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The American Journal of Sociology/Volume 20/Number 5/The City: Suggestions for the investigation of human behavior in the city environment



Volume XX MARCH 1915 Number 5


University of Chicago

It will be convenient for the point of view proposed in this paper to regard the city, not as a mere congeries of persons and social arrangements, but as an institution.

An institution, according to Sumner, consists of a "concept and a structure." By concept, which he further defines as "an idea, notion, doctrine, interest," he means organized attitudes supported by their appropriate sentiments. "The structure," he adds, "is a framework, or apparatus, or perhaps only a number of functionaries set to co-operate in prescribed ways at a certain juncture. The structure holds the concept and furnishes the instrumentalities for bringing it into the world of facts and action in a way to serve the interests of men in society."[1]

The point is that an institution is a section of corporate human nature plus the machinery and the instrumentalities through which that human nature operates.

With this conception of an institution we can think of the city, that is to say, the place and the people, with all the machinery, sentiments, customs, and administrative devices that go with it, public opinion and street railways, the individual man and the tools that he uses, as something more than a mere collective entity. We may think of it as a mechanism—a psychophysical mechanism—in and through which private and political interests find corporate expression. Much of what we ordinarily regard as the city—its charters, formal organization, buildings, street railways, and so forth—is, or seems to be, mere artifact. However, it is only when and in so far as these things, through use and wont, connect themselves, like a tool in the hand of a man, with the vital forces resident in individuals and in the community that they assume the institutional form. As the whole the city is a growth. It is the undesigned product of the labors of successive generations of men.


The city, particularly the modern American city, strikes one at first blush as so little a product of the artless processes of nature and growth that it is difficult to recognize its institutional character. The ground plan of most American cities, for example, is a checkerboard. The unit of distance is the block. This geometrical form suggests that the city is a purely artificial construction, which might conceivably be taken apart and put together again, like a house of blocks.

The fact is, however, that the city is rooted in the habits and customs of the people who inhabit it. The consequence is that the city possesses a moral as well as a physical organization, and these two mutually interact in characteristic ways to mold and modify one another. It is the structure of the city which impresses us by its visible vastness and complexity, but this structure has its basis, nevertheless, in human nature, of which it is an expression. On the other hand, this vast organization which has arisen in response to the needs of its inhabitants, once formed, impresses itself upon them as a crude external fact, and forms them, in turn, in accordance with the design and interests which it incorporates.

The city plan.—It is because the city has what has here been described as its institutional character that there is a limit to the arbitrary modifications which it is possible to make in its physical structure and its moral order.

The city plan, for example, establishes metes and bounds, fixes in a general way the location and character of the city's constructions, and imposes an orderly arrangement, within the city area, upon the buildings which are erected by private initiative as well as by public authority. Within the limitations prescribed, however, the inevitable processes of human nature proceed to give these regions and these buildings a character which it is less easy to control. Under our system of individual ownership, for instance, it is not possible to determine in advance the extent of concentration of population in any given area. The city cannot fix land values, and we leave to private enterprise, for the most part, the task of determining the city's limits and the location of its residential and industrial districts. Personal tastes and convenience, vocational and economic interests, infallibly tend to segregate and thus to classify the populations of great cities. In this way the city acquires an organization which is neither designed nor controlled.

Physical geography, natural advantages, and the means of transportation determine in advance the general outlines of the urban plan. As the city increases in population, the subtler influences of sympathy, rivalry, and economic necessity tend to control the distribution of population. Business and manufacturing seek advantageous locations and draw around them a certain portion of the population. There spring up fashionable residence quarters from which the poorer classes are excluded because of the increased value of the land. Then there grow up slums which are inhabited by great numbers of the poorer classes who are unable to defend themselves from association with the derelict and vicious. In the course of time every section and quarter of the city takes on something of the character and qualities of its inhabitants. Each separate part of the city is inevitably stained with the peculiar sentiments of its population. The effect of this is to convert what was at first a mere geographical expression into a neighborhood, that is to say, a locality with sentiments, traditions, and a history of its own. Within this neighborhood the continuity of the historical processes is somehow maintained. The past imposes itself upon the present and the life of every locality moves on with a certain momentum of its own, more or less independent of the larger circle of life and interests about it.

The organization of the city, the character of the urban environment and of the discipline which it imposes, is finally determined by the size of the population, its concentration and distribution within the city area. For this reason it is important to study the populations of cities, to compare the idiosyncrasies in the development of city populations. Some of the first things we want to know about the city, therefore, are: sources of population; immigration and natural growth; distribution of population within the city as affected by (a) economic, i.e., land, values, (b) sentimental interests, race, vocation, etc.; comparative growths of the population within different portions of the city area, as affected by birth- and death-rates, marriage and divorce, etc.

The neighborhood.—Proximity and neighborly contact are the basis for the simplest and most elementary form of association with which we have to do in the organization of city life. Local interests and associations breed local sentiment, and, under a system which makes residence the basis for participation in the government, the neighborhood becomes the basis of political control. In the social and political organization of the city it is the smallest local unit.

"It is surely one of the most remarkable of all social facts that, coming down from untold ages, there should be this instinctive understanding that the man who establishes his home beside yours begins to have a claim upon your sense of comradeship. … The neighborhood is a social unit which, by its clear definition of outline, its inner organic completeness, its hair-trigger reactions, may be fairly considered as functioning like a social mind. … The local boss, however autocratic he may be in the larger sphere of the city with the power he gets from the neighborhood, must always be in and of the people; and he is very careful not to try to deceive the local people so far as their local interests are concerned. It is hard to fool a neighborhood about its own affairs."[2]

The neighborhood exists without formal organization. The local improvement society is the structure erected on the basis of the spontaneous neighborhood organization and exists for the purpose of giving expression to the local sentiment.

Under the complex influences of the city life what may be called the normal neighborhood sentiment has undergone many curious and interesting changes, and produced many unusual types of local communities. More than that, there are nascent neighborhoods and neighborhoods in process of dissolution. Consider, for example, Fifth Avenue, New York, which probably never had an improvement association, and compare with it 135th Street in the Bronx, (where the negro population is probably more concentrated than in any other single spot in the world) which is rapidly becoming a very intimate and highly organized community.

It is important to know what are the forces which tend to break up the tensions, interests, and sentiments which give neighborhoods their individual character. In general these may be said to be anything and everything that tends to render the population unstable, to divide and concentrate attentions upon widely separated objects of interest.

What part of the population is floating?
Of what elements, i.e. races, classes, etc., is this population composed?
How many people live in hotels, apartments, and tenements?
How many people own their own homes?
What proportion of the population consists of nomads, hobos, gypsies?

On the other hand, certain urban neighborhoods suffer from isolation. Efforts have been made at different times to reconstruct and quicken the life of city neighborhoods and to bring it in touch with the larger interests of the community. Such is in part the purpose of the social settlements. These organizations and others which are attempting to reconstruct city life have developed certain methods and a technique for stimulating and controlling local communities. We should study, in connection with the investigation of these agencies, these methods and this technique, since it is just the method by which objects are practically controlled that reveals their essential nature, that is to say, their predictable character (Gesetztmässigkeit).[3]

In many of the European cities, and to some extent in this country, reconstruction of city life has gone to the length of building garden suburbs, or replacing unhealthful and run-down tenements with model buildings owned and controlled by the municipality.

In American cities the attempt has been made to renovate evil neighborhoods by the construction of playgrounds and the introduction of supervised sports of various kinds, including municipal dances in municipal dance halls. These and other devices which are intended primarily to elevate the moral tone of the segregated populations of great cities should be studied in connection with the investigation of the neighborhood in general. They should be studied, in short, not merely for their own sake but for what they can reveal to us of human behavior and human nature generally.

