenomena that might have unexpected significance. And this seemingly diffuse experimentation led in the end to a fairly compact and comprehensive picture of aspects of a community which one can regard as central—above all of the power and status relationships and of the tensions bound up with them. We tried to discover the reasons why some groups in Winston Parva had greater power than others, and what we found went some way towards explaining these differences. On a wider plane the enquiry shed light on the merits and limitations of intensive micro-sociological studies. While proceeding with it, we ourselves were surprised to see how often configurations and regularities we dug up in the microcosm of Winston Parva suggested hypotheses which might be of use as a guide even for macro-sociological enquiries. Altogether the enquiry indicated that the small-scale problems of the development of a community and the large-scale problems of the development of a country are inseparable. There is not much point in studying community developments as if they take place in a sociological vacuum.
By and large the intention was to keep a balance between simple factual presentation and theoretical considerations. We are by no means certain whether we succeeded. But we tried not to allow our theoretical interests to overwhelm our interests in the social life of the people of Winston Parva itself.
[Page xiii]An enquiry such as this would have been impossible without the friendly help and co-operation of others. We are indebted to the people of Winston Parva who helped to make interviewing a pleasant as well as an enlightening task. Intrusion into their homes brought no resentment. Many of them took a cheerful and encouraging interest in the research. We were greatly helped by the officials and members of voluntary organisations in Winston Parva. We owe a special debt of gratitude to the County Probation Service and to the Senior Probation Officer. Above all we are indebted to Dr. Bryan Wilson, Reader in Sociology at Oxford. In the final stages he has looked through the whole manuscript. It owes a great deal to his wise help and counsel, and to his power of persuasion which was often needed in convincing us of improvements he suggested.
February 1964[Page xiv]
Introduction: A Theoretical Essay on Established and Outsider Relations[Page xv]
The account of a suburban community presented in this book shows a sharp division within it between an old-established group and a newer group of residents, whose members were treated as outsiders by the established group. The latter closed ranks against them and stigmatised them generally as people of lesser human worth. They were thought to lack the superior human virtue—the distinguishing group charisma—which the dominant group attributed to itself.
Thus one encountered here, in the small community of Winston Parva, as it were in miniature, a universal human theme. One can observe again and again that members of groups which are, in terms of power, stronger than other interdependent groups, think of themselves in human terms as better than the others. The literal meaning of the term “aristocracy” can serve as an example. It was a name which an Athenian upper class of slave-owning warriors applied to that type of power relation in Athens which enabled their own group to take up the ruling position. But it meant literally “rule of the best”. To this day the term “noble” retains the double meaning of high social rank and of a highly valued human attitude, as in “a noble gesture” just as “villein”, derived from a term that applied to a social group of low standing and, therefore, of low human value, still retains its meaning in the latter sense—an expression for a person of low morals. It is easy to find other examples.
This is the normal self-image of groups who in terms of their power ratio are securely superior to other interdependent groups. Whether they are social cadres, such as feudal lords in relation to [Page xvi]villeins, “whites” in relation to “blacks”, Gentiles in relation to Jews, Protestants in relation to Catholics and vice versa, men in relation to women (in former days), large and powerful nation-states in relation to others which are small and relatively powerless, or, as in the case of Winston Parva, an old-established working-class group in relation to members of a new working-class settlement in their neighbourhood—in all these cases the more powerful groups look upon themselves as the “better” people, as endowed with a kind of group charisma, with a specific virtue shared by all its members and lacked by the others. What is more, in all these cases the “superior” people may make the less powerful people themselves feel that they lack virtue—that they are inferior in human terms.
I am greatly indebted to Cas Wouters and Bram van Stolk. Discussing problems of translation into Dutch with them helped me to improve the text, and they stimulated me to write this essay.
How is it done? How do members of a group maintain among themselves the belief that they are not merely more powerful but also better human beings than those of another? What means do they use to impose the belief in their own human superiority upon those who are less powerful?
The study of Winston Parva deals with some of these and related problems. They are discussed here with reference to different groupings within a small neighbourhood community. As soon as one talked to people there one came up against the fact that the residents of one area where the “old families” lived regarded themselves as “better”, as superior in human terms to those who lived in the neighbouring newer part of the community. They refused to have any social contact with them apart from that demanded by their occupations; they lumped them all together as people less well bred. In short, they treated all newcomers as people who did not belong, as “outsiders”. These newcomers themselves, after a while, seemed to accept with a kind of puzzled resignation that they belonged to a group of lesser virtue and respectability, which in terms of their actual conduct was found to be justified only in the case of a small minority. Thus one encountered in this small community what appeared to be a universal regularity of any established—outsider figuration: the established group attributed to its members superior human characteristics; it excluded all members of the other group from nonoccupational social contact with its own members; the taboo on such contacts was kept alive by means of social control such as praise-gossip about those who observed it and the threat of blame-gossip against suspected offenders.
[Page xvii]To study aspects of a universal figuration within the compass of a small community imposes upon the enquiry certain obvious limitations. But it also has its advantages. The use of a small social unit as a focus of enquiry into problems which one can also encounter in a great variety of larger and more differentiated social units makes it possible to explore these problems in considerable detail—as it were, microscopically. One can build up a small-scale explanatory model of the figuration one believes to be universal—a model ready to be tested, enlarged and if necessary revised by enquiries into related figurations on a larger scale. In that sense the model of an established—outsider figuration which results from an enquiry into a little community like Winston Parva can serve as a kind of “empirical paradigm”. By applying it as a gauge to other more complex figurations of this type, one can understand better the structural characteristics they have in common and the reasons why, under different conditions, they function and develop upon different lines.
Walking through the streets of the two parts of Winston Parva, a casual visitor might have been surprised to learn that the inhabitants of one part thought of themselves as vastly superior to those of the other. So far as the standards of housing were concerned, the differences between the two parts were not particularly evident. Even if one looked more closely into the matter, it was at first surprising that the inhabitants of one area felt the need and were able to treat those of the other as inferior to themselves and, to some extent, could make them feel inferior. There were no differences in nationality, in ethnic descent, in “colour” or “race” between residents of the two areas; nor did they differ in their type of occupation, their income and educational levels—in a word, in their social class. Both were working-class areas. The only difference between them was that mentioned before: one group was formed by old residents established in the neighbourhood for two or three generations and the other was a group of newcomers.
What, then, induced the people who formed the first of these two groups to set themselves up as a higher and better order of human beings? What resources of power enabled them to assert their superiority and to cast a slur on the others as people of a lesser breed? As a rule one encounters this kind of figuration in connection with ethnic, national and other group differences that have been [Page xviii]mentioned before and, in that case, some of their salient features tend to escape one's notice. But here in Winston Parva the full armoury of group superiority and group contempt was mobilised in the relations between two groups who were different only with regard to the duration of their residence at this place. Here one could see that “oldness” of association, with all that it implied, was, on its own, able to create the degree of group cohesion, the collective identification, the commonality of norms, which are apt to induce the gratifying euphoria that goes with the consciousness of belonging to a group of higher value and with the complementary contempt for other groups.
At the same time one could see here the limitations of any theory which explains power differentials only in terms of a monopolistic possession of non-human objects, such as weapons or means of production, and disregards figurational aspects of power differentials due purely to differences in the degree of organisation of the human beings concerned. As one came gradually to recognise in Winston Parva, the latter, especially differentials in the degree of internal cohesion and communal control, can play a decisive part in the power ratio of one group in relation to that of another—as, indeed, one is able to see in a great many other cases. In that small community the power superiority of the old established group was to a large extent of this type. It was based on the high degree of cohesion of families who had known each other for two or three generations, in contrast to the newcomers who were strangers in relation not only to the old residents but also to each other. It was thanks to their greater potential for cohesion and its activation by social control that the old residents were able to reserve officers in local organisations such as council, church or club for people of their own kind, and firmly to exclude from them people who lived in the other part and who, as a group, lacked cohesion among themselves. Exclusion and stigmatisation of the outsiders by the established group were thus powerful weapons used by the latter to maintain their identity, to assert their superiority, keeping others firmly in their place.
One encountered here, in a particularly pure form, a source of power differentials between interrelated groups which also plays a part in many other social settings, but which, there, is frequently overlaid for the eyes of an observer by other distinguishing [Page xix]characteristics of the groups concerned, such as those of colour or social class. On closer inspection one can often discover that in these other cases too, as in Winston Parva, one group has a higher cohesion rate than the other and this integration differential substantially contributes to the former's power surplus; its greater cohesion enables such a group to reserve social positions with a high power potential of a different type for its members, thus in turn reinforcing its cohesion, and to exclude from them members of other groups—which is essentially what one means when one speaks of an established—outsider figuration.
However, even though the nature of the power resources on which is founded the social superiority and the feeling of human superiority of the established group in relation to an outsider group can vary greatly, the established—outsider figuration itself shows in many different settings common characteristics and regularities. One could discover them in the small setting of Winston Parva. Once discovered, they stood out more clearly in other settings. Therefore it became evident that the concept of an established-outsider relationship filled a gap in our conceptual equipment which prevented us from perceiving the common structural unity as well as the variations of this type of relationship and from explaining them.
One example of the structural regularities of established—outsider relationships may help readers to discover others for themselves as they go along. As the study of Winston Parva indicates, an established group tends to attribute to its outsider group as a whole the “bad” characteristics of that group's “worst” section—of its anomic minority. In contrast, the self-image of the established group tends to be modelled on its exemplary, most “nomic” or norm-setting section, on the minority of its “best” members. This pars pro toto distortion in opposite directions enables an established group to prove their point to themselves as well as to others; there is always some evidence to show that one's group is “good” and the other is “bad”.
The conditions under which one group is able to cast a slur upon another group, the socio-dynamics of stigmatisation, deserve some attention in this context. One encountered the problem as soon as one talked with people in the older parts of Winston Parva. They were all agreed that the people “over there” in the newer part were [Page xx]a lesser breed. One could not help noticing that the tendency of one group to stigmatise another, which plays such a large part in relations between different groups all over the world, could be found even here in this small community—in the relationship between two groups who, in terms of nationality and class, were hardly different, and because one could observe it here, as it were, in a social microcosm, it appeared more manageable. It was easy to see in this setting that the ability of one group to pin a badge of human inferiority on another group and to make it stick was a function of a specific figuration which the two groups formed with each other. It requires, in other words, a figurational approach for its investigation. At present the tendency is to discuss the problem of social stigmatisation as if it were simply a question of people showing individually a pronounced dislike of other people as individuals. A well-known way of conceptualising such an observation is to classify it as prejudice. However, that means perceiving only at the individual level something which cannot be understood without perceiving it at the same time at the group level. At present one often fails to distinguish between, and relate to each other, group stigmatisation and individual prejudice. In Winston Parva, as elsewhere, one found members of one group casting a slur on those of another, not because of their qualities as individual people, but because they were members of a group which they considered collectively as different from, and as inferior to, their own group. Thus one misses the key to the problem usually discussed under headings such as “social prejudice”, if one looks for it solely in the personality structure of individual people. One can find it only if one considers the figuration formed by the two (or more) groups concerned or, in other words, the nature of their interdependence.
