This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
. . . The great personalities of history stamp upon their social period their creative faith. Whole eras rightly bear the name of some great genius who thus focuses and in a measure directs the stream of history which runs through him and carries him onward. And so we speak of a Copernican era, a Napoleonic era, a Darwinian era, etc.
In the evolution of social minds, as in the case of individual, nature seems to strive, in the midst of the fluctuations, to develop and preserve certain distinct types - types of race mind, of national mind, of family minds, of religious minds, etc. . . . The Hebrew mind itself is a unification of similar tribal types. The various Protestant denominations are merging into a more general type with a fusion of differences as contrasted with the distinct Catholic type of Christianity. ... - American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 19, p. 37, J. E. Boodin, "The Existence of Social Minds."
Social ideals arise in the minds of exceptional individuals who perceive that their conceptions of their fellow men, like their ideas of the external world in general, fall into intellectual arrangements or combinations that differ from objective arrangements in the world of reality. Among such combinations are some that seem to the minds that make them preferable to the combinations existing in fact. These mental complexes become ideals of a social order that appeals to imagination and desire. Communicated by their creators to their fellow men they oftentimes have the power to call forth persistent effort to transform the external order of things into a realization of the ideal. ... - American Economic Association, Publications, Third Series, Vol. 5, p. 408, Giddings, "A Theory of Social Causation."
Social mind is another spontaneous form of organization. But it differs from the primary group in that it is not beyond the reach of artificial propagation. It cannot be forced, but it can be coaxed or fostered in a certain direction. The elaborate devices employed during a political campaign are evidence of this. But for the most part the social mind is a growth for which human nature is the soil, everyday experience the water, and communication in primary groups the sunshine. The seed is the innovating individuals, and is fertilized by the influence of other groups, again illustrating agglomeration and "cross-fertilization of cultures."
History . . . shows that nearly every truth or mechanism is the fusion of a large number of original ideas proceeding from numerous collaborators, most of whom have been forgotten. . . .
If all the parts of the universe are interchained in a certain measure, any one phenomenon will not be the effect of a single cause, but the resultant of causes infinitely numerous; it is, one often says, the consequence of the state of the universe a moment before. ... - Poincare, The Foundations of Science, pp. 227, 231.
As we look back over the five preceding topics, the social mind appears like a lake in the landscape: it mirrors all that lies beyond. When an innovating individual in some primary group discovers a new idea, the group soon puts it on the communicating mechanism and passes it on to other groups; if important enough it permeates the population of the locality and so becomes a part of the social mind. Every passing experience - the rumor of war that disturbs business, the prediction of rain that alters the plans for the celebration of Memorial Day, the victory of an athletic team in a distant city - is reflected in the popular impression of the day as the lake reflects the clouds in the sky. Dean Briggs refers to the teacher's popularity with his students as "the thin ice on which we try to skate."
Most of these popular impressions pass away like the cloud, but the stronger and more persistent ones merge into public opinion and through that effect durable changes in society. Of course everything that happens leaves some trace on society. For a simile to express this we might liken the social mind to a chemical solution; everything that has been put into it, every process it has undergone, has contributed to make it what it is, and another element or compound added to it will combine with something already there to make it still different. To put it less figuratively, the social mind has memory: what it is to-day is the resultant of what it was yesterday, and a year ago, and a century ago, as developed by the impressions made upon it since. This is what the historian means when he says that the reason for a given attitude of a people is historical. The social mind has a conservatism, along with all of its susceptibility to passing impressions.
There may be a habit of change or a habit of conservatism. A frontier community has the habit of change. People there want everything "up-to-date" - their government, amusements, schools, and even their funerals. In an old country with a settled population the habit of conservatism is likely to obtain. A French writer of a dozen years ago told how the habit of initiative was declining in France. Parents would seek occupations (or marriages) for their children where they would be free from care; they preferred the public service, which, while it gives little opportunity to rise, offers great security and a pension for old age.1
Change comes soonest in superficial forms of the social mind such as popular impression and fashion. Improvements in competitive activity spread rapidly. Public sentiment, on the other hand, changes very slowly.
. . . The African chieftain has imitated the dress coat without any conception of European ideas. The Goths imitated the external forms of politics and religion, long before they could enter into the spirit of the ideas of the civilization which they supplanted. The immigrant imitates our clothes and manners, before he understands our language. The Japanese have imitated the militarism and commercialism of the Occident, but the religious, artistic, and ethical ideals of the West have had comparatively little influence upon them. . . . - American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 19, p. 30, J. E. Boodin, "The Existence of Social Minds."
1 American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 9, pp. 141, 142.