Colonies and segregated areas.—In the city environment the neighborhood tends to lose much of the significance which it possessed in simpler and more primitive forms of society. The easy means of communication and of transportation, which enables individuals to distribute their attention and to live at the same time in several different worlds, tends to destroy the permanency and intimacy of the neighborhood. Further than that, where individuals of the same race or of the same vocation live together in segregated groups, neighborhood sentiment tends to fuse together with racial antagonisms and class interests.

In this way physical and sentimental distances reinforce each other, and the influences of local distribution of the population participate with the influences of class and race in the evolution of the social organization. Every great city has its racial colonies, like the Chinatowns of San Francisco and New York, the Little Sicily of Chicago, and various other less pronounced types. In addition to these, most cities have their segregated vice districts, like that which until recently existed in Chicago, and their rendezvous for criminals of various sorts. Every large city has its occupational suburbs like the Stockyards in Chicago, and its residence suburbs like Brookline in Boston, each of which has the size and the character of a complete separate town, village, or city, except that its population is a selected one. Undoubtedly the most remarkable of these cities within cities, of which the most interesting characteristic is that they are composed of persons of the same race, or of persons of different races but of the same social class, is East London, with a population of 2,000,000 laborers.

"The people of the original East London have now overflowed and crossed the Lea, and spread themselves over the marshes and meadows beyond. This population has created new towns which were formerly rural villages, West Ham, with a population of nearly 300,000; East Ham, with 90,000; Stratford, with its "daughters," 150,000; and other "hamlets" similarly overgrown. Including these new populations we have an aggregate of nearly two millions of people. The population is greater than that of Berlin or Vienna, or St. Petersburg, or Philadelphia.

"It is a city full of churches and places of worship, yet there are no cathedrals, either Anglican or Roman; it has a sufficient supply of elementary schools, but it has no public or high school, and it has no colleges for the higher education and no university; the people all read newspapers, yet there is no East London paper except of the smaller and local kind.... In the streets there are never seen any private carriages; there is no fashionable quarter .... one meets no ladies in the principal thoroughfares. People, shops, houses, conveyances—all together are stamped with the unmistakable seal of the working class.

"Perhaps the strangest thing of all is this: in a city of two millions of people there are no hotels! That means, of course, that there are no visitors."[4]

In the older cities of Europe, where the processes of segregation have gone farther, neighborhood distinctions are likely to be more marked than they are in America. East London is a city of a single class, but within the limits of that city the population is segregated again and again by racial and vocational interests. Neighborhood sentiment, deeply rooted in local tradition and in local custom, exercises a decisive selective influence upon city population and shows itself ultimately in a marked way in the characteristics of the inhabitants.

What we want to know of these neighborhoods, racial communities, and segregated city areas, existing within or on the outer edge of great cities, is what we want to know of all other social groups.

What are the elements of which they are composed?
To what extent are they the product of a selective process?
How do people get in and out of the group thus formed?
What are the relative permanence and stability of their populations?

What about the age, sex, and social condition of the people?
What about the children? How many of them are born, and how many of them remain?
What is the history of the neighborhood? What is there in the subconsciousness—in the forgotten or dimly remembered experiences—of this neighborhood which determines its sentiments and attitudes?
What is there in clear consciousness, i.e., what are its avowed sentiments, doctrines, etc.?
What does it regard as matter of fact? What is news? What is the general run of attention? What models does it imitate and are these within or without the group?
What is the social ritual, i.e., what things must one do in the neighborhood in order to escape being regarded with suspicion or looked upon as peculiar?
Who are the leaders? What interests of the neighborhood do they incorporate in themselves and what is the technique by which they exercise control?


The ancient city was primarily a fortress, a place of refuge in time of war. The modern city, on the contrary, is primarily a convenience of commerce and owes its existence to the market place around which it sprang up. Industrial competition and the division of labor, which have probably done most to develop the latent powers of mankind, are possible only upon condition of the existence of markets, of money and other devices for the facilitation of trade and commerce.

An old German adage declares that "city air makes men free" {Stadt Luft macht frei). This is doubtless a reference to the days when the free cities of Germany enjoyed the patronage of the emperor, and laws made the fugitive serf a free man, if he succeeded for a year and a day in breathing city air. Law, of itself, could not, however, have made the craftsman free. An open market in which he might sell the products of his labor was a necessary incident of his freedom, and it was the application of the money economy to the relations of master and man that completed the emancipation of the serf.

Vocational classes and vocational types.—The old adage which describes the city as the natural environment of the free man still holds so far as the individual man finds in the chances, the diversity of interests and tasks, and in the vast unconscious co-operation of city life, the opportunity to choose his own vocation and develop his peculiar individual talents. The city offers a market for the special talents of individual men. Personal competition tends to select for each special task the individual who is best suited to perform it.

"The difference of natural talents in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause, as the effect of the division of labour. The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education. When they came into the world, and for the first six or eight years of their existence, they were perhaps very much alike, and neither their parents nor playfellows could perceive any remarkable difference. About that age, or soon after, they come to be employed in different occupations. The difference of talents comes then to be taken notice of, and widens by degrees, till at last the vanity of the philosopher is willing to acknowledge scarce any resemblance. But without the disposition to truck, barter, and exchange, every man must have procured to himself every necessary and conveniency of life which he wanted. All must have had the same duties to perform, and the same work to do, and there could have been no such difference of employment as could alone give occasion to any great difference of talent.....

"As it is the power of exchanging that gives occasion to the division of labour, so the extent of this division must always be limited by the extent of that power, or, in other words, by the extent of the market There are some sorts of industry, even of the lowest kind, which can be carried on nowhere but in a great town."[5]

Success, under conditions of personal competition, depends upon concentration upon some single task, and this concentration stimulates the demand for rational methods, technical devices, and exceptional skill. Exceptional skill, while based on natural talent, requires special preparation, and it has called into existence the trade and professional schools, and finally bureaus for vocational guidance. All of these, either directly or indirectly, serve at once to select and emphasize individual differences.

Every device which facilitates trade and industry prepares the way for a further division of labor and so tends further to specialize the tasks in which men find their vocations.

The outcome of this process is to break down or modify the older organization of society, which was based on family ties, local associations, on culture, caste, and status, and to substitute for it an organization based on vocational interests.

In the city, every vocation, even that of a beggar, tends to assume the character of a profession, and the discipline which success in any vocation imposes, together with the associations that it enforces, emphasizes this tendency.

The effect of the vocations and the division of labor is to produce, in the first instance, not social groups, but vocational types, the actor, the plumber, and the lumber-jack. The organizations, like the trade and labor unions, which men of the same trade or profession form are based on common interests. In this respect they differ from forms of association like the neighborhood, which are based on contiguity, personal association, and the common ties of humanity. The different trades and professions seem disposed to group themselves in classes, that is to say, the artisan, business, and professional classes. But in the modern democratic state the classes have as yet attained no effective organization. Socialism, founded on an effort to create an organization based on "class consciousness," has never succeeded in creating more than a political party.

The effects of the division of labor as a discipline may therefore be best studied in the vocational types it has produced.

Among the types which it would be interesting to study are: the shopgirl, the policeman, the peddler, the cabman, the night watchman, the clairvoyant, the vaudeville performer, the quack doctor, the bartender, the ward boss, the strike-breaker, the labor agitator, the school teacher, the reporter, the stockbroker, the pawnbroker; all of these are characteristic products of the conditions of city life; each, with its special experience, insight, and point of view, determines for each vocational group and for the city as a whole its individuality.
To what extent is the grade of intelligence represented in the different trades and professions dependent upon natural ability?
To what extent is intelligence determined by the character of the occupation and the conditions under which it is practiced?