The centrepiece of that figuration is an uneven balance of power and the tensions inherent in it. It is also the decisive condition of any effective stigmatisation of an outsider group by an established group. One group can effectively stigmatise another only as long as it is well established in positions of power from which the stigmatised group is excluded. As long as that is the case, the stigma of collective disgrace attached to the outsiders can be made to stick. Unmitigated contempt and one-sided stigmatisation of outsiders without redress, such as the stigmatisation of the untouchables by the higher castes in India, or that of the African slaves or [Page xxi]their descendants in America, signals a very uneven balance of power. Attaching the label of “lower human value” to another group is one of the weapons used in a power struggle by superior groups as a means of maintaining their social superiority. In that situation the social slur cast by a more powerful upon a less powerful group usually enters the self-image of the latter and, thus, weakens and disarms them. Accordingly, the power to stigmatise diminishes or even goes into reverse gear when a group is no longer able to maintain its monopolisation of the principal resources of power available in a society and to exclude other interdependent groups—the former outsiders—from participation in these resources. As soon as the power disparities or, in other words, the unevenness of the balance of power, diminishes, the former outsider groups, on their part, tend to retaliate. They resort to counter-stigmatisation, as negroes do in America, as peoples formerly subject to European domination do in Africa and as a former subject class, the industrial workers, do in Europe itself.
That may be enough to indicate briefly why the type of stigmatisation—of “prejudice” between groups—which one encountered in the miniature setting of Winston Parva demanded an enquiry into the overall structure of the relationship between the two main groups which endowed one of them with the power to ostracise the other. It demanded, in other words, as a first step, a measure of detachment—of distancing—from both groups. The problem one had to explore was not which side was wrong and which was right; the problem was rather which structural characteristics of the developing community of Winston Parva bound two groups to each other in such a way that the members of one of them felt impelled, and had sufficient power resources, to treat those of another group collectively with a measure of contempt, as people less well bred and thus of lower human value, by comparison with themselves.
In Winston Parva this problem presented itself with particular force, because most of the current explanations of power differentials did not apply there. The two groups, as I have already said, were not different with regard to their social class, their nationality, their ethnic or racial descent, their religious denomination or their educational level. The principal difference between the two groups was precisely this: that one was a group of old residents established [Page xxii]in the neighbourhood for two or three generations and the other was a group of newcomers. The sociological significance of this fact was a marked difference in the cohesion of the two groups. One was closely integrated and the other was not. Differentials of cohesion and integration as an aspect of power differentials have probably not received the attention they deserve. In Winston Parva their significance as a resource of power inequalities showed itself very clearly. Once one discovered it there, other cases of cohesion differentials as sources of power differentials came easily to mind.
How they functioned in Winston Parva was fairly obvious. The group of old residents, families whose members had known each other for more than one generation, had established among themselves a common mode of living and a set of norms. They observed certain standards and were proud of it. Hence the influx of newcomers to their neighbourhood was experienced by them as a threat to their established way of life even though the newcomers were fellow nationals. For the core group of the old part of Winston Parva, the sense of their own standing and of their belonging was bound up with their communal life and its tradition. To preserve what they felt to be of high value, they closed ranks against the newcomers, thus protecting their identity as a group and asserting its superiority. The situation is familiar. It shows very clearly the complementarity of the superior human worth—the group charisma—attributed by the established to themselves and the “bad” characteristics—the group disgrace—attributed by them to the outsiders. As the latter—newcomers and strangers not only to the old residents but also to each other—lacked cohesion, they were unable to close their own ranks and fight back.
The complementarity of group charisma (one's own) and group disgrace (that of others) is one of the most significant aspects of the type of established—outsider relationship that one encounters here. It deserves a moment's consideration. It provides a clue to the emotional barrier against closer contact with the outsiders set up by this kind of figuration among the established. Perhaps more than anything else, this emotional barrier accounts for the often extreme rigidity in the attitude of established groups towards outsider groups—for the perpetuation of this taboo against closer contact with the outsiders for generation after generation, even if their [Page xxiii]social superiority or, in other words, their power surplus diminishes. One can observe a good many examples of this emotional inflexibility in our own time. Thus, state legislation in India may abolish the outcaste position of the former untouchables, but the emotional revulsion of high-caste Indians against contact with them persists, especially in the rural areas of that vast country. In the same way, state and federal legislation in the United States has increasingly eroded the juridical disabilities of the formerly enslaved group, and established their institutional equality with that of their former masters, as fellow citizens of the same nation. But the “social prejudice”, the emotional barriers set up by the feeling of their own superior virtue, especially among the descendants of slave-masters, and the feeling of lesser human worth, the group disgrace, of the slaves' descendants, have not kept pace with legal adjustments. Hence, the swell of counter-stigmatisation in a balance-of-power battle with slowly decreasing differentials becomes noticeably stronger.
The mechanics of stigmatisation cannot easily be understood without a closer look at the part played by a person's image of his group's standing among others and, therefore, of his own standing as a member of his group. I have already said that dominant groups with a high power superiority attribute to themselves, as collectivities, and to those who belong to them, as families and individuals, a distinguishing group charisma. All those who “belong” participate in it. But they have to pay a price. Participation in a group's superiority and its unique group charisma is, as it were, the reward for submitting to group-specific norms. It has to be paid for by each of its members individually through the subjection of his own conduct to specific patterns of affect control. Pride in the incarnation of one's group charisma in one's own person, the satisfaction of belonging to and representing a powerful and, according to one's emotional equation, uniquely valuable and humanly superior group is functionally bound up with its members' willingness to submit to the obligations imposed upon them by membership of that group. As in other cases, the logic of the emotions is stringent: power superiority is equated with human merit, human merit with special grace of nature or gods. The gratification received through one's share in the group charisma makes up for the personal sacrifice of gratification in the form of submission to group norms.
[Page xxiv]As a matter of course, members of an outsider group are regarded as failing to observe these norms and restraints. That is the prevailing image of such a group among members of an established group. Outsiders, in the case of Winston Parva as elsewhere, are—collectively and individually—experienced as anomic. Closer contact with them, therefore, is felt to be disagreeable. They endanger the built-in defences of the established group against breaches of the common norms and taboos upon whose observance depended both a person's standing among his or her fellows within the established group and his or her own self-respect, pride, identity as a member of the superior group. The closing of ranks among the established certainly has the social function of preserving the group's power superiority. At the same time, the avoidance of any closer social contact with members of the outsider group has all the emotional characteristics of what one has learned in another context to call “the fear of pollution”. As outsiders are felt to be anomic, close contact with them threatens a member of an established group with “anomic infection”: he or she might be suspected of breaking the norms and taboos of their own group: in fact he or she would break those norms simply by associating with members of an outsider group. Hence contact with outsiders threatens an “insider” with the lowering of their own status within the established group. He or she might lose its members' regard—might no longer seem to share the higher human value attributed to themselves by the established.
The actual concepts used by established groups as a means of stigmatisation can vary according to the social characteristics and traditions of the groups concerned. In many cases they are quite meaningless outside the particular context in which they are used, and yet they hurt the outsiders deeply because the established groups usually have an ally in an inner voice of their social inferiors. Often enough the very names of groups in an outsider situation carry with them, even for the ears of their own members, undertones of inferiority and disgrace. Stigmatisation, therefore, can have a paralysing effect on groups with a lower power ratio. Although other resources of power superiority are needed in order to sustain the power to stigmatise, the latter is itself no mean weapon in balance-of-power tensions and conflicts. It may, for a while, cripple the ability of groups with a lower power ratio to strike [Page xxv]back and to mobilise power resources within their reach. It may even help to perpetuate for some time the status superiority of a group whose power superiority has decreased or disappeared.
In English-speaking countries as in all other human societies, most people have at their disposal a range of terms stigmatising other groups and meaningful only in the context of specific established-outsider relationships. “Nigger”, “yid”, “wop”, “dike”, “papist” are examples. Their power to bite depends on the awareness of user and recipient that the humiliation of the latter intended by their use has the backing of a powerful established group, in relation to which that of the recipient is an outsider group with weaker power resources. All these terms symbolise the fact that the member of an outsider group can be shamed because he does not come up to the norms of the superior group because, in terms of these norms, he is anomic. Nothing is more characteristic of a highly uneven balance of power in cases such as these than the inability of outsider groups to retaliate with an equivalent stigmatising term of the established group. Even if they possess such a term in their communications, with each other (the Jewish term “goy” is an example), they are useless as weapons in a slanging match because an outsider group cannot shame members of an established group: as long as the balance of power between them is very uneven its stigmatising terms do not mean anything to them, they have no sting. If they begin to bite it is a sign that the balance of power is changing.
I have already said that stigmatisation of outsiders shows certain common features in a wide variety of established—outsider figurations. Anomie is perhaps the most frequent reproach against them; one can find again and again that they are regarded by the established group as untrustworthy, undisciplined and lawless. This is how a member of the old Athenian aristocratic establishment—the so-called Old Oligarch—spoke of the demos, the rising Athenian citizens—free craftsmen, merchants and peasants—who, it seems, had driven his group into exile and established democracy, the rule of the demos:
Throughout the whole world the aristocracy in a state is opposed to democracy; for the natural characteristics of an aristocracy are discipline, obedience to the laws, and a most strict regard for what is respectable, while the natural characteristics of the common people are an extreme ignorance, ill discipline and immorality … For what you considern [Page xxvi]lawlessness is in fact the basis upon which the strength of the common people rests.1
The sameness of the pattern of stigmatisation used by high power groups in relation to their outsider groups all over the world—the sameness of this pattern in spite of all the cultural differences—may at first be a little unexpected. But the symptoms of human inferiority which a high-powered established group is most likely to perceive in a low-powered outsider group, which serve their members as justification for their own elevated position and as proof of their own superior worth, are usually engendered in members of the inferior group—inferior in terms of their power ratio—by the very conditions of their outsider position and the humiliation and oppression that go with it. They are, in some respects, the same all over the world. Poverty—a low standard of living—is one of them. But there are others which, in human terms, are no less significant, among them constant exposure to the vagaries of their superiors' decisions and commands, the humiliation of exclusion from their ranks, and attitudes of deference bred into the “inferior” group. Moreover, where the power differential is very great, groups in an outsider position measure themselves with the yardstick of their oppressors. In terms of their oppressors' norms they find themselves wanting; they experience themselves as being of lesser worth. Just as established groups, as a matter of course, regard their superior power as a sign of their higher human value, so outsider groups, as long as the power differential is great and submission inescapable, emotionally experience their power inferiority as a sign of human inferiority. Thus a glance at the most extreme cases of power inequalities in established—outsider figurations, where the impact on the personality structure of outsiders shows itself in all its harshness, may help to show in better perspective the related personality characteristics and experiences of outsiders in cases where the imbalance is less great and poverty, deference and the sense of inferiority are more temperate. By probing into the [Page xxvii]experiential aspects of established—outsider figurations, one may reach layers of human experience where differences of cultural tradition play a lesser part.
