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.
Communication passes through a cycle in the form or manner of it. A great battle was fought yesterday; it was reported in a characteristic way in the papers last evening, then in a different way in this morning's papers; there were editorials on it this morning, and more will come this evening and to-morrow morning; then the weekly papers and-magazines will tell of it so as to show its place in the campaign; then there will be analyses by experts, accounts by eye witnesses, and other articles on special phases of it for a longer or shorter time according to its relative prominence and the hold it has on popular impression. But no matter how prominent it may be, popular impression will tire of it after a while; information of any kind about it will no longer be news; even information never published before will only be history.
A congenial group goes through a cycle of changes, as every one knows who has thought about the matter. It takes time for a newly formed group to learn to know one another. Then after the possibilities of the group have been exhausted the association tends to become stale; some work in which the group may have become engaged may continue to hold it together, as may also the ideal of loyalty to friends or some other moral principle; but the keen enjoyment of the first acquaintance is gone.
Each phase of the social mind has its own cycle of changes. The briefer ones end by merging into the more durable. In general the duration of any phase varies inversely as its intensity. A mob, for example, rarely lasts longer than a few hours; the members become tired and hungry and must think of other things than the ones which brought them together; the mob therefore disperses, unless there be some practical reason why it should keep together; it can keep together only by becoming organized, and then it ceases to be a mob. Popular impression takes shape quickly in the minds of an extensive population as the daily papers and casual conversation work on the news of the day. But it soon merges into something quite different. On matters requiring action it merges into public opinion; on matters which never come to a definite finish, but which yet continue to hold attention, it merges into popular sentiment. Public opinion in turn, since it takes shape from the deliberately formed conclusions of the more capable members of the population, is slower in growing and holds to a given subject longer. There is more of social telesisinit; there is less of mere natural selection in it than there is in popular impression. Public opinion, therefore, is likely to hold to its object until some definite result has been obtained, after which it, too, becomes quiescent and merges into popular sentiment. This last process, doubtless, a psychologist would explain by saying that the intellectual content of the opinions is forgotten while the affective response to the situations to which they relate remains. These cycles of the social mind may be observed in a political campaign; also in a propaganda of any kind, such as that for military preparedness in the United States in 1916, and in the proceedings by which the students of a school are brought to support some project.
... A democratic reform is instituted in one of our States with a blazon of trumpets. Thereafter we hear rumors of its working ill or well. Then silence. A dozen years later, we are surprised to learn that half the States have adopted the new institution, and soon we forget the evil conditions which preceded, and think of the reform no longer as an improvement, but as a thing upon which we are absurdly slow to improve.
. . . "The heirs of all the ages" are spoilt children, valuing only their very newest toys. An infant born a few generations ago might have been elated over the steam engine; a child born to-day will find the telephone, automobile, and X-ray commonplaces. He will no more think of aviation as progress than we regard plowing and arithmetic as valuable social acquisitions. - Weyl, The New Democracy, pp. 158, 159.
. . . During the war many people felt that the heroic temper, the spirit of self-sacrifice for an ideal, the exaltation of sentiment called forth, were certain to raise our civilization permanently to a higher level, and to produce a lasting effect on the national character. But that has not been the experience with great wars hitherto. The wars of Napoleon were followed by an era of material progress, where interest was centered in the accumulation of wealth. Our own Civil War was followed by the lowest state of political morals that we have ever known, reaching its climax in the Tweed Ring in New York. The war of 1870 was followed in Germany by the growth of materialism that culminated in the present attempt to exploit mankind by force. Nor are these unnatural results. On the material side, war destroys vast quantities of property which have to be replaced, rolls up debts that have to be paid, and it is natural that after a war people should seek to repair the damage it has caused. On the spiritual side, also, any great moral effort is liable to be followed by a period of moral relaxation. After a great war, therefore, and not least, perhaps, after a war that has awakened so great an enthusiasm and devotion, it is wise to beware of a materialistic reaction. . . . - Official Register of Harvard University, March 20, 1919, A. Lawrence Lowell, "President's Report."