To what extent is success in the occupations dependent upon sound judgment and commonsense; to what extent upon technical ability?
Does native ability or special training determine success in the different vocations?
What prestige and what prejudices attach to different trades and professions and why?
Is the choice of the occupation determined by temperamental, by economic, or by sentimental considerations?
In what occupations do men, in what occupations do women, succeed better, and why?
How far is occupation, rather than association, responsible for the mental attitude and moral predilections? Do men in the same profession or trade, but representing different nationalities and different cultural groups, hold characteristic and identical opinions?
To what extent is the social or political creed, that is, socialism, anarchism, syndicalism, etc., determined by occupation? by temperament?
To what extent have social doctrine and social idealism superseded and taken the place of religious faith in the different occupations, and why?
Do social classes tend to assume the character of cultural groups? That is to say, do the classes tend to acquire the exclusiveness and independence of a caste or nationality; or is each class always dependent upon the existence of a corresponding class?
To what extent do children follow the vocations of their parents and why?
To what extent do individuals move from one class to another, and how does this fact modify the character of class relationships?

News and the mobility of the social group.—The division of labor, in making individual success dependent upon concentration upon a special task, has had the effect of increasing the interdependence of the different vocations. A social organization is thus created in which the individual becomes increasingly dependent upon the community of which he is an indivisible part. The effect, under conditions of personal competition, of this increasing interdependence of the parts is to create in the industrial organization as a whole a certain sort of social solidarity, but a solidarity based, not on sentiment and habit, but on community of interests.

In the sense in which the terms are here used, sentiment is the more concrete, interest the more abstract, term. We may cherish a sentiment for a person, a place, or any object whatsoever. It may be a sentiment of aversion, or a sentiment of possession. But to possess or to be possessed by a sentiment for, or in regard to, anything means that we are incapable of acting toward it in a thoroughly rational way. It means that the object of our sentiment corresponds in some special way to some inherited or acquired disposition. Such a disposition is the affection of a mother for her child, which is instinctive. Or even the feeling she may have for the child's empty cradle, which is acquired.

The existence of a sentimental attitude indicates that there are motives for action of which the individual who is moved by them is not wholly conscious; motives over which he has only a partial control. Every sentiment has a history, either in the experience of the individual, or in the experience of the race, but the person who acts on that sentiment may not be aware of the history.

Interests are directed less toward specific objects than toward the ends which this or that particular object at one time or another embodies. Interests imply, therefore, the existence of means and a consciousness of the distinction between means and ends.

Money is the cardinal device by which values have become rationalized and sentiments have been replaced by interests. It is just because we feel no personal and no sentimental attitude toward our money, such as we do toward, for example, our home, that money becomes a valuable means of exchange. We will be interested in acquiring a certain amount of money in order to achieve a certain purpose, but provided that purpose may be achieved in any other way we are likely to be just as well satisfied. It is only the miser who becomes sentimental about money, and in that case he is likely to prefer one sort of money, say gold, to another irrespective of its value. In this case the value of gold is determined by personal sentiment rather than by reason.

An organization which is composed of competing individuals and of competing groups of individuals is in a state of unstable equilibrium, and this equilibrium can be maintained only by a process of continuous readjustment. This aspect of social life and this type of social organization are best represented in the world of business which is the special object of investigation of political economy.

The extension of industrial organization, which is based on the impersonal relations defined by money, has gone forward hand in hand with an increasing mobility of the population. The laboring man and the artisan, fitted to perform a specific task, are compelled under the conditions created by city life to move from one region to another in search of the particular kind of employment which they are fitted to perform. The tide of immigration which moves back and forth between Europe and America is to some extent a measure of this same mobility.[6]

On the other hand, the tradesman, the manufacturer, the professional man, the specialist in every vocation, seeks his clients as the difficulties of travel and communication decrease over an ever-widening area of territory. This is another way in which the mobility of the population may be measured. However, mobility in an individual or in a population is measured, not merely by change of location, but rather by the number and variety of the stimulations to which the individual or the population responds. Mobility depends, not merely upon transportation, but upon communication. Education and the ability to read, the extension of the money economy to an ever-increasing number of the interests of life in so far as it has tended to depersonalize social relations—all these have vastly increased the mobility of modern peoples.

The term mobility, like its correlative, isolation, covers a wide range of phenomena. It may represent at the same time a character and a condition. As isolation may be due to the existence of purely physical barriers to communication, or to a peculiarity of temperament and a lack of education, so mobility may be a consequence of the natural means of communication, or of an agreeable manner and a college education.

It is now clearly recognized that what we ordinarily call a lack of intelligence in individuals, races, and communities, is frequently a result of isolation. On the other hand, the mobility of a population is unquestionably a very large factor in its intellectual development.

There is an intimate connection between the immobility of the primitive man and his so-called inability to use abstract ideas. The knowledge which a peasant ordinarily possesses, from the very nature of his occupation, is concrete and personal. He knows individually and personally every member of the flock he tends. He becomes in the course of years so attached to the land he tills that the mere transposition from the strip of soil on which he has grown up, to another with which he is less intimately acquainted is felt by him as a personal loss. For such a man the neighboring valley, or even the strip of land at the other end of the village is in a certain sense alien territory. A large part of the peasant's efficiency as an agricultural laborer depends upon this intimate and personal acquaintance with the idiosyncrasies of a single plot of land to the care of which he has been bred. It is apparent that under conditions like these, very little of the peasant's practical knowledge will take the abstract form of scientific generalization. He thinks in concrete terms because he knows and needs no other.

On the other hand, the intellectual characteristics of the Jew and his generally recognized interest in abstract and radical ideas are unquestionably connected with the fact that the Jews are, before all else, a city folk. 'The Wandering Jew' acquires abstract terms with which to describe the various scenes which he visits. His knowledge of the world is based upon identities and differences, that is to say, on analysis and classification. Reared in intimate association with the bustle and business of the market place, constantly intent on the shrewd and fascinating game of buying and selling in which he employs that most interesting of abstractions, money, he has neither opportunity nor inclination to cultivate that intimate attachment to places and persons which is characteristic of the immobile person.[7]

Concentration of populations in cities, the wider markets, the division of labor, the concentration of individuals and groups on special tasks, have continually changed the material conditions of life, and in doing this have made readjustments to novel conditions increasingly necessary. Out of this necessity there have grown up a number of special organizations which exist for the special purpose of facilitating these readjustments. The market which brought the modern city into existence is one of these devices. More interesting, however, are the exchanges, particularly the stock exchange, and the board of trade, where prices are constantly being made in response to changes or rather the reports of changes in economic conditions all over the world.

These reports, so far as they are calculated to cause readjustments, have the character of what we call news. It is the existence of a critical situation which converts what were otherwise mere information into news. Where there is an issue at stake; where, in short, there is crisis, there information which might affect the outcome one way or another becomes "live matter," as the newspaper men say. Live matter is news; dead matter is mere information.

What is the relation of mobility to suggestion, imitation, etc.?
What are the practical devices by which suggestibility and mobility are increased in a community or in an individual?
Are there pathological conditions in communities corresponding to hysteria in individuals? If so, how are they produced and how controlled?
To what extent is fashion an indication of mobility?
What is the difference in the manner in which fashions and customs are transmitted?

What are the characteristics of a progressive, what the characteristics of a static, community in respect to its resistance to novel suggestions?
What mental characteristics of the gypsy, of the hobo, and of the nomad generally can be traced to these nomadic habits?

The stock exchanges and the mob.—The exchanges, upon which we may watch the fluctuation of prices in response to the news of economic conditions in different parts of the world, are typical. Similar readjustments are taking place in every department of social life, where, however, the devices for making these readjustments are not so complete and perfect. For example, the professional and trade papers, which keep the professions and the trades informed in regard to new methods, experiences, and devices, serve to keep the members of these trades and professions abreast of the times, which means that they facilitate readjustments to changing conditions.