1The Old Oligarch: Pseudo-Xenophon's “Constitution of Athens”, London, London Association of Classical Teachers, 1969; and in J.M. Moore, Aristotle and Xenophon on Democracy and Oligarchy, London, Chatto & Windus, 1975. The Greek text can be found in Xanophontis Opera, ed. E.C. Marchant, vol. 5., Oxford Classical Texts, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1900–20.
Established groups with a great power margin at their disposal tend to experience their outsider groups not only as unruly breakers of laws and norms (the laws and norms of the established), but also as not particularly clean. In Winston Parva the opprobrium of uncleanliness attached to the outsiders was relatively mild (and justified at most in the case of the “minority of the worst”). Nevertheless, old families harboured the suspicion that the houses “over there”, and especially the kitchens, were not as clean as they ought to be. Almost everywhere members of established groups and, even more, those of groups aspiring to form the establishment, take pride in being cleaner, literally and figuratively, than the outsiders and, given the poorer conditions of many outsider groups, they are probably quite often right. The widespread feeling among established groups that contact with members of an outsider group contaminates refers to contamination with anomy and with dirt rolled into one. Shakespeare spoke of a “leane unwash'd artificer”. From about 1830 the term “the great unwashed” gained currency as appellation of the “lower orders” in industrialising England and the Oxford English Dictionary quotes someone as writing in 1868: “Whenever I speak of … the working classes, it is in the ‘great unwashed’ sense.”
In the case of very great power differentials, and correspondingly great oppression, outsider groups are often held to be filthy and hardly human. Take as an example a description of an old outsider group in Japan, the Burakumin (their old stigmatic name “Eta” meaning literally “full of filth” is now only secretly used):
These people are less well housed, less well educated, hold rougher, worse paid jobs and are more likely to take to crime than ordinary Japanese. Few ordinary Japanese will knowingly socialise with them. Even fewer would let their son or daughter marry into an outcast family.
And yet the extraordinary thing is that there is no essential physical difference between descendants of the outcasts and the rest of the Japanese …
Centuries of discrimination, of being treated as less than human, and of being made to believe that as Burakumin they are not good enough to take part in ordinary Japanese life has scarred the Burakumin mind …
[Page xxviii]This is an interview with a Burakumin conducted several years ago. The man was asked whether he felt he was the same as ordinary Japanese. Answer: “No, we kill animals. We are dirty, and some people think we are not human.” Question: “Do you think you are human?” Answer (long pause): “I don't know … We are bad people and we are dirty.”2
Give a group a bad name and it is likely to live up to it. In the case of Winston Parva, the most severely ostracised section of the outsider group was still able, in a surreptitious way, to hit back. How far the shame of outsiders produced by the inescapable stigmatisation of an established group turns into paralysing apathy, how far into aggressive norm and lawlessness, depends on the overall situation. This is what one found in Winston Parva:
The children and adolescents of the despised Estate minority were shunned, rejected and “frozen out” by their “respectable” contemporaries from the “village” even more firmly and cruelly than were their parents because the “bad example” they set threatened their own defences against the unruly urges within; and because the wilder minority of younger people felt rejected, they tried to get their own back by behaving badly with greater deliberation. The knowledge that by being noisy, destructive and offensive they could annoy those by whom they were rejected and treated as outcasts, acted as an added incentive … for “bad behaviour”. They enjoyed doing the very things for which they were blamed as an act of revenge against those who blamed them.3
And this in a study of the Burakumin:
Such minority self-identities may involve social retreat into ghetto enclaves or, if contact with the majority is necessary or expedient, the assumption of deviant social roles vis a vis the majority group. These deviant roles often involve a great deal of covert hostility towards any form of authority exercised by members of the majority group. Such feelings are a consequence of one generation after another experiencing exploitation …. One finds that outcast children are more prone to aggressiveness and in a sense they do actualise the stereotypes attributed to them, at least in some measure.4
2 Mark Frankland, “Japan's Angry Untouchables”, Observer Magazine, 2 November 1975, p. 40 ff.
3 See p. 129 below.
4 Ben Whitaker, “Japan's Outcasts: The Problem of the Burakumin”, in Ben Whitaker (ed.), The Fourth World: Victims of Group Oppression, London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1972, p. 316. There is another parallel with the situation in Winston Parva: “It must be emphasised that deviant courses of action occur only among a minority of outcasts, although it is a significantly high proportion compared with the main body of the population” (p. 317).
[Page xxix]One has got into the habit of explaining group relations such as those described here as a result of racial, ethnic or sometimes religious differences. None of these explanations fits here. The Burakumin minority in Japan come from the same stock as the majority of the Japanese. They appear to be descendants of low-ranking occupational groups, such as those associated with death, childbirth, animal slaughter and the products derived from it. With the advancing sensitivity of Japan's warrior and priest establishment, observable as an aspect of the civilising process in Japan as elsewhere and manifest there in the development of Shinto and Buddhist teaching, these lowly groups were probably subjected to some form of hereditary segregation, which was strictly enforced from about AD 1600 on.5 Contact with them was felt to be polluting. Some of them were required to wear a patch of leather on their kimono sleeves. Intermarriage with the majority of Japanese was strictly forbidden.
Although the differences between the outcasts and other Japanese were the result of a developing established—outsider relationship and, thus, entirely social in origin, the outsider group has shown, in recent studies, many of the characteristics usually associated today with racial or ethnic differences. It may be enough to mention one of them: “Recent reports by Japanese psychologists demonstrate that there is a systematic difference between the scores achieved on IQ and achievement tests by majority and outcast children attending the same … schools.”6 This is part of the mounting evidence that goes to show that growing up as a member of a stigmatised outsider group can result in specific intellectual as well as emotional deficiencies7. It is in no way accidental that one discovers similar features in the case of established—outsider relationships unconnected [Page xxx]with racial or ethnic differences as in relationships connected with those differences. The evidence suggests that, in the latter case too, these features are not due to racial or ethnic differences themselves but to the fact that one is an established group, with superior power resources, and the other an outsider group, greatly inferior in terms of its power ratio, against which the established group can close ranks. What one calls “race relations”, in other words, are simply established—outsider relationships of a particular type. The fact that members of the two groups differ in their physical appearance or that members of one group speak the language in which they communicate with a different accent and fluency merely serves as a reinforcing shibboleth which makes members of an outsider group more easily recognisable as such. Nor is the designation “racial prejudice” particularly apt. The aversion, contempt or hatred felt by members of an established group for those of an outsider group, and the fear that closer contact with the latter may pollute them, are no different in cases where the two groups differ distinctly in their physical appearance and in others where they are physically indistinguishable, so that the low-powered outsiders have to wear a badge to show their identity.
5Ibid, p. 310.
6Ibid, pp. 314–15.
7 One of the factors that can modify the impact of their situation upon members of outsider group is the possession by such a group of a cultural tradition of its own. Such a tradition, especially if it embodies, as in the case of the Jews, a strong tradition of book-learning and a high value placed upon intellectual achievement, can probably shield the children of such a group to some extent from the traumatic effect on their development of exposure to perpetual stigmatisation by the established group—to the humiliation not only of themselves but also of their parents and the whole group whose image and value forms a vital part of their self-image, their individual identity and self-evaluation.
It seems that terms like “racial” or “ethnic”, widely used in this context both in sociology and in society at large, are symptomatic of an ideological avoidance action. By using them, one singles out for attention what is peripheral to these relationships (e.g. differences of skin colour) and turns the eye away from what is central (e.g. differences in power ratio and the exclusion of a power-inferior group from positions with a higher power potential). Whether or not the groups to which one refers when speaking of “race relations” or “racial prejudice” differ in their “racial” descent and appearance, the salient aspect of their relationship is that they are bonded together in a manner which endows one of them with very much greater power resources than the other and enables that group to exclude members of the other group from access to the centre of these resources and from closer contact with its own members, thus relegating them to the position of outsiders. Therefore, even where differences in physical appearance and other biological aspects that we refer to as “racial” exist in these cases, the socio-dynamics of the relationship of groups bonded to each other as established and outsiders are determined by the manner of their bonding, not by [Page xxxi]any of the characteristics possessed by the groups concerned independently of it.
The group tensions and conflicts inherent in this manner of bonding may be quiescent (which is usually the case if power differentials are very great); they may come into the open in the form of continuous conflicts (which is usually the case if the balance of power changes in favour of the outsiders). Whichever it is, one cannot grasp the compelling force of this kind of bonding, and the peculiar helplessness of groups of people bound to each other in this manner, unless one sees clearly that they are trapped in a double-bind. This may not become operative if the dependence is almost wholly one-sided and the power differential between established and outsiders, therefore, very great—as, for instance, in the case of the Amerindians in some Latin American countries. In such cases, the outsiders have no function for the established groups: they are simply in the way and so, very often, they are exterminated or driven out and left to die.
But where outsider groups are in some way needed by established groups, where they have a function for them, the double-bind starts working more overtly and does so increasingly if the inequality of dependence, without disappearing, diminishes—if the balance of power goes some way in favour of the outsiders. To see it, one may once more consider the two quotations cited before—that of the Athenian aristocrat used to ruling and contemptuous of the common people, and that of the Buraku outsider who measured his own group and, thus, himself with the yardstick of the establishment. These two figures represent polar cases, the one wholly convinced on the superior value of his own group, the other of his own group's badness.
Power superiority conveys advantages to groups endowed with it. Some of them are material or economic. Under the influence of Marx, these have attracted particular attention. To study them is, in most cases, quite indispensable to an understanding of established—outsider relationships. But they are not the only advantages accruing to a high-powered established group over a relatively low-powered outsider group. In the relationship between established and outsiders in Winston Parva, the quest of the former for economic advantages played a minimal part. What other advantages incite established groups to fight fiercely for the maintenance [Page xxxii]of their superiority? What other deprivations do outsider groups suffer, apart from economic deprivations? It is by no means only within the small, suburban community with which this study is concerned, that one can discover non-economic layers of the conflict between established and outsider groups. Even in cases where the struggle for the distribution of economic resources seems to hold the centre of the stage, as in that of the struggle between the workers and the managerial establishment of a factory, other sources of dispute are operative, besides that over the relationship between wages and profits. In fact, the supremacy of the economic aspects of established-outsider conflicts is most pronounced where the balance of power between the contenders is most uneven—is tilted most strongly in favour of the established group. The less that is the case, the more clearly recognisable become other non-economic aspects of the tensions and conflicts. Where outsider groups have to live at a subsistence level, the size of their earnings outweighs all their other requirements in importance. The higher they rise above the subsistence level the more does even their income—their economic resources—serve as a means of satisfying human requirements other than that of stilling their most elementary animalic or material needs; the more keenly are groups in that situation liable to feel the social inferiority—the inferiority of power and status from which they suffer. And it is in that situation that the struggle between established and outsiders gradually ceases to be, on the part of the latter, simply a struggle for stilling their hunger, for the means of physical survival, and becomes a struggle for the satisfaction of other human requirements as well.
