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A Redefinition of Social Phenomena: Giving a Basis for Comparative Sociology

John F. Markey
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 31, No. 6 (May, 1926), pp. 733-743
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2765504
Page Count: 11
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A Redefinition of Social Phenomena: Giving a Basis for Comparative Sociology
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Abstract

Social phenomena are considered as including all behavior which influences or is influenced by organism sufficiently alive to respond to one another. This includes influences from past generations. Developments in social study which furnish a basis for this concept are the behavioristic trend and the emphasis upon the objective nature of social life, study of groups, and group life environmental, and ecological study. The validity of the concept which limits social phenomena to the interaction of human beings is questioned. The outstanding basis for this distinction is the psychological one of the so-called "conscious" or "consciousness." Conscious activity, or consciousness used as a general term, is not limited to human organisms, and does not furnish a basis. Conscious interaction, in the sense of "thinking" or conceptual activity, is questioned asa scientific basis for such limitation of the social. First, we are unable to determine with sufficient scientific accuracy how much and what part of collective behavior is of this reflective type. Second, human beings exert between themselves a large number of influences of which they are unaware. Further, psychological evidence indicates more and more that these differences between man and the other animals are of degree, rather than of kind. At best, with our present knowledge, they are rather vague, indefinite, and insecure differences. Admitting the validity of these distinctions, the validity of marking off the social at this point is questioned. Man has apparently become human, i.e., developed self-consciousness, meaning, ideas, society as a consensus, etc., on account of the fact that the has been a social animal. The problem is one involving the material to be studied by sociology and social psychology. It not only indicates ecological and environmental study, but primarily the study of the processes and organization of collective behavior among organism. It probably means a much larger development of comparative sociology and social psychology. At present this development is very meager.

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