There is, however, this important distinction to be made: Competition in the exchanges is more intense; changes are more rapid and, as far as the individuals directly concerned, more momentous. In contrast with such a constellation of forces as we find on the exchanges, where competing dealers meet to buy and sell, so mobile a form of social organization as the crowd and the mob exhibits a relative stability.

It is a commonplace that decisive factors in the movements of crowds as in the fluctuations of markets are psychologic. This means that among the individuals who make up the crowd or who compose the public which participates in the movements reflected in the market, a condition of instability exists which corresponds to what has been defined elsewhere as crisis. It is true of the exchanges, as it is of crowds, that the situation they represent is always critical, that is to say, the tensions are such that a slight cause may precipitate an enormous effect. The current euphemism "the psychological moment" defines such a critical condition.

Psychological moments may arise in any social situation, but they occur more frequently in a society which has acquired a high state of mobility. They occur more frequently in a society where education is general, where railways, telegraph, and the printing press have become an indispensable part of the social economy. They occur more frequently in cities than in smaller communities. In the crowd and the public every moment may be said to be "psychological."

Crisis may be said to be the normal condition on the exchanges. What are called financial crises are merely an extension of this critical condition to the larger business community. Financial panics which sometimes follow upon financial crises are a precipitate of this critical condition.

The fascinating thing about the study of crises, as of crowds, is that so far as they are in fact due to psychological causes, that is, so far as they are the result of the mobility of the communities in which they occur, they can be controlled. The evidence for this is the fact that they can be manipulated, and there is abundant evidence of manipulation in the transactions of the stock market. The evidence for the manipulation of crowds is less accessible. Labor organizations have, however, known how to develop a pretty definite technique for the instigation and control of strikes. The Salvation Army has worked out a book of tactics which is very largely devoted to the handling of street crowds; and professional revivalists, like Billy Sunday, have an elaborate technique for conducting their revivals.

Under the title of collective psychology much has been written in recent years in regard to crowds and kindred phenomena of social life. Most that has been written thus far has been based upon general observation, and almost no systematic methods exist for the study of this type of social organization. The practical methods which practical men like the political boss, the labor agitator, the stock-exchange speculator, and others have worked out for the control and manipulation of the public and the crowd furnish a body of materials from which it is possible to make a more detailed, a more intimate study of what may be called, in order to distinguish it from that of more highly organized groups, collective behavior.
In addition to these and other materials already indicated, there are the histories of notable mass movements, the great labor strikes, the financial panics, religious revivals, etc.
A study might be made also of the sensations and emotional reactions of individuals who participate in these mass movements. What is the mental condition of individuals under the influence of revivals, of panics, etc.? Is there a sense of loss of control, and of loss of personal responsibility?

To what extent does the participant in a mass movement feel exaltation or depression? What is the difference in the feelings which accompany financial panics and religious revivals? to what extent are these effects temporary? to what extent are they permanent?
What devices have been used to prevent financial panic? what devices to disperse mobs?


Modern methods of urban transportation and communication—the electric railway, the automobile, and the telephone—have silently and rapidly changed in recent years the social and industrial organization of the modern city. They have been the means of concentrating traffic in the business districts; have changed the whole character of retail trade, multiplying the residence suburbs and making the department store possible. These changes in the industrial organization and in the distribution of population have been accompanied by corresponding changes in the habits, sentiments, and character of the urban population.

The general nature of these changes is indicated by the fact that the growth of cities has been accompanied by the substitution of indirect, "secondary," for direct, face-to-face, "primary" relations in the associations of individuals in the community.

"By primary groups I mean those characterized by intimate face-to-face association and co-operation. They are primary in several senses, but chiefly in that they are fundamental in forming the social nature and ideals of the individual. The result of intimate association, psychologically, is a certain fusion of individualities in a common whole, so that one's very self, for many purposes at least, is the common life and purpose of the group. Perhaps the simplest way of describing this wholeness is by saying that it is a 'we'; it involves the sort of sympathy and mutual identification for which 'we' is the natural expression. One lives in the feeling of the whole and finds the chief aims of his will in that feeling "[8]

Touch and sight, physical contact, are the basis for the first and most elementary human relationships. Mother and child, husband and wife,father and son, master and servant, kinsman and neighbor, minister, physician, and teacher; these are the most intimate and real relationships of life and in the small community they are practically inclusive.

The interactions which take place among the members of a community so constituted are immediate and unreflecting. Intercourse is carried on largely within the region of instinct and feeling. Social control arises, for the most part spontaneously, in direct response to personal influences and public sentiment. It is the result of a personal accommodation rather than the formulation of a rational and abstract principle.

The church, the school, and the family.—In a great city, where the population is unstable, where parents and children are employed out of the house and often in distant parts of the city, where thousands of people live side by side for years without so much as a bowing acquaintance, these intimate relationships of the primary group are weakened and the moral order which rested upon them is gradually dissolved.

Under the disintegrating influences of city life most of our traditional institutions, the church, the school, and the family, have been greatly modified. The school, for example, has taken over some of the functions of the family. It is around the public school and its solicitude for the moral and physical welfare of the children that something like a new neighborhood and community spirit tends to get itself organized.

The church, on the other hand, which has lost much of its influence since the printed page has so largely taken the place of the pulpit in the interpretation of life, seems at present to be in process of readjustment to the new conditions.

It is important that the church, the school, and the family should be studied from the point of view of this readjustment to the conditions of city life.
What changes have taken place in recent years in the family sentiments? in the attitudes of husbands toward wives? of wives toward husbands? of children toward parents, etc.?
What do the records of the juvenile and morals courts indicate in regard to this matter?
In what regions of social life have the mores on the subject of the family life changed?
To what extent have these changes taken place in response to the influences of the city environment?
Similarly investigations might be carried on with reference to the school and the church. Here, too, there is a changed attitude and changed policy in response to a changed environment. This is important because it is, in the last analysis, upon these institutions in which the immediate and vital interests of life find a corporate expression that social organization ultimately rests.

It is probably the breaking down of local attachments and the weakening of the restraints and inhibitions of the primary group, under the influence of the urban environment, which are largely responsible for the increase of vice and crime in great cities. It would be interesting in this connection to determine by investigation how far the increase in crime keeps pace with the increasing mobility of the population. It is from this point of view that we should seek to interpret all those statistics which register the disintegration of the moral order, for example the statistics of divorce, of truancy, and of crime.

What is the effect of ownership of property, particularly of the home, on truancy, on divorce, and on crime?
In what regions and classes are certain kinds of crime endemic?
In what classes does divorce occur most frequently? What is the difference in this respect between farmers and, say, actors?
To what extent in any given racial group, for example, the Italians in New York or the Poles in Chicago, do parents and children live in the same world, speak the same language, and share the same ideas, and how far do the conditions found account for juvenile delinquency in that particular group?
How far are the home mores responsible for criminal manifestations of an immigrant group?

Crisis and the courts,—It is characteristic of city life that all sorts of people meet and mingle together who never fully comprehend one another. The anarchist and the club man, the priest and the Levite, the actor and the missionary who touch elbows on the street, still live in totally different worlds. So complete is the segregation of vocational classes that it is possible within the limits of the city to live in an isolation almost as complete as that of some remote rural community.