The nature of these requirements is still, to some extent, obscured by the aftermath of Marx's great discovery and the tendency to see in it the end of the road to discovery about human societies. One might rather regard it as one manifestation of a beginning.
Among the goals that clash in established—outsider relationships, the outsiders' goal of stilling their hunger, of satisfying the most elementary animalic or material requirements, together with that of defence against physical annihilation by human enemies, in short the simple goal of physical survival, takes priority over all others wherever its fulfilment is uncertain. To this date that remains the primary goal of large sections of humankind, partly because other more powerful sections consume too much, since generally the [Page xxxiii]human population grows more quickly than its food supply and humankind is too divided to take any concerted action against the distress of less powerful outsider groups, partly because the growing interdependence of all sections of humankind has intensified their internecine struggles, and the lesson that in an increasingly interdependent world domination by one section of mankind over the others is bound to have a boomerang effect has not yet been learned.
Thus Marx uncovered an important truth when he pointed to the uneven distribution of the means of production and thus to the uneven distribution of the means needed for satisfying men's material needs. But it was a half-truth. He presented as the root source of the goal clash between the power-superior and power-inferior groups the clash over economic goals, such as that of securing a sufficient food supply. And to this day the pursuit of economic goals, elastic and ambiguous as this use of the term economic is, appears to many people as the real, the basic goal of human groups, in comparison with which others appear to be less real, whatever that may mean.
Without doubt, in the extreme case of human groups exposed to prolonged starvation, the craving for food or, more generally, for physical survival may indeed have priority over all other goals. People may humiliate themselves, may kill and eat each other, thus regressing to a near animalic level. We have seen examples. Food, the gratification of material needs is indeed basic. But if the quest for the satisfaction of this type of human goal predominates to the exclusion of all others, humans are likely to lose some of the specific characteristics which distinguish them from other animals. They may no longer be able to pursue other goals which are specifically human and whose gratification may also be at dispute in the power struggles between human groups. One has some difficulty in finding the right concepts to refer to them because those available have at present an idealising ring; they sound as if one were speaking of something not quite real—not as real and tangible as the human goal of satisfying hunger. Yet if one tries to explain and understand the dynamics of established—outsider relationships illustrated in this book one has to say quite plainly that they play a very real part in the goal clashes between human groups bonded to each other in this manner.
[Page xxxiv]Take an example once more the statement of the member of the Burakumin group quoted before. One can assume that in Japan as elsewhere the outcast condition of this group went hand in hand with forms of economic exploitation. However, the Burakumin had a traditional place and function in Japanese society. Today it appears that some are poor, though not noticeably poorer than the majority of Japanese poor, and some are quite well off. But the stigma does not disappear. The principal deprivation the outsider group suffers is not deprivation of food. What should one call it? Deprivation of value? Of meaning? Of its measure to self-love and self-respect?
Stigmatisation as an aspect of an established—outsider relationship is often associated with a specific type of collective fantasy evolved by the established group. It reflects and, at the same time, justifies the aversion—the prejudice—its members feel towards those of the outsider group. Thus, according to the gossip tradition of the majority Japanese, the Burakumin bear upon their person an inherited physical sign of membership in the outcast group—a bluish birthmark under each arm.8 That illustrates very graphically the working and function of establishment fantasies vis a vis their outsider groups: the social stigma that its members attach to the outsider group transforms itself in their imagination into a material stigma—it is reified. It appears as something objective, something implanted upon the outsiders by nature or the gods. In that way the stigmatising group is exculpated from any blame: it is [Page xxxv]not we, such a fantasy implies, who have put a stigma on these people, but the powers that made the world—they have put the sign on these people to mark them off as inferior or bad people. The reference to a different skin colour and other innate or biological characteristics of groups which are, or have been, treated as inferior by an established group has the same objectifying function in this relationship as reference to the imaginary blue stigma of the Burakumin. The physical sign serves as a tangible symbol of the assumed anomie of the other group, of its lower worth in human terms, of its intrinsic badness; like the blue-stigma fantasy, the reference to such “objective” signs has a function in defence of the existing distribution of power chances as well as an exculpatory function. It belongs to the same set of pars pro toto arguments, at the same time defensive and aggressive, as stigmatisation of outsider groups—the formation of their overall image in terms of their anomic minority. Nearer home the vision of nineteenth-century working classes as the “great unwashed” is another example.
8 Whitaker, “Japan's Outcasts”, p. 337. A Buraku poet, Maruoka Tadao, has written a poem, quoted in that article, which refers to this belief. These are two of the verses:
I heard whispering
Like the flow of the wind from mouth to mouth
That under each armpit I am marked
The size of an open hand.
Who marked my sides? For what unknown cause?
Why such an unknown brand upon my very self and soul?
Even today my ebbing thoughts,
So pale and cold, transparent as glass,
Hold me awake.
An approach to an established–outsider figuration as a stationary type of relationship, however, can be no more than a preparatory step. The problems with which one is confronted in such an exploration come into their own only if one considers the balance of power between such groups as changing and works towards a model which shows, at least in broad outline, the human–including the economic–problems inherent in such changes. At present the complex polyphony of the movement of rising and declining groups over time–of established groups which become outsiders or, as groups, disappear altogether, of outsider groups whose representatives move as a new establishment into positions previously denied them or, as the case may be, which become paralysed by oppression–is still largely concealed from view. So is the long-term direction of these changes, such as that from limited local balance-of-power struggles between a great multitude of relatively small social units to those between an increasingly smaller number of increasingly larger social units. In a period in which movements of former outsider groups into positions of power multiply, and at the same time the main axis of tension at the global level is that between larger state units than ever before, the lack of an overall theory of changes in power differentials and of the human problems associated with them is perhaps a little surprising.
[Page xxxvi]However, preoccupation with short-term problems of the day and conception of the long-term development of societies as an unstructured historical prelude to the present still today block the understanding of long sequences in the development of societies and of their directional character–of sequences such as that of the movement of rising and declining groups and the dialectics of oppression and counter-oppression of an established group's ideas of grandeur deflated by those of a former outsider group, which rises and carries its representatives into the position of an establishment on a new level. Also, the heritage of the old enlightenment plays a part in this blockage. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the soothing belief that human beings, not only individually but also as groups, normally act rationally still retains a strong hold on the perception of inter-group relations. The ideal of rationality in the conduct of human affairs still bars access to the structure and dynamics of established–outsider figurations and to the magnifying group fantasies thrown up by them, which are social data sui generis, neither rational nor irrational. At present group fantasies still slip through our conceptual net. They appear as protean historical phantoms that seem to come and go arbitrarily. At the present stage of knowledge one has got so far as to see that affective experiences and fantasies of individual people are not arbitrary–that they have a structure and dynamics of their own. One has learned to see that such experiences and fantasies of a person at an earlier stage of life can influence profoundly the patterning of affects and conduct at later stages. But one has yet to work out a testable theoretical framework for the ordering of observations about group fantasies in connection with the development of groups. That may seem surprising, for the building up of collective praise- and blame-fantasies plays so obvious and vital a part in the conduct of affairs at all levels of balance-of-power relationships; and no less obviously they all have a diachronic, developmental character. On the global level, there is, for instance, the American dream and the Russian dream. There used to be the civilising mission of European countries and the dream of the Third Reich, successor to the First and Second Reichs. There is the counter-stigmatisation of the former outsiders, for example, of African countries in search of their negritude and their own dream.
There is, at a different level, as we shall see in this book, the idea [Page xxxvii]of the old residents in Winston Parva, who in the name of their own greater human worth reject association with newcomers and stigmatise them, more mildly, but nevertheless unrelentingly, as people of lesser worth. Why do they do it?
Many different issues can bring tensions and conflicts between established and outsiders into the open. Yet at the core they are always balance-of-power struggles; as such they may range from silent tugs-of-war hidden beneath the routine co-operation between the two groups, within a framework of instituted inequalities, to overt struggles for changes of the institutional framework which embodies these power differentials and the inequalities that go with them. Whichever is the case, outsider groups (as long as they are totally cowed) direct tacit pressure or open action towards the decrease of power differentials responsible for their inferior position, established groups towards their preservation or increase.
However, once the problem of the distribution of power chances at the heart of established–outsider tensions and conflicts is brought into the open, it becomes easier to discover underneath another problem that is often overlooked. Groups tied to each other in the form of an established–outsider figuration are formed by individual human beings. The problem is how and why human beings perceive one another as belonging to the same group and include one another within the group boundaries which they establish when saying “we” in their reciprocal communications, while at the same time excluding other human beings whom they perceive as belonging to another group and to whom they collectively refer as “they”.
As we shall see, the first newcomers in Winston Parva did not perceive the old residents as in any way different from themselves. They tried to make contact with some of them, as one often does when moving to a new neighbourhood. But they were rejected. In that way they were made aware of the fact that the old residents perceived themselves as a closed group, to whom they referred as “we”, and the newcomers as a group of intruders, to whom they referred as “they” and whom they meant to keep at a distance. If one tries to discover why they did so, one becomes aware of the decisive part that the time dimension, or in other words, the development of a group, plays as determinant of its structure and characteristics. The group of “old families” of Winston Parva (some of whose members were, of course, quite young) had a common [Page xxxviii]past; the newcomers had none. The difference was of great significance, both for the internal constitution of each of the two groups and for their relationship with each other. The established group of old residents consisted of families who had lived in that neighbourhood for two or three generations. They had undergone together a group process–from the past via the present towards the future–which provided them with a stock of common memories, attachments and dislikes. Without regard to this diachronic group dimension, the rationale and meaning of the personal pronoun “we” which they used with reference to each other cannot be understood.
Because they had lived together for a fairly long time, the old families possessed as a group a cohesion which the newcomers lacked. They were bonded to each other by the ambivalent and competitive intimacy characteristic of circles of “old families” everywhere, whether they are aristocratic, urban patrician, petty bourgeois or, as in this case, working-class families. They had their own internal ranking and “pecking” order. Each family and, individually, each member of a family had, at a given moment in time, its set position on the ladder of this order. Some of the criteria are set out in this book; others are implied. Both the ranking order itself and its criteria were known, as a matter of course, to everyone who belonged to the group, especially to the ladies. But they were known only at the level of social practice or, in other words, at a low level of abstraction, not explicitly at the relatively high level of abstraction represented by terms such as social standing of families or internal status order of a group. Many social data are still today conceptually represented only at a level comparable to that which our ancestors reached when they were able to distinguish between four and five apples or ten and twenty elephants, but were not yet able to operate on a higher level of abstraction, with numbers such as three and four, ten and twenty, as symbols of pure relationships without reference to any specific, tangible object. Similarly, in this case, the members of the established group were able to communicate their estimate of each other's standing within the internal ranking order of their group in a face-to-face encounter directly by their attitudes and, in conversation about others not actually present, by little symbolic phrases and the inflection of their voice rather than by explicit statements about higher or lower rankings of families and persons on their group's internal ranking and pecking order.
