The Governmental Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion

By David B. Truman | Go to book overview

2
Groups and Society

MAN is a social animal. Among other meanings involved in this Aristotelian statement is the observation that with rare exceptions man is always found in association with other men. John Dewey has observed: "Associated activity needs no explanation; things are made that way."1 This association includes varying degrees of organization; that is, certain of the relationships among a collection of men regularly occur in certain consistent patterns and sequences. But there is another meaning in this classic proposition, closer to the one that Aristotle probably intended, namely, that men must exist in society in order to manifest those capacities and accomplishments that distinguish them from the other animals. These human accomplishments embrace not only the wondrous array of skills and creations that are thought of as civilization but also humbler and more fundamental developments such as primary intellectual growth and language.

We do not have to rely solely on Aristotle's confidence concerning the virtues of life in the city-state for support of the proposition that man is essentially social. The Robinson Crusoe hypothesis that men are best conceived of as isolated units is inadequate psychology as well as unfashionable economics. Accounts, at least partially authenticated, of children who by some chance of fate have been raised among animals, isolated from all contact with human beings, indicate not only that speech is not acquired under such circumstances but also that it is developed only very slowly after the child has been returned to human society. Cases of children who have been kept in solitary con

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1
John Dewey: The Public and Its Problems ( New York: Henry Holt & Company, Inc., 1927), p. 151. Copyright by and used with the permission of Henry Holt & Company, Inc.

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