Walter Besant tells the following anecdote of his experience as editor of the People's Palace Journal:

"In that capacity I endeavored to encourage literary effort, in the hope of lighting upon some unknown and latent genius. The readers of the Journal were the members of the various classes connected with the educational side of the place. They were young clerks chiefly—some of them very good fellows. They had a debating society which I attended from time to time. Alas! They carried on their debates in an ignorance the most profound, the most unconscious, and the most satisfied. I endeavored to persuade them that it was desirable at least to master the facts of the case before they spoke. In vain. Then I proposed subjects for essays, and offered prizes for verses. I discovered, to my amazement, that, among all the thousands of these young people, lads and girls, there was not discoverable the least rudimentary indication of any literary power whatever. In all other towns there are young people who nourish literary ambitions, with some measure of literary ability. How should there be any in this town, where there were no books, no papers, no journals, and, at that time, no free libraries ? "[9]

In the immigrant colonies which are now well established in every large city, foreign populations live in an isolation which is different from that of the population of East London, but in some respects more complete.

The difference is that each one of these little colonies has a more or less independent political and social organization of its own, and is the center of a more or less vigorous nationalist propaganda. For example, each one of these groups has one or more papers printed in its own language. In New York City there are 270 publications, most of them supported by the local population, printed in 23 different languages. In Chicago there are 19 daily papers published in 7 foreign languages with a combined daily circulation of 368,000 papers.

Under these conditions the social ritual and the moral order which these immigrants brought with them from their native countries have succeeded in maintaining themselves for a considerable time under the influences of the American environment. Social control, based on the home mores, breaks down, however, in the second generation.

We may express the relation of the city to this fact in general terms by saying that the effect of the urban environment is to intensify all effects of crisis.

"The term 'crisis' is not to be understood in a violent sense. It is involved in any disturbance of habit. There is a crisis in the boy's life when he leaves home. The emancipation of the negro and the immigration of the European peasant are group crises. Any strain or crisis involves three possible changes: greater fitness, reduced efficiency, or death. In biological terms, 'survival' means successful adjustment to crisis, accompanied typically by a modification of structure. In man it means mental stimulation and greater intelligence, or mental depression, in case of failure." [10]

Under the conditions imposed by city life, in which individuals and groups of individuals, widely removed in sympathy and understanding, live together under conditions of interdependence, if not of intimacy, the conditions of social control are greatly altered and the difficulties increased.

The problem thus created is usually characterized as one of 'assimilation.' It is assumed that the reason for rapid increase of crime in our large cities is due to the fact that the foreign element in our population has not succeeded in assimilating American culture and does not conform to the American mores. This would be interesting, if true, but the facts seem to suggest that perhaps the truth must be sought in the opposite direction.

"One of the most important facts established by the investigation concerns the American-born children of immigrants—the 'second generation.' The records of convictions in the New York Court of General Sessions during the period from October 1, 1908, to June 30, 1909, and of all commitments to Massachusetts penal institutions, except those to the state farm, during the year ending September 30, 1909, form the basis of this analysis of the criminal tendencies of the second generation.

"From these records it appears that a clear tendency exists on the part of the second generation to differ from the first or immigrant generation in the character of its criminality. It also appears that this difference is much more frequently in the direction of the criminality of the American-born of non-immigrant parentage than it is in the opposite direction. This means that the movement of the second-generation crime is away from the crimes peculiar to immigrants and toward those of the American of native parentage. Sometimes this movement has carried second-generation criminality even beyond that of the native-born of native parentage. Of the second-generation groups submitted to this comparison, one maintains a constant adherence to the general rule above referred to, while all the others at some point fail to follow it. This unique group is the Irish second generation."[11]

What we do observe, as a result of the crisis, is that control that was formerly based on mores was replaced by control based on positive law. This change runs parallel to the movement by which secondary relationships have taken the place of primary relationships in the association of individuals in the city environment.

It is characteristic of the United States that great political changes should be effected experimentally under the pressure of agitation or upon the initiative of small but militant minorities. There is probably no other country in the world in which so many "reforms" are in progress as at the present time in the United States. Reform has in fact become a kind of popular "indoor sport." The reforms thus effected, almost without exception, involve some sort of restriction or governmental control over activities that were formerly "free" or controlled only by the mores and public opinion.

The effect of this extension of what is called the police power has been to produce a change, not merely in the fundamental policy of the law, but in the character and standing of the courts.

The Juvenile and Morals courts illustrate a change which is perhaps taking place elsewhere. In these courts the judges have assumed something of the functions of administrative officers, their duties consisting less in the interpretation of law than in prescribing remedies and administering advice intended to restore delinquents brought before them to their normal places in society.

A similar tendency to give judges a wide discretion and to impose upon them a further responsibility is manifest in those courts which have to deal with the technical affairs of the business world, and in the growth in popularity of commissions in which judicial and administrative functions are combined, for example, the Interstate Commerce Commission.

In order to interpret in a fundamental way the facts in regard to social control it is important to start with a clear conception of the nature of corporate action.

Corporate action begins when there is some sort of communication between individuals who constitute a group. Communication may take place at different levels; that is, suggestions may be given and responded to on the instinctive, senso-motor, or ideo-motor levels. The mechanism of communication is very subtile, so subtile, in fact, that it is often difficult to conceive how suggestions are conveyed from one mind to another. This does not imply that there is any special form of consciousness, any special sense of kinship or consciousness of kind, necessary to explain corporate action.

In fact it has recently been shown that in the case of certain highly organized and static societies, like that of the well-known ant, probably nothing that we would call communication takes place.

"It is a well-known fact that if an ant be removed from a nest and afterward put back it will not be attacked, while almost invariably an ant belonging to another nest will be attacked. It has been customary to use the words memory, enmity, friendship, in describing this fact. Now Bethe made the following experiment. An ant was placed in the liquids (blood and lymph) squeezed out from the bodies of nest companions and was then put back into its nest; it was not attacked. It was then put in the juice taken from the inmates of a 'hostile' nest and was at once attacked and killed."[12]

A further instance of the manner in which ants communicate will illustrate how simple and automatic communication may become on the instinctive level.

"An ant, when taking a new direction from the nest for the first time, always returns by the same path. This shows that some trace must be left behind which serves as a guide back to the nest. If the ant returning by this path bear no spoils, Bethe found that no other ants try this direction. But if it bring back honey or sugar, other ants are sure to try the path. Hence something of the substances carried over this path by the ants must remain on the path. These substances must be strong enough to affect the ants chemically."[13]

The important fact is that by means of this comparatively simple device corporate action is made possible.

Individuals not only react upon one another in this reflex way, but they inevitably communicate their sentiments, attitudes, and organic excitements, and in doing so they necessarily react, not merely to what each individual actually does, but to what he intends, desires, or hopes to do. The fact that individuals often betray sentiments and attitudes to others of which they are themselves only dimly conscious makes it possible for individual A, for example, to act upon motives and tensions in B as soon or even before B is able to do so. Furthermore A may act upon the suggestions that emanate from B without himself being clearly conscious of the source from which his motives spring. So subtle and intimate may the reactions be which control individuals who are bound together in a social-psychological process.

It is upon the basis of this sort of instinctive and spontaneous control that every more formal sort of control must be based in order to be effective.

Changes in the form of social control may for the purposes of investigation be grouped under the general heads:

1. The substitution of positive law for custom, and the extension of municipal control to activities that were formerly left to individual initiative and discretion.
2. The disposition of judges in municipal and criminal courts to assume administrative function so that the administration of the criminal law ceases to be a mere application of the social ritual and becomes an application of rational and technical methods, requiring expert knowledge or advice, in order to restore the individual to society and repair the injury that his delinquency has caused.
3. Changes and divergences in the mores among the different isolated and segregated groups in the city. What are the mores, for example, of the shopgirl? the immigrant? the politician? and the labor agitator?

It should be the aim of these investigations to distinguish not merely the causes of these changes, the direction in which they are moving, but also the forces that are likely to minimize and neutralize them. For example, it is important to know whether the motives which are at present multiplying the positive restrictions on the individual will necessarily go as far in this country as they have already done in Germany. Will they eventually bring about a condition approaching socialism?