[Page xxxix]Moreover, the members of the group of “old families” were bound to each other by bonds of emotional intimacy ranging from the intimacy of long-standing friendships to that of long-standing dislikes. Like the status rivalries associated with them, these bonds too were of a kind which develops only among humans who have lived together through a group process of some duration. Without taking them into account one cannot quite understand the boundaries that the members of the established group of Winston Parva set up when they spoke of themselves as “we” and of the outsiders as “they”. As their bonds with each other, resulting from such a group process, were invisible, the newcomers, who perceived the old residents at first simply as people like themselves, never quite understood the reasons for their exclusion and stigmatisation. The old residents, on their part were only able to explain them in terms of their immediate sentiments, of their feeling that theirs was a superior part of the neighbourhood with leisure amenities, religious institutions and local politics which everyone liked and that they did not wish to mingle in their private lives with people from inferior parts of the neighbourhood, whom they regarded as less respectable and norm-abiding than themselves.
It is symptomatic of the high degree of control that a cohesive group is able to exercise upon its members that not once during the investigation did we hear of a case in which a member of the “old” group broke the taboo of the group against non-occupational personal contact with members of the “new” group.
The internal opinion of any group with a high degree of cohesion has a profound influence upon its members as a regulating force of their sentiments and their conduct. If it is an established group, monopolistically reserving for its members the rewarding access to power resources and group charisma, this effect is particularly pronounced. This is due partly to the fact that the power ratio of a group member diminishes if his or her behaviour and feeling runs counter to group opinion so that this turns against him or her. As competitive in-fighting9 of some kind–whether subdued or open and loud–is a standing feature of cohesive groups, the lowering of a group member's ranking within the internal status order of the group weakens the member's ability to hold his or her own in [Page xl]the group's internal competition for power and status; it may, in severe cases, expose him or her to the pressure of whispered blame-gossip or perhaps to open stigmatisation within the group (without the ability to fight back), which can be as unrelenting and wounding as the stigmatisation of outsiders. Approval of group opinion, as we shall see in the study of Winston Parva, requires compliance with group norms. The penalty for group deviance and sometimes even for suspected deviance10 is loss of power and a lowering of one's status.
9 See also p. 155 below.
However, the impact of a group's internal opinion upon each of its members goes further than that. Group opinion has in some respects the function and character of a person's own conscience. In fact the latter, forming itself in a group process, remains attached to the former by an elastic, if invisible cord. If the power differential is great enough, a member of an established group may be quite indifferent to what outsiders think about him or her, but is hardly ever indifferent to the opinion of insiders–of those who have access to power resources in whose monopolistic control he or she participates or seeks to participate and with whom he or she shares a common pride in the group, a common group charisma. A member's self-image and self-respect are linked to what other members of the group think of him or her. Though variable and elastic, the connection between, on the one hand, the self-regulation of his or her conduct and sentiment–the functioning of the more conscious and even some of the less conscious layers of conscience–and, on the other hand, the norm-setting internal opinion of one or other of his or her we-groups breaks down only with sanity. It breaks down, in other words, only if his or her sense of reality, ability to distinguish between what happens in fantasies and what happens independently of them, fades out. The relative autonomy of an individual person, the extent to which their own conduct and sentiment, self-respect and conscience are functionally related to the internal opinion of groups to which he or she refers as “we”, is certainly subject to great variation. The view, widespread today, that a sane individual may become totally independent of the opinion of all his or her we-groups and, in that sense, absolutely autonomous, is as misleading as the opposite view that his or her [Page xli]autonomy may entirely disappear within a collective of robots. That is what is meant when one speaks of the elasticity of the bonds linking a person's self-regulation to the regulating pressures of a we-group. This elasticity has its limits, but no zero-point. The relationship between these two types of regulating functions (often distinguished as “social” and “psychological”) at different stages of the group process called “social development”, deserves a special study. I have explored some aspects of this problem elsewhere11 Here, what stands out most graphically is the way in which the self-regulation of members of a closely knit established group is linked to the internal opinion of that group. Their susceptibility to the pressure of their we-group is in that case particularly great because belonging to such a group instils in its members a strong sense of their higher human value in relation to outsiders.
10 See the case of the woman who invited in the dustmen, p. 39 below.
In an earlier period, the impact that the belief of a group in its exclusive grace and virtue vis-a-vis outsiders had upon the self-regulation of sentiment and the conduct of its individual members showed itself most prominently in the case of groups dominated by priestly establishments and thus united against outsiders by a common superhuman belief. In our age, this impact of group charismatic belief upon group members has its most exemplary form in the case of powerful nations dominated by party-governmental establishments and, thus, united against outsiders by a common social belief in their unique national virtue and grace. In Winston Parva one could observe in miniature a core group formed by members of the old families, a central establishment guarding the special virtue and respectability of the whole village, which as a lower-level establishment solidly closed its ranks against members of a neighbourhood that was regarded as less respectable, as inhabited by people of lesser human value. In this case, the control represented by group opinion could be all the more stringent as the established group was small and had the character of a face-to-face group. There was no single defection from the established group, no single breach of the taboo against closer personal contact with the outsiders, which shows how effectively in such a setting the self-regulation [Page xlii]of individual members can be kept in line through the carrot-and-stick mechanism to which I have alluded before. It can be kept in line through the rewarding participation of the group's superior human value and the corresponding heightening of an individual's self-love and self-respect, reinforced by the continued approval of the group's internal opinion and, at the same time, through the restraints each member imposes upon himself in accordance with the norms and standards of the group. The study of the established group in Winston Parva thus shows on a small scale how individual self-control and group opinion are geared to each other.
11 See N. Elias, The Civilizing Process, Oxford, Blackwell, 1994 (originally published as Über den Prozess der Zivilisation in two separate volumes in 1939, Basel, Haus zum Falken).
We owe to Freud a great advance in the understanding of group processes during which men's self-controlling agencies grow into shape. Freud himself, however, conceptualised his findings largely in a manner which made it appear that every human being is a self-contained unit–a homo clausus. He recognised the specifically human capacity for learning to control and, up to a point, to pattern their malleable libidinal drives according to their experiences within a norm-setting group. But he conceptualised the self-controlling functions which he saw growing up with the help of these experiences as if they were organs like kidney and heart. In short, he followed a tradition which is still as widespread within the medical profession as it is within the lay public at large. He conceptually represented controlling and orientating functions at the personality level of a human organism, which are patterned through learning, as if they were organs at one of its lower levels, which are little affected by learning. He discovered that the group process of a father-mother–child relationship has a determining influence on the patterning of a person's elementary drives and the formation of his self-controlling functions in early childhood. But, once formed, they appeared to him to work on their own, quite independently of the further group processes in which every person continues to be involved from childhood to old age. As a result, he advanced the conception of human beings' self-controlling functions–an ego, a super-ego or an ego-ideal, as he called them–to the point where they have the character of functioning in what appears to be a total autonomy within the single individual. But the layers of personality structure that remain most directly and closely linked to the group processes in which a person participates, above [Page xliii]all the person's we-image and we-ideal, lay beyond his horizon. He did not conceptualise them and probably considered them as part of what he called reality, in contradistinction to affective fantasies and dreams, which he probably saw as his proper concern. However much he contributed to the understanding of the bonds that link people to each other, his concept of men was still largely that of the isolated individual person. In his field of vision the persons appeared as structured, and the societies formed by interdependent persons appeared as backgrounds, as unstructured “reality”, whose dynamic was apparently without influence on the individual human being.
A person's we-image and we-ideal form as much part of a person's self-image and self-ideal as the image and ideal of him- or herself as the unique person to which he or she refers as “I”. It is not difficult to see that statements such as “I, Pat O'Brien, am an Irishman” implies an I-image as well as a we-image. So do statements such as “I am a Mexican”, “I am a Buddhist”, “I am working class” or “We are an old Scottish family”. These and other aspects of a person's group identity form as integral a part of his personal identity as others which distinguish him from other members of his we-group.
Freud once remarked that a breakdown of the personality structure, as in the case of neurotic or psychotic illnesses, may enable an observer to perceive its interconnected functions more clearly than its normal working. Mutatis mutandis one may say the same of we-image and we-ideal. They are always compacts of emotive fantasies and realistic images. But they stand out most sharply when fantasy and reality fall apart. For in that case their fantasy content becomes accentuated. The difference is that, in the case of such personality functions as ego-image and ego-ideal, the emotive fantasies represent purely personal experiences of a group process. In the case of we-image and we-ideal, they are personal versions of collective fantasies.
A striking example in our time is that of the we-image and we-ideal of once-powerful nations whose superiority in relation to others has declined. Their members may suffer for centuries because the group charismatic we-ideal, modelled on an idealised image of themselves in the days of their greatness, lingers on for many generations as a model they feel they ought to live up to, [Page xliv]without being able to do so. The radiance of their collective life as a nation has gone; their power superiority in relation to other groups, emotionally understood as a sign of their own higher human value in relation to the inferior value of these others, is irretrievably lost. Yet, the dream of their special charisma is kept alive in a variety of ways–through the teaching of history, the old buildings, masterpieces of the nation in the time of its glory, or through new achievements which seemingly confirm the greatness of the past. For a time, the fantasy shield of their imagined charisma as a leading, established group may give a declining nation the strength to carry on. In that sense it can have a survival value. But the discrepancy between the actual and the imagined position of one's group among others can also entail a mistaken assessment of one's power resources and, as a consequence, suggest a group strategy in pursuit of a fantasy image of one's own greatness that may lead to self-destruction as well as to destruction of other interdependent groups. The dreams of nations (as of other groups) are dangerous.12 An overgrown we-ideal is a symptom of a collective illness. Much could be gained from a better understanding of the dynamics of [Page xlv]established–outsider figurations and thus of the problems involved in the changing position of groups in relation to each other, of the rise of groups into the position of monopolistic establishment from which others are excluded, and the decline or fall from such a position to another where they themselves are, in some respects, among the excluded outsiders. In this respect too, the ideal of “rationality”, this heritage of the old Enlightenment, still blocks the way towards a better understanding of such problems. It perpetuates the notion that nations, and their leaders too, on the whole act “rationally”, which in this context probably means realistically.
