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.
This is the form of organization which is designed to endure. There have been institutions which professed not to change.
If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. - Bible, "Revelation, " XXII, 18.
But no institution can avoid change. An institution is composed of persons, and persons die off in time to be replaced by others who will be different to some extent. The personnel of an institution is constantly changing like the drops of water in a cataract.
The continuous variation of biology probably finds its nearest parallel in the realm of sociology when the historian traces the development of some great institution such as the papacy or the English Constitution. The development extends over centuries. The name of a reformer often seems rather to mark change already accomplished than a real origin; the change had come so gradually as to be unnoticed before; the persons who created it mostly passed away unchronicled.
One of the eight stimuli to change which Ross distinguishes is "migration to a new environment." To transplant an institution is to change it. Every extension of the constitution of the United States over new territory has resulted in amendments or new interpretations. Monarchy in England is quite a different thing from monarchy in France or Massachusetts. Christianity among the Romans developed a different kind of institution from what it did among the Greeks or Hebrews; among the Teutons it became still different, and to-day it is becoming different again among the Japanese and Chinese. A school in Kansas has a different spirit from a school in Prussia. Even changing a recitation from one room to another will make a difference in a class.
Notice may be given here to continuous variations of a kind which Ross calls transmutations:
. . . These are changes of an involuntary character due to the difficulty one generation has in accurately reproducing the copy set by its predecessor. The speech of parents being imperfectly imitated by their children, there results that accumulation of minute unnoticed changes which is described by the Law of Transmutation of vowels and consonants. Natural gestures and actions become fossilized into meaningless forms. . . .
Institutions and relations likewise glide insensibly into forms that would not consciously be assumed. Presents freely given to a chief pass into presents expected and finally demanded, while volunteered help passes into exacted service. - Ross, Foundations of Sociology, pp. 204, 205. • • •
Transmutations in great numbers are revealed by the changes in the meanings of words. The "commencement" of the vacation for English schools has become for American colleges the state occasion which brings the academic year to a close. The "doctor" of the Middle Ages (from the Latin, docere, to teach) has become the medical practitioner. Academic degrees that once conferred definite privileges have now become mere honorary titles.
The pressure of students into the normal schools who have no thought of teaching, but who wish to do straight college work, might be classed as a transmutation, and the formal arrangement for it mentioned two pages back was only an acceptance of what had already grown up at variance with the primary aim of the normal school. Harvard College, organized to train preachers for the Indians, now confers a hundred times as many degrees in other subjects as in divinity. A club of students organized for serious work of some kind becomes merely a group in which to while away leisure time. Large institutions like a state or a centrally organized church, because of their durability, are subject to those sudden and violent changes which we study in history as revolutions. They are, perhaps, the typical social mutations. They come unexpectedly, though arising out of a strained condition of society after a long period of continuous variation. Although there is always a radical leader at the front, the revolution seems afterward to have been inevitable. Such was the change from the Roman Republic to the Empire; also the Protestant Reformation, the English Revolution of 1688, the American Revolution, the French Revolution of 1789 and 1792, the Russian Revolution of 1917. Virtually in the same class, although not called a revolution, is the reorganization of the government of Germany during the decade, 1861-1871.
However solidified the group may become, one can never be sure that the current of events will not carry it upon some rock which will split it. Families are rent by quarrels, neighborhoods by feuds, churches by controversies; while larger unions, lacking personal acquaintance,are yet more unstable. . . .
A lasting sense of grievance in any worthy element respecting an established policy raises like a fester in the flesh the presumption that something is wrong. The useful classes do not go on rioting over nothing; so reliance upon bullets and bayonets as a means of restoring social peace is usually a confession of bankruptcy of statesmanship. . . . But ordinarily a persistent outcry is a symptom of maladjustment. Change has gone on unheeded until some law or institution has ceased to fit. Finer adjustment, greater elasticity, or special treatment is called for. . . . - American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 23, pp. 350, 355, Ross, "Estrangement in Society."