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.
. . . Since differences of tastes, manners, creeds, languages, and innumerable other variations prevent everybody from liking everybody else, pleasurable fellowship can only take place on the basis of groups in which there is some sort of community of feeling. And so the wise social-centre director is now dealing with coteries and cliques, and mainly those which are self formed, because the business of dividing a crowd into groups which will stick together has not yet been reduced to a science. . . . - Johnston, The Modem High School, p. 535, C. A. Perry.
. . . The social instincts operate most effectively only in personal groups. Thus sympathy can largely be depended upon to restrain evil conduct among those who personally know each other. The swindler is often honest and generous in dealing with personal acquaintances. The plundering, corrupt, and corrupting political boss may be a loyal good fellow to his gang. ... - Hayes, Introduction to the Study of Sociology, pp. 74, 75.
Here is a neglected chapter in the theory of social organization. Everyone at once admits the importance of such groups as are described above, yet with few exceptions every social theorist has paid no attention to them, doubtless taking them for granted; they have been too commonplace to require notice by the learned.
The first writer to treat the subject with any fullness was Professor C. H. Cooley of the University of Michigan. In 1900 he began to mention primary groups in lectures to his classes. In 1909 his Social Organization appeared, containing three chapters on the subject, and these chapters are still the best treatment that has appeared. Professor Cooley applied the adjective primary to such groups because they "are primary in several senses, but chiefly in that they are fundamental in forming the social nature and ideals of the individual." He makes little use of precise definitions, and he hardly gives any definite mark for a primary group beyond "face-to-face communication." Here, however, is a definition which he has sent in a personal letter and has given permission to use:
I am accustomed to say that the primary group is simply an intimate group, the intimacy covering a considerable period and resulting in an habitual sympathy, the mind of each being filled with a sense of the mind of the others, so that the group as a whole is the chief sphere of the social self for each individual in it - of emulation, ambition, resentment, loyalty, etc.
Cooley devotes an entire chapter to the ideals which primary groups foster. It is by membership in these groups that the gregarious instinct in us develops and we learn how to live as sociable beings. Other writers have expressed the same idea as follows:
. . . The gang spirit must be spread out but not diluted: the sort of close fellowship it represents is needed as a school of conduct. Young people are not all heroic. No people, young or old, are capable of evolving their own standards of behavior. We all need outside pressure of a fierce and inexorable sort to overcome our laziness or cowardice, make us face the lion in the path, strike out into the cold world upon the quest our soul demands of us. . . .
. . . The most difficult problem of life is to find the right way of treating other people - to make courtesy coincide with independence, respect for others with entire self-respect. . . .
. . . Precept in this all-important department is of negligible value. Not what he is told to do, but what he sees done and what he finds required of him by a body of opinion whose pressure he cannot escape, is the force that molds a young person's standard of behavior. ... - Lee, Play in Education, pp. 374, 375.
. . . One has only to consider how completely the child is dependent from his earliest days for successful execution of his purposes upon fitting his acts into those of others to see what a premium is put upon behaving as others behave, and of developing an understanding of them in order that he may so behave. The pressure for like-mindedness in action from this source is so great that it is quite superfluous to appeal to imitation. - Dewey, Democracy and Education, p. 42.