12 The rigidity of the we-image and the consequent inability of groups to adapt it to changing conditions of life show themselves not only in the fortunes of large groups such as social classes and nations, but also in those of small groups. A telling example can be found in “Dc tragedie der Puttenaren” in a book by A. van Dantzig, Normaal is niet gewoon, Amsterdam, De Bezige Bij, 1974, p. 21 ff. The author describes the fortunes of a group of 452 people who had lived all their lives in a small Dutch village community, when in November 1944 they were suddenly uprooted and as a reprisal sent–as a group–to a concentration camp. They remained, as a matter of course, obedient to the old village norms, i.e., they worked as hard as before, took the pauses they thought justified, showed their indignity over several aspects of camp life, etc. In short, being together, they were unable to behave in a manner of which public opinion in their village would have disapproved. The automatic reciprocal control of the villagers did not allow them to adjust their standards of conduct to the completely different conditions of life in a concentration camp. Only 32 of them came back to Putten, where 3 more died. One can, of course, not be certain that their survival rate would have been greater if they had not been sent there as a still reasonably integrated group. What one can say, however, is that this fact–the fact that they were sent to a concentration camp as a group (which in other cases is often considered as a positive factor of survival)–in this case contributed to their very low survival rate. In short, as the author says: “Many inhabitants of Putten were unable to free themselves from the laws which for so long had determined the course of their lives and the structure of their community.” Van Dantzig very rightly says: “Psychoanalysis and sociology could have found each other here.” The case which he so graphically describes shows very clearly the need for considering the we-ideal together with the ego-ideal as part of the personality structure.
The concepts put forward here as part of an established–outsider theory, concepts such as group charisma and we-ideal, may help towards a better fitting assessment of these group relations. The example of powerful establishments such as national groups losing their great power status and sinking into the ranks of second or third level establishments shows once more the close connection between the power ratios of groups and the we-images of their members. To bring these connections into the open does not mean that they form an immutable part of human nature. In fact, the greater the awareness of the emotional equation of great power with great human value, the greater is the chance of a critical appraisal and a change. The leading groups of nations, or of social classes and other groupings of human beings, are given at the height of their power to ideas of grandeur. The self-enhancing quality of a high power ratio flatters the collective self-love which is also the reward for submission to group-specific norms, to patterns of affect restraint characteristic of that group and believed to be lacking in less powerful, “inferior” groups, outsiders and outcasts. Hence the traditional patterns of restraint, the distinguishing norms of conduct of an old superior group are apt to become brittle or even break down when the rewarding self-love, the belief in the special charisma of the once-powerful group falters with the decrease of their great power superiority. But again such a process takes time. It may take a long time before the reality shock sinks in. The rewarding belief in the special virtue, grace and mission of one's own group may for generations shield members of an established group from the full emotional realisation of their changed position, from the awareness that the gods have failed, that the group has not kept faith with [Page xlvi]them. They may know of the change as a fact, while their belief in their special group charisma and the attitudes, their behaviour strategy which goes with it, persists unchanged as a fantasy shield, which prevents them from feeling the change and, therefore, from being able to adjust to the changed conditions of their group image and their group strategy. Therefore, as realistic adjustment is a condition without which they cannot achieve, as a group with diminished power resources, anything that can prove their human value to themselves and to others, the emotional denial of the change, the tacit preservation of the beloved group charismatic image is self-defeating.
Sooner or later the reality shock breaks in; and its coming is often traumatic. One can observe groups–in our time above all national groups–many of whose members, without knowing it, appear to remain in a condition of mourning for the lost greatness that was. It is as if they were saying: if we can't live up to the we-image of the time of our greatness, nothing is really worth doing.
With the help of this reference to cases in which changes in a group's position among other groups increase the unrealistic aspects of their collective image and ideal, one may be better able to understand the working of an established group's we-image and we-ideal in the following study. In that case one encounters such a group while its superior position in relation to outsiders is still fully maintained. The very existence of interdependent outsiders who share neither the fund of common memories nor, as it appears, the same norms of respectability as the established group, acts as an irritant; it is perceived by the members of the latter as an attack against their own we-image and we-ideal. The sharp rejection and stigmatisation of the outsiders are the counter-attack. The established group feels compelled to repulse what they experience as a threat to both their power superiority (in terms of their cohesion and monopolisation of local offices and amenities) and their human superiority, their group charisma, by means of a counter-attack, a continuous rejection and humiliation of the other group.
The flow of blame-gossip and the stained they-image of the outsiders can be regarded as standing features of this kind of figuration. In other cases it becomes routinised and may persist for centuries. Among the most telling features of the strategy of established groups is that of imputing to the outsiders, as a matter [Page xlvii]of reproach, some of their own standard attitudes, which in their case often enough earn praise. Thus in an Indian village the untouchables had to remove their shoes while passing through the caste Hindu streets, since wearing shoes amounted to “showing off”. Elsewhere male outcastes were not allowed to sport upward-pointing moustaches as this signified self-assertion.13
In the same way an American writer, not unconnected with the American establishment14, spoke in all innocence of negro intellectuals “lusting for a taste of power”, quite oblivious of the long-lasting use of their own power superiority by white Americans as a means to exclude the descendants of slaves from participation in the power resources monopolised by them.
One of the most striking aspects of present approaches to established–outsider relationships with “racial” connotations is their widespread discussion in terms of a here-and-now problem. The exclusion of the long-term group process–not to be confused with what we call “history”–from the study of this type of established–outsider relationship tends to distort the problem. In discussing “racial” problems one is apt to put the cart before the horse. It is argued, as a rule, that people perceive others as belonging to another group because the colour of their skin is different. It would be more to the point if one asked how it came to pass in this world that one has got into the habit of perceiving people with another skin colour as belonging to a different group. This problem at once brings into focus the long process in the course of which human groups evolved in different parts of the earth, adapted to different physical conditions and then, after long spells of isolation, came into contact with each other often enough as conquerors and conquered and thus, within one and the same society, as established and outsiders. It was as a result of this long process of intermingling, in which groups with different physical characteristics became interdependent as masters and slaves or in other positions with great power differentials, that differences in physical appearance became signals of people's belongingness to groups with different power ratios, different status and different [Page xlviii]norms. Once more one is reminded of the need for reconstituting the temporal character of groups and their relationships as processes in the sequence of time if one wants to understand the boundaries that people set up by distinguishing between a group of which they say “we” and another to which they refer as “they”.
13 Report of the Elayaperumal Committee, 1960, quoted in Dilip Hiro, The Untouchables of India, Report No. 26, London, Minority Rights Group, 1975, p. 9.
14 See Eric Hoffer, The Temper of Our Time, New York, 1969, p. 64.
The development of the Indian caste–outcaste figuration can serve as an example. It is one of the longest group processes of its kind of which we have some written documentary evidence going back to the second millennium before our era. One can hardly understand and explain the many-levelled established–outsider relationships in India, ranging from high castes to outcastes as they are today, without reference to the long group process during which this figuration became what it is. The point of departure was the gradual subjection of earlier inhabitants of India by conquering invaders from the north. They apparently came from the steppes of southern Russia via Iran, spoke an Indo-European language and, in some documents, referred to themselves as light-skinned Aryans, clearly distinguishable by their physical appearance from the dark-skinned tribes whom they had subjected to their rule. Among these Aryans, in contrast to those other branches from the same stock that we know as Hellenic and Germanic tribes, the primordial struggle between warriors and priests had resulted in the victory of the latter. This, and the fact that, in terms of their numbers, the conquering groups were probably much smaller than the subject population and, in addition, perhaps short of women, led to a systematic policy of closure and exclusion on the part of the established group in their relationship with the subject people–apart from relations of the conquerors with subject women, which resulted over the generations in a steady decrease of the physical, the so-called racial differences, without resulting in a decrease of the exclusion. Hardened into a tradition, this policy resulted in a condition where every group closed its ranks in relation to any other regarded as of lower standing. All groups distinguished from others by their rank and their social functions became hereditary groups which, in principle if not always in practice, were inaccessible to those not born into them.
Thus, as Indian society became more differentiated, it assumed the character of a hierarchy of hereditary castes and, at the lowest levels, of hereditary outcastes. The rigidity of this tradition of group [Page xlix]exclusion may have been due, in the first instance, to the fear of losing their identity as well as their privileged position on the part of the light-skinned invaders and especially of their priests. Thus, the conquerors forced the conquered people to live outside their own villages. They excluded them from participation in the religious ceremonies, sacrifices and prayers to the gods and thus from the blessings they conferred on participants. By denying them participation in their own group charisma and their own norms, they forced the conquered into the position of people who were in their own eyes anomic and, at the same time, despised them for not obeying the norms they themselves observed. The priestly establishment, the Brahmins, used their monopoly of the means of orientation and of the control of the invisible powers systematically as an instrument of rule and a weapon of exclusion. The tradition of established–outsider relationships which was initially connected with the policy of conquerors in relation to the conquered and which permeated in course of time the increasingly differentiated hierarchy of castes down to the outcastes at the bottom of the social pyramid, assumed its special rigidity in the Indian case because it was firmly set in a mould of religious beliefs and magical practices by a ruling establishment of priests.
In contrast to the traditional policy of religious establishments such as those of Christianity and Islam, which was directed towards conversion and assimilation of outsiders, the Brahmins were from early days on habituated to a policy of exclusion; their policy was directed towards strict hierarchic segregation of groups, as a condition of their own high power ratio. As in the early days the non-Aryan subject peoples were rigidly excluded from participation in the rites and prayers of the ruling groups, so later all functional divisions within Indian society, from those of priests to those of street sweepers, were conceived in terms of a religiously sanctioned exclusion, of a hierarchy of hereditary social divisions between higher and lower castes. The differences were explained in terms of “good” or “bad” deeds committed in a former life. Thus, according to Hiro, one of the holy books, the Manusmriti, states:
“In consequence of many bad acts committed with his body a man becomes in the next birth something inanimate; in consequence of bad acts committed by speech, a bird or a beast; in consequence of mental sins, he is re-born in a low caste.” The Brahmanical establishment thus [Page l]enjoined upon the lower castes to accept their station in life without question, and to remember that if they followed their assigned dharma (i.e. duty) in this life they would be rewarded with a better status in the next life.15
One of the standard devices of an establishment under strain is that of tightening the restraints that its members impose upon themselves, as well as upon the wider group ruled by it, and the observance of these restraints can again be used as a sign both of one's own group charisma and the disgrace of outsiders. Sometime between 100 bc and ad 100 the Brahminical establishment came under pressure from rival Buddhist missionaries, which had been increasing since the time of the Buddhist emperor, Ashoka. It was during that period that Brahmins themselves renounced the eating of meat, that the caste population came to abstain from eating beef and that cows assumed the full status of symbols of a deity and, therefore, could not be killed. As in Japan, occupational groups whose work was regarded as unclean, who thus were considered as socially polluting, had existed before. The strengthening of the taboo against eating and killing animals finalised their status as outcastes. Butchers, leather workers, fishermen, executioners, scavengers and similar occupational groups were regarded as humans whose contact polluted others. Throughout the centuries their members were treated as hereditary outcastes, as pariahs.