Commercialized vice and the liquor traffic.—Social control, under the conditions of city life, can, perhaps, be best studied in its attempts to stamp out vice and control the liquor traffic.

The saloon and the vice establishments have come into existence as a means of exploiting appetites and instincts fundamental to human nature. This makes the efforts that have been made to regulate and suppress these forms of exploitation and traffic interesting and important as subjects of investigation.

Such an investigation should be based upon thorough study: (1) of the human nature upon which the commerce has been erected, (2) of the social conditions which tend to convert the normal appetites into social vices, (3) of the practical effects of the efforts to limit, control, and stamp out the vice traffic and to do away with the use and sale of liquor.

Among the things that we should desire to know are:

To what extent is the appetite for alcoholic stimulus a pre-natal disposition?
To what extent may such an appetite be transferred from one form of stimulation to another; that is, e.g., from whiskey to cocaine, etc.?
To what extent is it possible to substitute normal and healthful for pathological and vicious stimulations?
What are the social and moral effects of secret drinking?
Where a taboo is established early in life does it have the effect of idealizing the delights of indulgence? Does it do this in some cases and not in others? If so, what are the contributing circumstances? Do men suddenly lose the taste for liquor and other stimulants? What are the conditions under which this happens?
Many of these questions can be answered only by a study of individual experiences. Vices undoubtedly have their natural history like certain forms of disease. They may therefore be regarded as independent entities, which find their habitat in human environment, are stimulated by certain conditions, inhibited by others, but invariably exhibit through all changes a character that is typical.

In the early days the temperance movement had something the character of a religious revival, and the effects were highly picturesque. In recent years the leaders have displayed a more deliberate strategy, but the struggle against the liquor traffic still has all the characteristics of a big popular movement, a movement which, having at length conquered the rural districts, is now advancing upon the cities.

On the other hand, the vice crusade started with the cities, where in fact commercialized vice is indigenous. The mere discussion of this subject in public has meant an enormous change in the sex mores. The fact that this movement is everywhere coincident with the entrance of women into party politics is significant.

There are conditions peculiar to the life of great cities, (referred to under the heading "Mobility of the Population of Great Cities") which make the control of vice especially difficult. For example, crusades and religious movements generally do not have the same success in the city environment that they do in the smaller and less heterogeneous communities. What are the conditions which make this true?
Perhaps the facts most worth studying in connection with the movement for suppression of vice are those- which indicate the changes which have taken place in fifty years in sex mores, particularly with reference to what is regarded as modest and immodest in the dress and behavior, and with reference to the freedom with which sexual matters are now discussed by young men and young women.
It seems, in fact, as if we were in the presence of two epoch-making changes, the one which seems destined finally to put intoxicating liquors in the category of poisonous drugs, and the other to lift the taboo which, particularly among Anglo-Saxon peoples, has effectually prevented up to the present time the frank discussion of the facts of sex.

Party politics and publicity.—There is everywhere at present a disposition to increase the power of the executive branch of the government at the expense of the legislative. The influence of state legislatures and of city councils has been diminished in some instances by the introduction of the referendum and the recall. In others they have been largely superseded by the commission form of government. The ostensible reason for these changes is that they offer a means for overthrowing the power of the professional politicians. The real ground seems to me the recognition of the fact that the form of government which had its origin in the town meeting and was well suited to the needs of a small community based on primary relations is not suitable to the government of the changing and heterogeneous populations of cities of three or four millions.

Much, of course, depends upon the character and size of the population. Where it is of American stock, and the number of voting citizens is not too great for thorough and calm discussion, no better school of politics can be imagined, nor any method of managing affairs more certain to prevent jobbery and waste, to stimulate vigilance and breed contentment. When, however, the town meeting has grown to exceed seven or eight hundred persons, and, still more, when any considerable section are strangers, such as Irish or French Canadians, who have latterly poured into New England, the institution works less perfectly because the multitude is too large for debate, factions are likely to spring up, and the immigrants, untrained in self-government, become the prey of wire pullers or petty demagogues.[14]

For one thing, the problems of city government have become, with the growth and organization of city life, so complicated that it is no longer desirable to leave them to the control of men whose only qualification for handling them consists in the fact that they have succeeded in gaining office through the ordinary machinery of ward politics.

Another circumstance which has made the selection of city officials by popular vote impractical, under the conditions of city life, is the fact that, except in special cases, the voter knows little or nothing about the officials he is voting for; knows little or nothing about the functions of the office to which that official is to be elected; and, besides all the rest, is too busy elsewhere to inform himself about conditions and needs of the city as a whole.

At a recent election in Chicago, for example, voters were called upon to select candidates from a ballot containing 250 names, most of them unknown to the voters. Under these circumstances the citizen who wishes to vote intelligently relies on some more or less interested organization or some more or less interested adviser to tell him how to vote.

To meet this emergency, created primarily by conditions imposed by city life, two types of organization have come into existence for controlling those artificial crises that we call elections. One of these is the organization represented by the political boss and the political machine. The other is that represented by the independent voters' leagues, taxpayers' associations, and organizations like the bureaus of municipal research.

It is an indication of the rather primitive conditions in which our political parties were formed that they sought to govern the country on the principle that the remedy for all sorts of administrative evils was to "turn the rascals out," as the popular phrase expressed it, a change of government. The political machine and the political boss have come into existence in the interest of party politics. The parties were necessarily organized to capture elections. The political machine is merely a technical device invented for the purpose of achieving this end. The boss is the expert who runs the machine. He is as necessary to the winning of an election as a professional coach is necessary to success at football.

It is characteristic of the two types of organization which have grown up for the purpose of controlling the popular vote that the first, the political machine, is based, on the whole, on local, personal, that is to say, primary relationships. The second, the good-government organizations, make their appeal to the public, and the public, as we ordinarily understand that expression, is a group based on secondary relationships. Members of a public are not as a rule personally acquainted.

The political machine is in fact an attempt to maintain, inside the formal administrative organization of the city, the control of a primary group. The organizations thus built up, of which Tammany Hall is the classic illustration, appear to be thoroughly feudal in their character. The relations between the boss and his ward captain seem to be precisely that of personal loyalty on one side and personal protection on the other, which the feudal relation implies. The virtues which such an organization calls out are the old tribal ones of fidelity, loyalty, and devotion to the interests of the chief and the clan. The people within the organization, their friends and supporters, consitute a "we"-group, while the rest of the city is merely the outer world, which is not quite alive and not quite human in the sense in which the members of the "we"-group are. We have here something approaching the conditions of primitive society.

"The conception of ' primitive society' which we ought to form is that of small groups scattered over a territory. The size of the groups is determined by the conditions of the struggle for existence. The internal organization of each group corresponds to its size. A group of groups may have some relation to each other (kin, neighborhood, alliance, connubium, and commercium) which draws them together and differentiates them from others. Thus a differentiation arises between ourselves, the we-group, or in-group, and everybody else, or the others-groups, out-groups. The insiders in a we-group are in a relation of peace, order, law, government, and industry, to each other. Their relation to all outsiders, or others-groups, is one of war and plunder, except so far as agreements have modified it.

"The relation of comradeship and peace in the we-group and that of hostility and war towards other-groups are correlative to each other. The exigencies of war with outsiders are what make peace inside, lest internal discord should weaken the we-group for war. These exigencies also make government and law in the in-group, in order to prevent quarrels and enforce discipline."[15]

The politics of most great cities offers abundant materials for the study of the type represented by the political boss as well as the social mechanisms created by and embodied in the political machine. It is necessary, however, that we study them disinterestedly. Some of the questions we should seek to answer are:

What, as a matter of fact, is the political organization at any point within the city? What are the sentiments and attitudes and interests which find expression through it?
What are the practical devices it employs for mobilizing its forces and putting them into action?
What is the character of the party appeal in the different moral regions of which the city is made up?
How much of the interest in politics is practical and how much is mere sport?
What part of the cost of elections is advertising? How much of it can be classed as "educational publicity," and how much is pure graft?
To what extent, under existing conditions, particularly as we find them in great cities, can elections be practically controlled by purely technical devices, card catalogues, torch-light processions, spell binders—machinery?
What effect will the introduction of the referendum and recall have upon present methods of conducting elections in cities?

