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.
Unfortunately the word government is so exclusively a political term, it is hardly broad enough for out purpose, though usage compels us to adopt it. It has the usual inaccuracy of the figure synecdoche, the use of the part for the whole. Our modern life in a republic is full of self-directing groups of every conceivable name and serving every namable purpose. ... - Fiske, Boy Life and Self-Government, p. 24.
. . . But in the Great Society instinctive action on a great scale is impossible. A hundred thousand men cannot surge passionately into Hyde Park. However completely they may be under the sway of Instinct, they will not get through the gates unless some one with a map and a list of marshals before him has worked out a route and a timetable. The vague impulses of modern nations can only result in corporate action on lines which some one, whether wise or foolish, has deliberately laid down. ... - Wallas, The Great Society, p. 226.
In the division of labor between various members of any institution it falls to the lot of some to direct the work of others. This directing function is what we usually mean by government. We need to remember, however, that in a broad sense government inheres in the entire organization: it has its existence in the habits of every member - those who obey as well as those who direct; the latter could not exist without the former. The "consent of the governed" is always necessary, under a despotism as well as in a democracy; when it is withdrawn the institution comes to an end. Government is a universal feature of social organization. It inheres in every institution and even in the primary group. It is so universal that the words organization and government are often used interchangeably.
It is on its government that the coercive power of an institution depends. Public opinion and the looser phases of the social mind may do much in directing the activities of the members, but unless the group of people have some more effective way of dealing with the persistent non-conformist they do not have a government and so do not compose an institution in the sense in which that term is used here. In the course of the agitation before 1789 as to whether some effective authority should be set up over the Thirteen States that had recently won their independence, George Washington made the profound statement that "influence is not government."
The biological analogy may help to make this clearer. A group of people who have no government, no coercive power over their members, resembles an organism that has no nervous system. Of the many leaves which compose the foliage of the tree, each one gets what sunlight and nutriment it can for itself, but together they have no power to cut off the twig which is harboring a nest of caterpillars. Coral multiplies in that part of its environment where conditions are favorable and dies out where conditions become unfavorable: it does nothing to control its environment. The crowd out in a park on a holiday moves about somewhat like an amoeba; it flows around an attractive object and flows away from one that is disagreeable or uninteresting, but it cannot compel any part of itself to do a disagreeable thing for the benefit of the whole; it cannot concentrate its energies. So the hundred students in a study room or library make no combined effort to deal with a group of disturbers. But a population with a government resembles an animal with a nervous system. A crustacean caught by one foot will sacrifice the foot in order to get free. A people having a government will combine their energies to exterminate wild beasts, dike the river, repel invaders, and suppress lawbreakers in their midst. Public opinion in society becomes public will, as feeling in the animal becomes volition.
The scientific study of government has been confined almost exclusively to the government of the state. As found in other institutions - family, business, church, school, playground, club - it has been noticed only as practical necessity required in each case. Teachers, for example, discuss "discipline," and "school management," but rarely does anyone think of the government of the school as of the same piece with the government of the state which the class in civics studies and the political scientists write volumes about. The peoples who have made the great improvements in political organization, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Teutons, have improved other forms as well. English history - to take the case best known to Americans - reveals a rich background of institutional life in guilds and other non-political organizations which astonish the worker on source material by their number, variety, and vigor, and which show where England learned the lesson of representative government.
It is to authorities, political, religious, scientific, and artistic, that we owe our order and progress. The highest formula in the promotion of progress is found in the proposition: No civilization without authority. - American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 8, p. 420, Ludwig Stein, article in a German annual summarized.
A social function goes off better for being planned - having a government. All enjoy it more.
Our ball team at school was united in spirit, but we found out how poorly organized we were when we played other teams. We saw that they sacrificed for each other, had coaches on the side lines, and used a code of signals. In a short time we adopted all of these practices.
When fire drill was introduced the teachers were instructed about the different signals, and each in turn explained them to her pupils. I well remember the first day the signal was given. I had a second grade class reciting. Such a scramble there was! It was almost impossible to control the children, and even the teachers became excited. In some way the building was emptied. After this was repeated a few times it was as orderly and quick as could be wished. The minute the gong sounded each child stood where he was, waiting for the signal from the teacher to form in line. Even the day the furnace was out of order and the halls were filled with smoke, the building was emptied quickly and without confusion.
During the past year I supervised the playground for the fifth- and sixth-grade girls. There is always need of supervision because the aggressive children try to overrun the milder ones. Then, too, there is much wrangling if there is no one to whom they can look for the decision of disputed points and to help agree on the best ways of doing things. If a teacher is present the children spend their energy in harmonious activity and cause little noise.