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.
Institutions satisfy wants. A want is a need which is felt, and some needs can be met only by cooperative effort. Institutions, therefore, satisfy felt needs which require cooperation. The army, for example, starts with the necessity of combining to secure protection against enemies. The industrial enterprise consists of a group of persons combined for the purpose of making money. The school is a cooperative effort in education. Here is a literary society composed of students in a school. It has existed for half a century. Throughout this period it has kept up nearly the same kind of work, met with the same frequency, and been known by the same name. Though the membership has totally changed several times over, yet the number and qualities of the members have seen little change. It owns no building or other property of value. The only enduring thing about it has been the form of organization, and that endures because it serves a felt need.
Any one organization exists to satisfy a particular need in the community and in the lives of its members. Any one member in the organization likewise bears a special share in its work. Specialization is the correlative of organization. A member of the literary society mentioned above attends its meetings only once a week, with occasional absences and longer intervals caused by vacations. It may be in his thought at other times, but only rarely is there anything else to do. It serves only a small fraction of his nature. A large and important institution never wholly absorbs even its most active members. They may find their occupation in it for eight or ten hours a day, but the rest of their time is given to other social groups or institutions.
Different institutions are thus interconnected by including the same persons in their membership. The glee club and the athletic association avoid interfering with each other's work, as they would do, for example, by calling meetings at the same hour, not because there is any formal alliance between them, but merely because some of the members of the one are also members of the other. This interlocking of institutions gives stability to organized society: no one part can easily be changed because to change one part is to disturb all the rest.
. . . The establishment of an institution means that society has become self-conscious regarding a way or a series of related ways of satisfying some human want, of adjusting itself more efficiently to some phase of its environment. - School and Home Education, Vol. 34, p. 227, Lotus D. Coffman.
In real life . . . society at its best organized itself in groups in which each individual in the various groups to which he may belong, finds himself in contact with others whose weaknesses he supplements or whose greater powers he depends upon. The idea of such a group as a whole is not necessarily contained in the brain of any single member, and as the idea develops by social interpenetration, it becomes, in all its many-sidedness, too large for any member to contain. The function that each plays is a different one, and the thought of each concerning the group is likewise different. And yet such groups tend to stick together. ... - Scott, Social Education, p. 15.
. . . This is true of men as they actually are: that the small men, who are nearly alike, have fewest points of union with others; that the great men, who are unlike, have many points of union with others; that the unity of society is conditioned on the uniqueness of unlike individuals and that unity is therefore the very opposite of homogeneity and uniformity. - Harris, Inequality and Progress, p. 148.
There is intellectual team work. ... In each subgroup - church, college, trade union, or cooperative society - there goes on a joint working out of opinion as to the special problems and policies of that group; and while opinion may reflect the counsel of some sage member, it is usually the outcome of discussion and consensus, i.e., of cooperative thinking.
. . . Team-thinking goes on only among persons well matched in equipment. Hence, as soon as there appear in any field men of special knowledge or training, with exceptional facilities in the way of collections, laboratories, travel, mutual access, and stimulating association, the rest of us fall silent and content ourselves with walking henceforth in trails other men have blazed. . . .
In a word, just as we become parasites on the experts who wire our houses and test our food, so our minds become parasites on the specialized minds engaged in rearing law, morality, literature, and science. The organizing of thought in respect to fundamentals is left to a rather small number of men. More and more we retire to the side lines and watch the star players advance the ball. The bulk of us are consumers of the mental products of the masters. ... - American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 22, pp. 307, 308, Ross, "The Organization of Thought."
An institution ... is made up of persons, but not of whole persons; each one enters into it with a trained and specialized part of himself. Consider, for instance, the legal part of a lawyer, the ecclesiastical part of a church member or the business part of a merchant. ... - Cooley, Social Organization, p. 319.
Family bonds create cross-lines of interest. The stone mason's son may be traveling salesman for a trust; the daughter of a grocer may be a school-teacher or milliner; the brother of an obsequious butler may be a walking delegate, a village minister, a bucket-shop keeper or a tenant farmer, or a small pharmacist. - Weyl, The New Democracy, p. 236.