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The actual social reality

In a recent article dealing with the sociological vocabulary, Professor Hayes raises some
fundamental methodological questions. (1) All sociologists should use technical terms in
the same sense. Terms are to be judged by their serviceability, which is measured in part
by disjunctiveness, inclusiveness, and fewness of the concepts proposed. Methodology
should tend to lead to fresh discoveries. (2) The process of competition is the physical
aspect of the social reality; it KnowThyselfbyNaImAkbar
communicatethatknowledgetoothers.Consciousnessth fundamental methodological
questions. (1) All sociologists should use technical terms in the same sense. Terms are to
be judged by their serviceability, which is measured in part by disjunctiveness,
inclusiveness, and fewness of the concepts proposed. Methodology should tend to lead to
fresh discoveries. (2) The process of competition is the physical aspect of the social
reality; it KnowThyselfbyNaImAkbar

determines the spatial and economic organization of human society, and affords a
starting-point for the study of other social processes. (3) Conflict and accommodation are

processes which involve the "personal" type of interaction. Conflict arises out of
conflicting claims, and accommodation is the process in which an equilibration of
conflict through redefinition of claims is established. (4) Conflict, accommodation, and
assimilation are processes in which control is established. Assimilation is the process in
which persons develop sympathetic responsiveness to one another's claims. (5) The
concepts proposed here are intended to make possible somewhat complete accounts of
reactions evoked by social contact. The immediate reduction of the social reality to
description in more ultimate terms tends to obscure some of its features. (6) The actual
social reality may be abstracted in substantive or in active terms. The reality is in fact a
process of becoming, but the concept of becoming, unless broken up into small units
connected with types of social interaction, is not serviceable for scientific purposes.
In a recent article, Professor E. C. Hayes of the University of Illinois raises some
interesting questions concerning the grammar of social science,[1] using as a text for his
remarks passages from certain chapters in the Park and Burgess sociology.[2] He has
essentially two suggestions to offer: (1) that thirteen terms which he proposes[3] be used
in place of the four, competition, conflict, accommodation, and assimilation; and (2) that
the term "social process" be reserved for reference to the evolution or "becoming" of
human society, and that other aspects of the social reality which have been called "social
processes" be referred to as "social relations."

These are important questions, well worth investigation and discussion. All sociologists
will agree, of course, that not too great stress should be placed on questions of
vocabulary. They will be equally well agreed, however, that we need to establish a
universe of discourse; the terms which we use as technical should always have the same
meaning. The question of the meanings to be attached to such terms as "social process"
and "social relations" is not an altogether trivial one. Furthermore, certain features of
Hayes's suggestions involve, in addition to the questions of terminology, fundamental
methodological questions. The issues raised by his paper have therefore a twofold
The discussion of Professor Hayes's criticisms and suggestions is rendered more difficult
than it would otherwise be by the fact that he does not state what meanings he proposes
to assign to some of the thirteen concepts which he names. Nor does he offer
descriptions, in every case, of the relations to which he would apply them. Some of them
are apparently original with him, revealed to him by "flashes of insight." Others he has
obviously and admittedly taken from previous literature. His article gives one the
impression that he does not consider either of these methods of deriving terms to be
necessarily discreditable, and in this one is constrained to agree with him. Vaihinger has
rendered a service to the students of fundamental methods in his statement that concepts
are intellectual tools, and that as such they are to be evaluated and selected, rejected, or
revised with regard to their utility for the purposes of research or explanation, not with
regard to the procedures by which they were derived:

Just at the point where the empirical method of natural science converges on the methods
of exact mechanics and abstract physics, and where on the other hand they approach the
complicated phenomena of social life, the insufficiency of purely inductive methods is
clearly manifest. It is here that methods begin which represent a higher synthesis of
deduction and induction, where, that is to say, both these methods are united in the
endeavor to solve difficulties which can only be overcome indirectly.
We make a distinction between rules and artifices of thought. In other functions also this
distinction is of value; the rules are the totality of all those
those of induction, "rules of thinking." The artifices, on the other hand, are those
operations, of an almost mysterious character, which run counter to ordinary procedure in
a more or less paradoxical way. . . . Thought also has such artifices; they are strikingly
purposive expressions of the organic function of thought.[4]
Simmel, it was his most fundamental thesis that it is the function of apart from their
content. When, however, he takes up the question of procedure, he insists that methods
cannot be explicitly prescribed in advance:
The mathematician can assume that the concept of an ideal geometric figure is known,
and is subjectively seen as the only real meanin, in a discussion of the methodological
problems of sociology, has made essentially the same paint. As is well known g of the
one drawn with crayon or ink. Here (in sociological inquiries), however, the
corresponding assumption cannot be made; the separation of that which is really pure
socialization from the complex total appearance cannot be logically enforced.
One is forced to take upon himself here the odium of speaking of intuitive procedure
however different it may be from the geometric-metaphysical concept of intuitionof a
particular limitation of the glance with which this separation is accomplished and to
which, until it is later developed in conceptually expressible methods, it can be guided
only through a survey of concrete cases.[5]
In other words, in the present stage of development of the science, additions are made to
the conceptual equipment of the sociologist, by no procedure which lends itself to rigid
prescription in terms of a formal logical method, either deductive or inductive. In the
development of a methodology with the aid of which a certain order of phenomena can
be made more intelligible, and can be brought within the range of purposive control, one
has resort to trial and selection. The materials with which this trial and selection proceeds
are naturally the data The concepts gathered from such sources are of course subjected to
a deductive procedure of checking up and reconciliation. Deduction is in fact the term we
give to the process of reasoning by which we determine which one has sought to explain,
or the practical problems with which one has tried to deal. In part, however, they are the
concepts which previous theoretic writers have

defined; and raw material from which scientific concepts can be extracted is available in
the published records of previous attempts to solve practical problems.
whether our concepts as we have tentatively defined them can be made to conform to the
logical necessities imposed by the nature of our thought. This logical fitness and
serviceability can be measured in part by very simple criteria, particularly those of
disjunctiveness and inclusiveness. That is, the terms proposed for use in some particular
type of analysis should be such that any possible case of the general kind in question can
be brought under some one of the headings, and no part of the material is capable of
inclusion under more than one of them. Perhaps a third criterion should be stated, that the
total number of concepts in a particular system should be as small as practicable.[6]
It is to be emphasized, however, that the purpose of scientific method, in sociology or in
any other field, is not finality, but the conquest of fields of inquiry which have as yet
escaped explanation and control. On the one hand, sociologists, like other scientists, must
express their concepts in terms of the vocabulary which is already in existence. In fact,
this is even more necessary for sociologists than for other scientists, since the material in
which they are interested is inextricably embodied in the vernacular speech, and cannot
be intelligibly designated in any other terms. Only gradually can a precise scientific
vocabulary be established and perfected by the consensus of the sociological guild.
Meanwhile, progress is achieved by experimenting with existing terms. On the other
hand, the terms which we use are satisfactory, not in the measure of their capacity for
parceling out neatly and exhaustively the materials in which we are interested, so that the
illusion is created that no more can be said on the subject in hand, but in the