For someone living in a relatively wealthy industrial society it requires an exercise in imagination to represent to oneself the mode of existence and the feeling of human beings in that situation. But it is an exercise worth doing. Throughout the long period the stained we-image of a person dominated and coloured his or her self-image. It overshadowed his or her image as an individual person in a manner to which one may not readily have access in societies where the feeling of pollution by social outsiders is not sanctioned by the ruling beliefs. This nightmare world of the tainted we-image can easily appear as alien. Yet some of the children growing up in Winston Parva's rat alley (as it was called by the established group) probably suffered from a similarly tainted we-image and became deviants as a result. Wherever established–outsider relationships exist such feelings are never entirely absent. The deep uneasiness [Page li]aroused through contact with members of outsider groups may be less strong, but even without religious sanctions it has similar features. At its roots is the fear of contact with a group which in one's own eyes, as in those of one's fellow, is anomic. Its members break rules which one is oneself enjoined to observe and on whose observation depend both one's self-respect and the respect of one's fellows. On it depends too one's participation in the special grace and virtue, in the charisma of one's group.
15 Hiro, Untouchables of India, p. 5.
Some of these features could be observed even in so small a setting as that of Winston Parva. It seemed useful to allow the microcosm of a small community to throw light on the macrocosm of large-scale societies and vice versa. That is the line of thought behind the use of a small setting as an empirical paradigm of established–outsider relationships, which often exist elsewhere on a different scale. Some details can be brought into better focus there than in a study of corresponding relationships in larger settings. Others stand out more clearly in these larger settings. Together they may help towards a better understanding of the socio-dynamics of established–outsider relationships. Because such a study brings under a single conceptual umbrella types of relationships which one traditionally perceives only as different, they all, one may find, stand out more vividly.
One may see, for instance, more clearly the part played in established–outsider relations by differences in norms and especially in the standards of self-restraint. The established group tends to experience such differences as an irritant, partly because their own observation of norms is linked to their self-love, to their group charismatic beliefs, partly because non-observation of their own norms by others is apt to weaken their defence against their own wish to break the prescribed norm. Interdependent outsiders, therefore, who are more lenient, or are merely suspected of being more lenient, in the observation of restraints whose strict observation is vital for members of the established group if they are to maintain their standing among their fellows, are experienced as a threat to their own standing, their special virtue and grace by the established group. That was one of the main reasons why in the case of Winston Parva the established hit back so sharply. Rightly or wrongly they, like many other established groups, felt exposed to a three-pronged attack–against their monopolised power resources, [Page lii]against their group charisma and against their group norms. They repelled what they experienced as an attack by closing their ranks against the outsiders, by excluding and humiliating them. The outsiders themselves had hardly any intention of attacking the old residents. But they were placed in an unhappy and often humiliating position. The whole drama was played out by the two sides as if they were puppets on a string.
Appendix 1: Sociological Aspects of Identification[Page 174]
Problems of identification have been studied from various angles. S. Freud and G. H. Mead were among the first who, in this century, stimulated interest in these problems—Freud's contribution can be found in “Totem and Taboo” and “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego” as well as in his “New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis” and in some of his smaller papers; Mead's contribution in “Mind, Self and Society”. Many others have followed the trail or gone beyond it and any selection is arbitrary. But it might be useful to mention a few contributions which explicitly or implicitly point to the sociological significance of identification mechanisms.On Introjection. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1937, 18, 269ff.,Identification, A Crucial Concept for Sociology. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 1950, 14, 164ff.,Some Sociological Aspects of Identification. Psycho-Analysis and the Social Sciences, Vol. IV, 1955, 61.,The Problem of Ego Identity. Journal Of the American Psycho-Analytic Association, 1956, 4, 56. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/000306515600400104,Young Man Luther. A Study in Psycho-Analysis and History, 1958, 106ff.,
Louisa P. Howe's emphasis on the connection between identification and social inheritance came to my notice after our experience in Winston Parva had drawn my attention to the same connection there. In both cases the emphasis is directed against the uncritical attribution to biological mechanisms of inheritance of continuities between the generations which can be quite well explained in terms of sociological mechanisms of inheritance. L. P. Howe's comments on Freud's biologistic tendencies are not unjustified and are useful in this context, although it is much more understandable that a man like Freud who received much of his training in the [Page 175]nineteenth century should show biologistic tendencies of this kind than that they are still widespread and well received in the mid-twentieth century when it has become somewhat easier to distinguish between biological and sociological forms of inheritance and to study their inter-play.
“It is surprising,” she wrote in ‘Some Sociological Aspects of Identification’, “that Freud clung so tenaciously to his idea of primal murder and to the postulation that unconscious memories of this and other ‘historic’ events are passed on through biological inheritance, when he himself described so insightfully the kind of social inheritance that occurs by means of identification.”
Some effects of sociological inheritance have already been discussed in the text in connection with the transmission of prejudice and discriminatory attitudes from one generation to the other and its deepening effect (pages 132–33). The example of the operation of sociological inheritance of outsider resentment through identification with socially rejected and disordered outsider families which has been given in the text points in the same direction. It is more comprehensive as it links the identification to the whole social situation of parents and children. It takes account of the interplay between the image people have of themselves, and the images which others have of them. This sociological extension of the problems of identification beyond the relations between an individual child and his individual parents to the position, and particularly to the status position, of an individual family in relation to others may at first seem to complicate matters unduly. In fact, it simplifies the problem, though perhaps not the collection of evidence. It comes nearer to what we actually observe.
Even without systematic study one can easily observe in everyday life that the image children form of themselves is affected not only by their experience of their parents, but also by their experience of what others say and think about their parents. The status consciousness of children, though perhaps more fantasy bound, is, if anything, even stronger than that of adults. The assurance which a person gains as a child from the belief in the high status of his family often enough [Page 176]colours his self-assurance in later life even if his own status is less well assured or has become lower. In the same way the experience of a low status attributed to a child's family will leave its traces in his self-image and self-assurance in later life. It is identification in this wider sense which is relevant to the problems raised in the text, among them to the problems of young delinquents.
Erik H. Erikson in “Young Man Luther” (and in some of his other writings) has discussed a number of problems with which adolescents are faced in their search for identity, particularly page 106ff. He, too, has pointed to the need for developing further the psycho-analytic concept of identification:
“Psycho-analysis has emphasised and systematised the sexual search of childhood and youth, elaborating on the way sexual and aggressive drives and contents are repressed and disguised to re-appear subsequently in compulsive acts and in compulsive self-restraints. But psycho-analysis has not charted the extent to which these drives and contents owe their intensity and exclusivity to sudden depreciations of the ego and of material available as building stones for a future identity. The child does have his parents, however; if they are half-way worth the name, their presence will define for him both the creative extent and the secure limitations of his life tasks”.
The comparison between the working-class communities of Winston Parva points to the need for a more detailed typology of the social configurations which go into the making of a person's identity. In this field too the conventional limitation of one's attention to relationships within a family which make it appear that families live in a social vacuum obstruct our understanding. It is unlikely that one will be able to come to grips with problems such as these without systematic enquiries into types of communities as well as types of families and into the status order within which children grow up.N.E.
Appendix 2: A Note on the Concepts “Social Structure” and “Anomie”[Page 177]
One could point to many instances in which “anomie” is treated as a problem while its opposite, the state of “well integrated” people or whatever one may call it, is made to appear as relatively “unproblematical”, as “normal” and sometimes, by implication, as a phenomenon which need not be studied.
It may be enough to choose as an example some of the concluding remarks of Merton's well-known essay “Social Structure and Anomie”1:
“In so far as one of the most general functions of social structure is to provide a basis for predictability and regularity of social behaviour, it becomes increasingly limited in effectiveness as these elements of the social structure become dissociated. At the extreme, predictability is minimised and what may be properly called anomie or cultural chaos supervenes.”
At the end of his essay Merton presents “social structure” and “anomie” as antithetic phenomena; they are made to appear as opposite poles of a continuum: where “anomie” prevails, there is no, or little, “social structure”; its place is taken by cultural (or perhaps social) chaos; “predictability and regularity of social behaviour” are at a discount.
This concept of anomie, as one can see, is different from that of Durkheim. If its use in Durkheim's study of suicide means anything, it means that “anomie” is a specific type of social structure, not its opposite pole in a continuum of social phenomena.
Durkheim argued that when the particular type of social structure prevails to which he referred as anomie suicide rates are likely to be high. Contrary to Merton's idea that “anomie” diminishes predictability of social behaviour, Durkheim's theory implied that a better understanding of “anomie” as a [Page 178]type of social structure might make it possible both to explain high suicide rates and to predict that, given anomic conditions, suicide rates are likely to be high.
1 Merton, R. K., Social Theory and Social Structure (Glencoe, Ill.), 1963, p. 159.
Merton's idea of a polarity between “social structure” and “anomie” is based on a misunderstanding which is fairly widespread. “Social structure” is identified with a type of social order of which the observer approves, with a “good order”. Hence “anomie” regarded as undesirable and incompatible with a “good order”, also appears as incompatible with “social structure”. A “good order” is seen as an order in which social behaviour is well regulated. The identification of social structure with a “good social order”, therefore, leads to the assumption that sociological regularities of social behaviour diminish when “social structure” in the sense of a “good” and “well regulated” order gives way to the “bad order” of anomie. The semantic difficulties which arise if one equates the sociological concept of “social order” with what one regards in everyday life as a “good social order” and the sociological concept of “regularities of social behaviour” with the evaluating concept of a “well regulated behaviour” show themselves in such considerations clearly enough. Here as elsewhere the intrusion into one's sociological diagnosis of evaluations extraneous to the problem under consideration—of heteronomous evaluations—is at the root of the difficulties. Evaluations such as “good” and “bad” invading a sociological analysis give the impression of sharp moral dichotomies where factual enquiries reveal in the first place simply differences in social structure. In this respect Durkheim's approach can serve as a corrective. He was able to show that social behaviour which is “not well regulated” has its distinct sociological regularities. It is easy to evaluate high suicide rates as “bad”. It is much more difficult to explain why certain societies have higher suicide rates than others. If that is regarded as the primary sociological task—if one tries to correlate, as Durkheim did, different suicide rates with different social structures one soon becomes aware that the issues are more complex than simple value polarities such as “good” and “bad” suggest. A steady rise in suicide rates, for example, which one may judge to be “bad” may be connected with [Page 179]changes in social structure, such as increasing industrialisation, which one would find more difficult to evaluate as equally “bad”. Thus the concept of “social structure” can be used, and has been used among others by Merton himself, in a sense which is less disturbed by alien evaluations than that in which it has been used by Merton in the sentences that have been quoted. It can be used with reference to more closely as well as to more loosely integrated groups. There is no harm in speaking of the former as “well integrated” (which suggests approval) and of the latter as “badly integrated” or “dissociated” (which suggests disapproval) as long as the differences of structure and the reasons for these differences firmly remain in the centre of one's attention.
