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GROUP AND INDIVIDUAL

As shown in Chapter 4, it is through group experience that human beings become distinctively tumult. We enter the world as animals with extraordinary learning capacities (and-according to most religions, with a soul). It is through group experience that we internalize the norms of our culture, and come to share values, goals, sentiments, and most of what sets us apart from the other animals. Is it true, as is sometimes said, that the group is no more than the sum total of its . members? Does the following quotation answer that question?

Take each of us alone, a man apart from the Cheyenne people who remember the same things and wish for the same things. Teach one of us that way, and you have nothing but a man who cannot respect himself because he is a failure in the white man’s way. A man who does not respect himself. cannot make a good future. There is no strength in his spirit. Now take all of us together as Cheyenne people. Then our names are net the names of failures. They are the names of great and generous hunters who fed the people, fighters who died for freedom just as white men’s heroes died, holy men who filled us with the power of God. Takes together that way and there is a drink for every man in the cup of self-respect, and we will have the strength of spirit to decide what to do and to do it. We will do good things as a tribe that is growing and changing that we cannot do as individual men cut off from their forefathers. (From an introduction to a Northern Cheyenne land consolidation program, quoted  in In 1 Affairs, Newsletter of the Association on American Indian Affairs, Inc., no. 37, New York, June, 1960.)

This statement shows how a person’s feelings and behavior are affected by group membership. Whether one is’ a coward or a hero may’ be more greatly determined by group ties’than by any individual characteristics, as is “shown by sociological studies of military groups During the Korean war a few American soldiers who were prisoners of war agreed to cooperate with the enemy and propagandized against the American cause. Physical hardship poor food, limited medical attention and inadequate shelter played a part in weakening their resistance, but these conditions were not considered sufficiently severe to account for their behavior. There was some torture and often the threat of torture but this affected only a few of the prisoners. The Chinese used something more powerful than physical force-tile systematic attack upon group ties, described by Eider man [1960]and Schein  [1960]. Just as “dying is easy for anyone left alone in a concentration camp death came easily to prisoners of war who were isolated from their fellows. The Chinese used such techniques as solitary confinement, isolation of small groups of prisoners, and frequent shifting of personnel to hamper formation of cohesive groups.

 More important, they also sought to divide prisoners in their attitude to each other and to cut them off from any feeling of effective links with the homeland. Casual information gathered in interviews was used to convince prisoners that all the others were informers and that they might as well give in, too. If a prisoner resisted what he thought were- improper demands from the Chinese, the whole unit was denied food or a chance to sleep until the objector had been forced to com round by his own buddies. By contrast with the Korean war, the Vietnam war produced proportionately fewer examples  of “incorrect” behavior among American POWER. This change is usually attributed to a new system of training instituted after tile Korean war which stressed that, above all else, a POW must keep in communication with other POWs and obey the senior American officer at all times. He was no longer a lonely and abandoned individual but part of a functioning  group. It wasn’t easy to do, since the North- Vietnamese frequently moved prisoners, seldom kept them in large groups, and tried to restrict communication. . The role of communication and group ties in sustaining morale among American POWs is especially striking, since American public opinion was sharply divided about the war in Vietnam. The North Vietnamese constantly reminded the POWs of this antiwar feeling but apparently with little effect on POW attitude or behavior.

in Vietnam is similar to the way the German army survived years of unbroken defeats in World War II. During the war the Allies nursed the hope that “psychological warfare” could undermine the German soldier’s faith in his cause and his loyalty to his government and thus impair his fighting morale. Postwar studies [Shils and Janowitz, 1948] have shown that this approach was not very effective. It was rooted in the unsound theory that the soldier is sustained mainly by loyalty to his country and faith in the rightness of its cause, whereas postwar investigations found that he is sustained maillly by his unity with, and loyalty to, the small military units to uhid: he is attached. As long as the soldier’s immediate group the primary group which we shall analyze within a few pages-remained integrated, he continued to resist. Even those who were critical of their “cause” remained effective soldiers because of their group loyalties. Among the comparatively few German deserters,’ their failure to have become fully absorbed into the primary-group life of the army was far more important than any politic or ideological doubts. Long after their cause was clearly lost, most German units of . all sizes continued to resist until their supplies were exhausted or they were physically overwhelmed. . American military leaders fully recognize the difference between an aggregation and a group. After each of our recent wars (World War II, Korea, Vietnam) they commissioned social scientists to find out why some units performed so much better than others. Each time they received the same reply: Given adequate training, equipment, and supplies, performance differences were due mainly to the sense of unity and cohesion within differing units. A unit with.a continuous stream’ of replacements cannot be a top outfit. No matter how well qualified as individual soldiers, the replacements are not worth much until the become real members of the group. Our military leaders are now trying to reduce transfers and would like  same persons together in a company for an entire three-year tour of duty [Webbe, 1980). In such ways, scientific knowledge about how groups operate is being put to practical use. Is it only in warfare that the individual develops a sacrificial loyalty and a heroic courage? By no means. We cite research on military groups (even though some may Iind this displeasing) because they have been more intensively studied than most other kinds of groups, and from this study we have learned something about groups of all kinds. We see how the group is a vital social reality, with profound effect upon the behavior of individuals in all social situations.

Knowledge about group behavior can be applied to any kind, of group. For example the success of Japanese industry is attributed  in part, to its success in cultivating group loyalties. Where American workers and managers typically glare at one another across a gulf of suspicion and distrust, Japanese workers and managers are partners in a joint effort to improve quality and cut costs Ouchi, 11)81; Pascale and Athos, 1981). American managers . have often tried to promote worker loyalty to “the company” but have had little . Workers have generally perceived this as a manipulative trick not as a genuine sharing. To put this in terms of sociological theory, Japanese industry is agonized along the functionalist assumption that workers, malingers, and stockholders share ‘a common interest in the success of the enterprise. Management (at least in the larger corporations) provides lifetime job security, along with many social and recreational services. Workers IT intensely loyal to the company, sing the company song daily in many companies, and join in frequent meetings to seek ways to increase productivity or improve quality. American industrial relations are structured along the conflict theory assumption of conflicting interests of workers and management. It is assumed that management will try to squeeze as much work from labor as possible with as little pay as necessary and that labor will seek  as much pay as it can get for as little work as necessary. Wages and working conditions are negotiated through. a power contest called “collective bargaining,” with contractually specified “fringe benefits” instead of company “paternalism.’ Functionalist theory assumes that workers tend, in the long run, to get about what they are worth; conflict theory assumes that wages are determined by workers’ effective use of bargaining power. Thus it makes a great deal of difference in group relations whether functionalist or conflict theory is followed.

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