Advertising and social control.—In contrast with the political machine, which has founded its organized action on the local, personal, and immediate interests represented by the different neighborhoods and localities, the good-government organizations, the bureaus of municipal research, and the like have sought to represent the interests of the city as a whole and have appealed to a sentiment and opinion neither local nor personal. These agencies have sought to secure efficiency and good government by the education of the voter, that is to say, by investigating and publishing the facts regarding the government.

In this way publicity has come to be a recognized form of social control, and advertising—"social advertising"—has become a profession with an elaborate technique supported by a body of special knowledge.

It is one of the characteristic phenomena of city life and of society founded on secondary relationships that advertising should have come to occupy so important a place in its economy.
In recent years every individual and organization which has had to deal with the public, that is to say the public outside the smaller and more intimate communities of the village and small town, has come to have its press agent, who is often less an advertising man than a diplomatic man accredited to the newspapers, and through them to the world at large. Institutions like the Russell Sage Foundation, and to a less extent, the General Education Board have sought to influence public opinion directly through the medium of publicity. The Carnegie Report upon Medical Education, the Pittsburgh Survey, the Russell Sage Foundation Report on Comparative Costs of Public-School Education in the Several States, are something more than scientific reports. They are rather a high form of journalism, dealing with existing conditions critically, and seeking through the agency of publicity to bring about radical reforms. The work of the Bureau of Municipal Research in New York has had a similar practical purpose. To these must be added the work accomplished by the child-welfare exhibits, by the social surveys undertaken in different parts of the country, and by similar propaganda in favor of public health.

As a source of social control public opinion becomes important in societies founded on secondary relationships of which great cities are a type. In the city every social group tends to create its own milieu and, as these conditions become fixed, the mores tend to accommodate themselves to the conditions thus created. In secondary groups and in the city, fashion tends to take the place of custom, and public opinion rather than the mores becomes the dominant force in social control.

In any attempt to understand the nature of public opinion and its relation to social control, it is important to investigate first of all the agencies and devices which have come into practical use in the effort to control, enlighten, and exploit it.

The first and the most important of these is the press, that is the daily newspaper and other forms of current literature including books classed as current.[16]

After the newspaper, the bureaus of research which are now springing up in all the large cities are the most interesting and the most promising devices for using publicity as a means of control.

The fruits of these investigations do not reach the public directly, but are disseminated through the medium of the press, the pulpit, and other sources of popular enlightenment.

In addition to these there are the educational campaigns in the interest of better health conditions, the child-welfare exhibits, and the numerous "social advertising" devices which are now employed, sometimes upon the initiative of private societies, sometimes upon that of popular magazines or newspapers, in order to educate the public and enlist the masses of the people in the movement for the improvement of conditions of community life.

The newspaper is the great medium of communication within the city, and it is on the basis of the information which it supplies that public opinion rests. The first function which a newspaper supplies is that which was formerly performed by the village gossip.

In spite, however, of the industry with which newspapers pursue facts of personal intelligence and human interest, they cannot compete with the village gossips as a means of social control. For one thing, the newspaper maintains some reservations not recognized by gossip, in the matters of personal intelligence. For example, until they run for office or commit some other overt act that brings them before the public conspicuously, the private life of individual men or women is a subject that is for the newspaper taboo. It is not so with gossip, partly because in a small community no individual is so obscure that his private affairs escape observation and discussion; partly because the field is smaller. In small communities there is a perfectly amazing amount of personal information afloat among the individuals who compose them.

The absence of this in the city is what, in large part, makes the city what it is.

Some of the questions that arise in regard to the nature and function of the newspaper and of publicity generally are:
What is news?
What are the methods and motives of the newspaper man? Are they those of an artist? a historian? or merely those of a brigand?
To what extent does the newspaper control and to what extent is it controlled by public sentiment?
What is a "fake" and why?
What is yellow journalism and why is it yellow?
What would be the effect of making the newspaper a municipal monopoly?
What is the difference between advertising and news?


Great cities have always been the melting-pots of races and of cultures. Out of the vivid and subtle interactions of which they have been the centers, there have come the newer breeds and the newer social types. The great cities of the United States, for example, have drawn from the isolation of their native villages great masses of the rural populations of Europe and America. Under the shock of the new contacts the latent energies of these primitive peoples have been released, and the subtler processes of interaction have brought into existence, not merely vocational, but temperamental types.

Mobilization of the individual man.—Transportation and communication have effected, among many other silent but far-reaching changes, what I have called the " mobilization of the individual man." They have multiplied the opportunities of the individual man for contact and for association with his fellows, but they have made these contacts and associations more transitory and less stable. A very large part of the populations of great cities, including those who make their homes in tenements and apartment houses, live much as people do in some great hotel, meeting but not knowing one another. The effect of this is to substitute fortuitous and casual relationship for the more intimate and permanent associations of the smaller community.

Under these circumstances the individual's status is determined to a considerable degree by conventional signs—by fashion and "front"—and the art of life is largely reduced to skating on thin surfaces and a scrupulous study of style and manners.

Not only transportation and communication, but the segregation of the urban population tends to facilitate the mobility of the individual man. The processes of segregation establish moral distances which make the city a mosaic of little worlds which touch but do not interpenetrate. This makes it possible for individuals to pass quickly and easily from one moral milieu to another and encourages the fascinating but dangerous experiment of living at the same time in several different contiguous, perhaps, but widely separated worlds. All this tends to give to city life a superficial and adventitious character; it tends to complicate social relationships and to produce new and divergent individual types. It introduces, at the same time, an element of chance and adventure, which adds to the stimulus of city life and gives it for young and fresh nerves a peculiar attractiveness. The lure of great cities is perhaps a consequence of stimulations which act directly upon the reflexes. As a type of human behavior it may be explained, like the attraction of the flame for the moth, as a sort of tropism.

The attraction of the metropolis is due in part, however, to the fact that in the long run every individual finds somewhere among the varied manifestations of city life the sort of environment in which he expands and feels at ease; finds, in short, the moral climate in which his peculiar nature obtains the stimulations that bring his innate qualities to full and free expression. It is, I suspect, motives of this kind which have their basis, not in interest nor even in sentiment, but in something more fundamental and primitive which draw many, if not most, of the young men and young women from the security of their homes in the country into the big, booming confusion and excitement of city life. In a small community it is the normal man, the man without eccentricity or genius, who seems most likely to succeed. The small community often tolerates eccentricity. The city, on the contrary, rewards it. Neither the criminal, the defective, nor the genius has the same opportunity to develop his innate disposition in a small town, that he invariably finds in a great city.

Fifty years ago every village had one or two eccentric characters who were treated ordinarily with a benevolent toleration, but who were regarded meanwhile as impracticable and queer. These exceptional individuals lived an isolated existence, cut off by their very eccentricities, whether of genius or of defect, from genuinely intimate intercourse with their fellows. If they had the making of criminals, the restraints and inhibitions of the small community rendered them harmless. If they had the stuff of genius in them, they remained sterile for lack of appreciation or opportunity. Mark Twain's story of Pudd'n Head Wilson is a description of one such obscure and unappreciated genius. It is not so true as it was that—

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its fragrance on the desert air.

Gray wrote the "Elegy in a Country Churchyard" before the existence of the modern city.