Both, forms of close integration and forms of loose integration, raise problems that require investigation. The comparison between “village” and Estate in Winston Parva showed that clearly enough. All sections of Winston Parva, including the unruly minority of the Estate, were “structured” sections. As such they all showed a degree of regularity and predictability of social behaviour.
At the beginning of his essay Merton himself uses the term “social structure” in a more sociological sense. There he represents “social structure” as a condition for deviant and, at least by implication, for conforming behaviour1:
“Our primary aim,” he wrote, “is to discover how some social structures exert a definite pressure upon certain persons in the society to engage in non-conforming rather than conforming conduct.”
And he adds in the light of this sentence very appropriately:
“Our perspective is sociological.”
The perspective ceases to be sociological if the term “social structure” is approximated only to “nomic” conditions and behaviour and if “anomie” is identified with “structureless” chaos. Sociology can come into its own as a scientific discipline only if it is understood that there is no chaos in any absolute sense. No grouping of humans, however disorderly and chaotic [Page 180]in the eyes of those who form it, or in the eyes of observers, is without structure. But perhaps this is not the place to enlarge on this point.
1 Ibid., p. 132.
Merton uses the term “social structure” in two different and not wholly compatible ways—once as a possible condition of deviant behaviour and of anomie and once as one pole of a continuum whose opposite pole is “anomie”. In terms of one's immediate evaluations as involved participants, structures which encourage a more “orderly” and others which encourage a more “disorderly” behaviour may be experienced as independent and incompatible opposites. In terms of a sociological enquiry both can be approached as structures on the same level; in many cases one can show them as interdependent. Again, the study of Winston Parva illustrates the point. The primary task was simply to enquire how the community and its various sections functioned, why they functioned in this particular way and, among others, why tensions arose and persisted within the community. When that had been done it appeared no longer as easy as it may have seemed before, to pass judgement on the various sections of Winston Parva in terms of a black and white design—in the simple terms “good” and “bad”. The Estate showed to a fairly high degree the condition to which one refers as “anomie”. The “village” might serve as an example of a “well integrated” community. Compared with the vivid and complex picture which can emerge from an empirical enquiry, the tendency to argue in general terms as if close integration of a group were a purely positive quality and loose integration a purely negative quality appears as a dry oversimplification. Close integration, as the example of the “village” indicated, is often bound up with specific forms of coercion. It may be bound up with specific forms of oppression. There can be too much social cohesion as well as too little, and too much as well as too little pressure for conformity. More empirical investigations alone can help us to understand what actually happens in communities to which we apply terms such as “close integration”, and what in such cases “too much” and “too little” actually mean. At present one is apt to believe that value judgements used in such cases are wholly independent of the advances in [Page 181]knowledge. One often argues as if people acquired the values for which they stand from nowhere. They appear to be a priori, namely prior to all experiences. Without suggesting that they can be simply derived from empirical enquiries, one can certainly say that they are not independent of them. Men's sense of values changes with the changing conditions of their lives, and, as part of these conditions, with the advances in human knowledge.
The point is not without relevance in this context. The axiomatic evaluation of close integration as unconditionally “good” could be rectified with the help of a factual enquiry. That is one of many examples one could give of the way in which evaluations which at one stage are widely accepted as self-evident can be affected by advances in knowledge. It will require many more comparative empirical investigations of communities with varying degrees of cohesion and of the effects on the people who live there before one can with reasonable certainty define and evaluate some of them as better than others. At present, human organisations are still so imperfectly designed and our ignorance about them is so great that forms of malfunctioning and the suffering which results from it are ubiquitous and are widely accepted as normal and unavoidable. Although general and abstract value judgements of which the present form of moral judgements are an example may satisfy one's conscience, they are of little help as guides to actions with a long-term perspective. One can only hope to act more adequately with the help of a much improved factual knowledge about society. Without such knowledge it is not only difficult to say which actions, in the long run, are likely to be “good” and which will turn out to be “bad,” one may also in order to remedy what one evaluates as “bad” take steps which make it even worse.N.E.
Appendix 3: On the Relationship of “Family” and “Community”[Page 182]
Some of the notable characteristics of the Winston Parva “village” are similar to those observed before in other communities. One of the pioneer studies in this field was “Family and Kinship in East London” by Michael Young and Peter Wilmott, published first in 1957 and, in a revised edition as a Pelican book, in 1962. As far as one can see, they were the first to point out that the “wider family, far from having disappeared, was still very much alive in the middle of London” (1962, p. 12). In the face of a tradition, probably modelled on the middle-class image of a “normal” family, which stressed the role of a father as the central figure of a family, they put on record the fact that in the working-class families which they studied the mother appeared to be the central figure of a type of family which was usually larger and in structure somewhat different from what was often regarded as the “normal” type of European family.
As record of a series of highly imaginative observations Young and Willmott's study broke new ground. It represented one step in a long series of steps which may one day help to revise the conventional picture of the structure and function of a “normal” family of which the concept of a “nuclear family” as the core and essence of families all over the world is an example. It would have been far less easy to perceive “mother-centred” families in Winston Parva without the precedent set by Young and Willmott in their study of families of Bethnal Green.
But perceptiveness of observations is not quite matched in their study by perceptiveness of conceptualisation. The authors seem to take pride in the fact that they simply “observe” without having a theory. In fact, their observations like everybody else's were guided by specific theoretical ideas. They were probably taken over from the fund of general ideas in society at large. They were not explicitly worked out and [Page 183]critically examined. The authors seem to treat their theoretical ideas as self-evident. They did not regard it as part of their task to examine in the light of their factual observations the general concepts they used in making these observations.
Take the following passage which appears as a summary of the plan according to which they proceeded1:
“We have, in the part of the book which is here to be ended, moved successively outwards from the married couple to the extended family, from the extended family to the kinship network and from there to certain of the relations between the family and the outside world. We shall now turn from the economic to the social, and consider whether, outside the work place, people in this particular local community unrelated either by marriage or by blood are related in any other way.”
There is no need to comment on expressions like “the economic” or “the social.” They are indicative of the kind of classifications at the back of the authors' mind. The procedure as outlined in this quotation is significant. It suggests that one moves outward from the married couple or the family which appears as the centre of the social universe in a number of stages to what appears as the shell called “the outside world”. It is a family-centred theoretical framework, somewhat vaguely conceived, which bears some resemblance to early geocentric conceptions of the universe according to which the earth was the kernel and the heavens the outer shell.
A family-centred concept of society is not unusual in the present sociological literature on the family. Because one confines one's attention to the selection of data about “the family”, the structure of families stands out clearly while that of other aspects of societies are summarily conceived as the world “outside” the family and remain rather dim. Young and Willmott were only mildly inhibited in their observations by their family-centred image of society. They assumed as a matter of course that families have their own independent structure. But they were not particularly concerned with examining this general proposition. Nor did it prevent them from noticing that some kind of relationship existed between family structure and community structure. But as they did not [Page 184]reflect on the nature of this relationship, they had some difficulties in expressing what they observed about it:
“Since family life is so embracing in Bethnal Green one might perhaps expect it would be all embracing. The attachment to relatives would then be at the expense of attachment to others. But in practice this is not what seems to happen. Far from the family excluding ties to outsiders, it acts as an important means of promoting them….
The function of the kindred can be understood only when it is realised that long standing residence is the usual thing. Fifty-three per cent of the people in the general sample were born in Bethnal Green.”
1 M. Young, P. Willmott, op. cit., p. 104.
Thus in this case too, as in that of Winston Parva, a specific type of family structure, mother-centred two-or-three-generation kinship networks were associated with a specific type of community structure; they developed within the framework of an old working-class community. Perhaps in Bethnal Green too women went to work.
But as far as one can see Young and Willmott were only marginally interested in the structure of the community. Their attention was focused on types of families.
The difficulties engendered by this approach can be seen more directly in “Family and Social Network” by Elizabeth Bott. Two passages may be enough to indicate the problem1:
“On the basis of the facts collected from the research families, it is impossible to analyse the pattern of forces affecting their networks. In order to consider these factors at all, it is necessary to go beyond the field data to draw on general knowledge of urban industrialised society.…”
“In the literature on family sociology, there are frequent references to ‘the family in the community’, with the implication that the community is an organised group within which the family is contained. Our data suggest that this usage is misleading. Of course, every family must live in some sort of local area, but few urban local areas can be called communities in the sense that they form cohesive social groups The immediate social environment [Page 185]of urban families is best considered not as the local area in which they live, but rather as the network of actual social relationships they maintain, regardless of whether these are confined to the local area or run beyond its boundaries.”
1 E. Bott, Family and Social Network, London 1957, pp. 97–99.
One can see in these passages the author's strong tendency not only to “observe” families, but also to reflect on the general problem raised by the relationship of family and community. But her reflections are essentially elaborations of axiomatic beliefs common to many sociological studies of the family, particularly of the belief that “the family” has a structure of its own which is basic and more or less independent of that of the surrounding world. It is a belief which, as one can see, persists in spite of all the evidence which shows that the structure of “the family” changes with changes in society at large, e.g. with increasing urbanisation and industrialisation.
The line of thought, represented in these passages, is not uncharacteristic of the circularity of thinking which often results if one accepts specific research techniques as given and as absolute and allows one's conception of whatever one sets out to discover to become dependent on the results of these techniques irrespective of their limitations. E. Bott states first that the techniques used in her study for the collection of data limited the evidence to specific families; they did not make it possible to consider factors from outside the “research families” which had an influence on their structure. This is a very legitimate acknowledgement of the limitations of the methods used and of the sections of the social tissue brought into focus with the help of these methods. But from the acknowledgement of these limitations the author goes on to say that only what her research methods have brought into focus has a firm structure and that the wider groupings, the communities within which families live have no recognisable structure. It is an example of a type of error common in studies of society: aspects of society which can be opened up with the help of conventional techniques of a given period and whose structure can therefore be recognised to a higher or lesser extent are treated as basic aspects of society. Other aspects of society which the techniques of a given period cannot open up with any degree of certainty are, as a matter of course, presumed to lack any firm organisation or structure. [Page 186]Often enough the first are experienced as effective determinants of the flow of social events while the others believed to be without firm structure appear as more or less passively determined by them. Because the data collected by E. Bott made it appear that only the family has a firm structure, but not the community, the author implicitly assumed that one can neglect the community as a factor in the structuring of families. The example of the “village” in Winston Parva showed that it is not as misleading as E. Bott suggests to regard a community as a unit with a specific structure, and that it is quite possible to enquire into the structure of families and community at the same time. If that is done the interdependence of their structure becomes soon apparent.
The connection between family structure and community structure may be less apparent in residential middle-class neighbourhoods than in old working-class neighbourhoods. But although in their case families have many relationships outside their residential area, their neighbourhood is by no means unstructured.N.E.
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