The Human Group

The Human Group

The Human Group

The Human Group

Excerpt

Like other fields of intellectual inquiry, sociology has experienced periodic shifts in the problems that are of central interest to theorists and research workers. Not too long ago, sociology was devoted largely--never wholly, as it sometimes seemed--to such worrisome and interesting difficulties of social life as crime, delinquency, and divorce. At another, when its horizon was broader and its analysis perhaps deeper, concern centered on the search for regular sequences of change in cultures and civilizations. These shifts in interest were more than eddies in the current of sociological thought. Each left a more or less permanent precipitate that was caught up in new and, we like to think, accumulating knowledge.

One such recent shift in sociology, and in the affiliated field of social psychology, is evidenced by the rapidly mounting interest in the study of the small group. This interest cannot fairly or accurately be called new; it is, rather, a renascence. An earlier generation of sociologists--Cooley and Simmel are only the best remembered among numerous others--had been much interested in the small group, within limits dictated by the primitive research methods and the scantily developed theory of the time. But though their writings were much quoted, their ideas were little advanced by those who came after. And since the beginnings they provided were not systematically followed up, sociological knowledge about the small group remained stagnant.

Within the past decade or so, this condition has greatly changed. From the most varied sources there has developed a revival of sociological interest in the small group, an interest that bids fair to grow with the accumulation of new empirical findings, interrelated in systematic theory. Diverse strands of thought have converged in this development. As the sociological implications of . . .

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