In the city many of these divergent types now find a milieu in which for good or for ill their dispositions and talents parturate and bear fruit.

In the investigation of those exceptional and temperamental types which the city has produced, we should seek to distinguish, as far as possible, between those abstract mental qualities upon which technical excellence is based and those more fundamental native characteristics which find expression in temperament. We may therefore ask:

To what extent are the moral qualities of individuals based on native character? To what extent are they conventionalized habits imposed upon by them or taken over by them from the group?

What are the native qualities and characteristics upon which the moral or immoral character accepted and conventionalized by the group are based?

What connection or what divorce appears to exist between mental and moral qualities in the groups and in the individuals composing them?

Are criminals as a rule of a lower order of intelligence than non-criminals? If so, what types of intelligence are associated with different types of crime? For example, do professional burglars and professional confidence men represent different mental types?

What are the effects upon these different types of isolation and of mobility, of stimulus and of repression?

To what extent can playgrounds and other forms of recreation supply the stimulation which is otherwise sought for in vicious pleasures?

To what extent can vocational guidance assist individuals in finding vocations in which they will be able to obtain a free expression of their temperamental qualities?

The moral region.—It is inevitable that individuals who seek the same forms of excitement, whether that excitement be furnished by a horse race or by grand opera, should find themselves from time to time in the same places. The result of this is that, in the organization which city life spontaneously assumes, a disposition of the population manifests itself to segregate itself, not merely in accordance with its interests, but in accordance with its tastes or its temperaments. The resulting distribution of the population is likely to be quite different from that brought about by occupational interests or economic conditions.

Every neighborhood, under the influences which tend to distribute and segregate city populations, may assume the character of a "moral region." Such, for example, are the vice districts, which are found in most cities. A moral region is not necessarily a place of abode. It may be a mere rendezvous, a place of resort.

In order to understand the forces which in every large city tend to develop these detached milieus, in which vagrant and suppressed impulses, passions, and ideals emancipate themselves from the dominant moral order, it is necessary to refer to the fact or theory of latent impulses of men.

The fact seems to be that men are brought into the world with all the passions, instincts, and appetites, uncontrolled and undisciplined. Civilization, in the interests of the common welfare, demands the suppression sometimes, and the control always, of these wild, natural dispositions. In the process of imposing its discipline upon the individual, in making over the individual in accordance with the accepted community model, much is suppressed altogether, and much more finds a vicarious expression in forms that are socially valuable, or at least innocuous. It is at this point that sport, play, and art function. They permit the individual to purge himself by means of symbolic expression of these wild and suppressed impulses. This is the catharsis of which Aristotle wrote in his Poetic and which has been given new and more positive significance by the investigations of Sigmund Freud and the Psycho-Analysts.[17]

No doubt many other social phenomena such as strikes, wars, popular elections, and religious revivals, perform a similar function in releasing the subconscious tensions. But within smaller communities where social relations are more intimate and inhibitions more imperative, there are many exceptional individuals who find within the limits of the communal activity no normal and and healthful expression of their individual aptitudes and temperaments.

The causes which give rise to what are here described as "moral regions" are due in part to the restrictions which urban life imposes; in part to the license which these same conditions offer. We have until very recently given much consideration to the temptations of city life, but we have not given the same consideration to the effects of inhibitions and suppressions of natural impulses and instincts under the changed conditions of metropolitan life. For one thing, children which in the country are counted as an asset become in the city a liability. Aside from this fact it is very much more difficult to rear a family in the city than on the farm. Marriage takes place later in the city, and sometimes it doesn't take place at all. These facts have consequences the significance of which we are as yet wholly unable to estimate.

Investigation of the problems involved might well begin by a study and comparison of the characteristic types of social organization which exist in the regions referred to.
What are the external facts in regard to the life in Bohemia, the Half-World, the Red-Light District, and other "moral regions" less pronounced in character?
What is the nature of the vocations which connect themselves with the ordinary life of these regions? What are the characteristic mental types which are attracted by the freedom which they offer?
How do individuals find their way into these regions? How do they escape from them?
To what extent are the regions referred to the product of the license; to what extent are they due to the restrictions imposed by city life on the natural man?

Temperament and social contagion.—What lends special importance to the segregation of the poor, the vicious, the criminal, and exceptional persons generally, which is so characteristic a feature of city life, is the fact that social contagion tends to stimulate in divergent types the common temperamental differences, and to suppress characters which unite them with the normal types about them. Association with others of their own ilk provides also not merely a stimulus, but a moral support for the traits they have in common which they would not find in a less select society. In the great city the poor, the vicious, and the delinquent, crushed together in an unhealthful and contagious intimacy, breed in and in, soul and body, so that it has often occurred to me that those long genealogies of the Jukes and the Tribes of Ishmael would not show such a persistent and distressing uniformity of vice, crime, and poverty unless they were peculiarly fit for the environment in which they are condemned to exist.

We must then accept these "moral regions" and the more or less eccentric and exceptional people who inhabit them, in a sense, at least, as part of the natural if not the normal life of a city.

It is not necessary to understand by the expression "moral region" a place or a society that is either necessarily criminal or abnormal. It is intended rather to apply to regions in which a divergent moral code prevails, because it is a region in which the people who inhabit it are dominated, as people are ordinarily not dominated, by a taste or by a passion or by some interest which has its roots directly in the original nature of the individual. It may be an art, like music, or a sport, like horse racing. Such a region would differ from other social groups by the fact that its interests are more immediate and more fundamental. For this reason its differences are likely to be due to moral rather than intellectual isolation.

Because of the opportunity it offers, particularly to the exceptional and abnormal types of man, a great city tends to spread out and lay bare to the public view in a massive manner all the characters and traits which are ordinarily obscured and suppressed in smaller communities. The city, in short, shows the good and evil in human nature in excess. It is this fact, perhaps, more than any other which justifies the view that would make of the city a laboratory or clinic in which human nature and social processes may be most conveniently and profitably studied.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.

The author died in 1944, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

  1. Sumner, Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals, p. 54.
  2. Robert A. Woods, "The Neighborhood in Social Reconstruction," Papers and Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Society, 1913.
  3. "Wenn wir daher das Wort [Natur] als einen logischen Terminus in der Wissenschaftslehre gebrauchen wollen, so werden wir sagen dürfen, dass Natur die Wirklichkeit ist mit Rücksicht auf ihren gesetzmässigen Zusammenhang. Diese Bedeutung finden wir z. B. in dem Worte Naturgesetz. Dann aber können wir die Natur der Dinge audi das nennen was in die Begriffe eingeht, oder am kürzesten uns dahin ausdrücken: die Natur ist die Wirklichkeit mit Rücksicht auf das Allgemeine. So gewinnt dann das Wort erst eine logische Bedeutung."—H. Rickert, Die Grenzen der naturwissenschaftlichen Begriffsbildung, p. 212.
  4. Walter Besant, East London, pp. 7-9.
  5. Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, pp. 28-29.
  6. Walter Bagehot, The Postulates of Political Economy, London, 1885, pp. 7-8.
  7. Cf. W. I. Thomas, Source Book of Social Origins, p. 169.
  8. Charles Horton Cooley, Social Organization, p. 15.
  9. Walter Besant, East London, p. 13.
  10. William I. Thomas, "Race Psychology: Standpoint and Questionnaire with Particular Reference to the Immigrant and Negro," American Journal of Sociology, XVII (May, 1912), p. 736.
  11. Reports of the United States Immigration Commission, Vol. VI, pp. 14-16.
  12. Jacques Loeb, Comparative Physiology of the Brain, pp. 220-21.
  13. Ibid., p. 221.
  14. James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, I, 566.
  15. Sumner,Folkways, p. 12.
  16. Cf. Bryce, The American Commonwealth, p. 267.
  17. Cf . Dr. Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams.