Group Mind

Group Mind
Catalog # SKU3666
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name William Mcdougall
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


The Group Mind

A Sketch Of The Principles Of Collective
Psychology With Some Attempt To Apply
Them To The Interpretation Of
National Life And Character

William McDougall

In this book I have sketched the principles of the mental life of groups and have made a rough attempt to apply these principles to the understanding of the life of nations. I have had the substance of the book in the form of lecture notes for some years, but have long hesitated to publish it. I have been held back, partly by my sense of the magnitude and difficulty of the subject and the inadequacy of my own preparation for dealing with it, partly because I wished to build upon a firm foundation of generally accepted principles of human nature.

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Some fifteen years ago I projected a complete treatise on Social Psychology which would have comprised the substance of the present volume. I was prevented from carrying out the ambitious scheme, partly by the difficulty of finding a publisher, partly by my increasing sense of the lack of any generally accepted or acceptable account of the constitution of human nature. I found it necessary to attempt to provide such a foundation, and in 1908 published my Introduction to Social Psychology. That book has enjoyed a certain popular success. But it was more novel, more revolutionary, than I had supposed when writing it; and my hope that it would rapidly be accepted by my colleagues as in the main a true account of the fundamentals of human nature has not been realised.

All this part of psychology labours under the great difficulty that the worker in it cannot, like other men of science, publish his conclusions as discoveries which will necessarily be accepted by any persons competent to judge. He can only state his conclusions and his reasonings and hope that they may gradually gain the general approval of his colleagues. For to the obscure questions of fact with which he deals it is in the nature of things impossible to return answers supported by indisputable experimental proofs. In this field the evidence of an author's approximation towards truth can consist only in his success in gradually persuading competent opinion of the value of his views.

My sketch of the fundamentals of human nature can hardly claim even that degree of success which would be constituted by an active criticism and discussion of it in competent quarters. Yet there are not wanting indications that opinion is turning slowly towards the acceptance of some such doctrine as I then outlined. Especially the development of psycho-pathology, stimulated so greatly by the esoteric dogmas of the Freudian school, points in this direction. The only test and verification to which any scheme of human nature can be submitted is the application of it to practice in the elucidation of the concrete phenomena of human life and in the control and direction of conduct, especially in the two great fields of medicine and education. And I have been much encouraged by finding that some workers in both of these fields have found my scheme of use in their practice and have even, in some few cases, given it a cordial general approval. But group psychology is itself one of the fields in which such testing and verification must be sought. And I have decided to delay no longer in attempting to bring my scheme to this test. I am also impelled to venture on what may appear to be premature publication by the fact that five of the best years of my life have been wholly given up to military service and the practical problems of psycho-therapy, and by the reflection that the years of a man's life are numbered and that, even though I should delay yet another fifteen years, I might find that I had made but little progress towards securing the firm foundation I desired.

It may seem to some minds astonishing that I should now admit that the substance of this book was committed to writing before the Great War; for that war is supposed by some to have revolutionised all our ideas of human nature and of national life. But the war has given me little reason to add to or to change what I had written. This may be either because I am too old to learn, or because what I had written was in the main true; and I am naturally disposed to accept the second explanation.

I wish to make it clear to any would-be reader of this volume that it is a sequel to my Introduction to Social Psychology, that it builds upon that book and assumes that the reader is acquainted with it. That former volume has been criticised as an attempted outline of Social Psychology. One critic remarks that it may be good psychology, but it is very little social; another wittily says "Mr McDougall, while giving a full account of the genesis of instincts that act in society, hardly shows how they issue into society. He seems to do a great deal of packing in preparation for a journey on which he never starts." The last sentence exactly describes the book. I found myself, like so many of my predecessors and contemporaries, about to start on a voyage of exploration of societies with an empty trunk, or at least with one very inadequately supplied with the things essential for successful travelling. I decided to avoid the usual practice of starting without impedimenta and of picking up or inventing bits of make-shift equipment as each emergency arose; I would pack my trunk carefully before starting. And now although my fellow travellers have not entirely approved my outfit, I have launched out to put it to the test; and I cannot hope that my readers will follow me if they have not at their command a similar outfit-namely, a similar view of the constitution of human nature.

I would gratefully confess that the resolve to go forward without a further long period of preparation has been made possible for me largely by the encouragement I have had from the recently published work of Dr James Drever, Instinct in Man. For the author of that work has carefully studied the most fundamental part of my Social Psychology, in the light of his wide knowledge of the cognate literature, and has found it to be in the main acceptable.

The title and much of the substance of the present volume might lead a hasty reader to suppose that I am influenced by, or even in sympathy with, the political philosophy associated with German 'idealism.' I would, therefore, take this opportunity both to prevent any such erroneous inference and to indicate my attitude towards that system of thought in plainer language than it seemed possible to use before the war. I have argued that we may properly speak of a group mind, and that each of the most developed nations of the present time may be regarded as in process of developing a group mind. This must lay me open to the suspicion of favouring the political philosophy which makes of the state a super-individual and semi-divine person before whom all men must bow down, renouncing their claims to freedom of judgment and action; the political philosophy in short of German 'idealism,' which derives in the main from Hegel, which has been so ably represented in this country by Dr Bosanquet, which has exerted so great an influence at Oxford, and which in my opinion is as detrimental to honest and clear thinking as it has proved to be destructive of political morality in its native country. I am relieved of the necessity of attempting to justify these severe strictures by the recent publication of The Metaphysical Theory of the State by Prof. L. T. Hobhouse.

In that volume Prof. Hobhouse has subjected the political philosophy of German 'idealism,' and especially Dr Bosanquet's presentation of it, to a criticism which, as it seems to me, should suffice to expose the hollowness of its claims to all men for all time; and I cannot better define my own attitude towards it than by expressing the completeness of my sympathy with the searching criticism of Mr Hobhouse's essay. In my youth I was misled into supposing that the Germans were the possessors of a peculiar wisdom; and I have spent a large part of my life in discovering, in one field of science after another, that I was mistaken. I can always read the works of some German philosophers, especially those of Hermann Lotze, with admiration and profit; but I have no longer any desire to contend with the great systems of 'idealism,' and I think it a cruel waste that the best years of the lives of many young men should be spent struggling with the obscure phrases in which Kant sought to express his profound and subtle thought.

My first scientific effort was to find evidence in support of a new hypothesis of muscular contraction; and, in working through the various German theories, I was dismayed by their lack of clear mechanical conceptions. My next venture was in the physiology of vision, a branch of science which had become almost exclusively German. Starting with a prepossession in favour of one of the dominant German theories, I soon reached the conclusion that the two German leaders in this field, Helmholtz and Hering, with their hosts of disciples, had, in spite of much admirable detailed work, added little of value and much confusion to the theory of vision left us by a great Englishman,-namely, Thomas Young; and in a long series of papers I endeavoured to restate and supplement Young's theory. Advancing into the field of physiological psychology, I attacked the ponderous volumes of Wundt with enthusiasm; only to find that his physiology of the nervous system was a tissue of unacceptable hypotheses and that he failed to connect it in any profitable manner with his questionable psychology. And, finding even less satisfaction in such works as Ziehen's Physiologische Psychologie, with its crude materialism and associationism, or in the dogmatic speculations of Verworn, I published my own small attempt to bring psychology into fruitful relations with the physiology of the nervous system.

This brought me up against the great problem of the relations between mind and body; and, having found that, in this sphere, German 'idealism' was pragmatically indistinguishable from thorough-going materialism, and that those Germans who claimed to reconcile the two did not really rise much above the level of Ernst Haeckel's wild flounderings, I published my History and Defense of Animism. And in this field, though I found much to admire in the writings of Lotze, I derived most encouragement and stimulus from Prof. Bergson. In working at the foundations of human nature, I found little help in German psychology, and more in French books, especially in those of Prof. Ribot. In psycho-pathology I seemed to find that the claims of the German and Austrian schools were far outweighed by those of the French writers, especially of Prof. Janet. So now, in attacking the problems of the mental life of societies, I have found little help from German psychology or sociology, from the elaborations of Wundt's Völkerpsychologie or the ponderosities of Schaffle, and still less from the 'idealist' philosophy of politics. In this field also it is French authors from whom I have learnt most and with whom I find myself most in sympathy, especially MM. Fouillée, Boutmy, Tarde, and Demolins; though I would not be thought to hold in low esteem the works of many English and American authors, notably those of Buckle, Bagehot, Maine, Lecky, Lowell, and of many others, to some of which I have made reference in the chapters of this book.

I have striven to make this a strictly scientific work, rather than a philosophical one; that is to say, I have tried to ascertain and state the facts and principles of social life as it is and has been, without expressing my opinion as to what it should be. But, in order further to guard myself against the implications attached by German 'idealism' to the notion of a collective mind, I wish to state that politically my sympathies are with individualism and internationalism, although I have, I think, fully recognised the great and necessary part played in human life by the Group Spirit and by that special form of it which we now call 'Nationalism.'

400 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover

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