INFO'RMAL PRIMARY-GROUP CONTROLS
Groups are of two kinds, primary and secondary these concepts will be analyzed in detail in a later chapter. For our present discussion it is sufficient to note that primary groups are small, intimate, informal groups, such as the clique, or play group, while secondary groups are impersonal, formal, and utilitarian groups, such as a labor union, trade association, church congregation, or student body. Within primary groups, control is informal, spontaneous, and unplanned. The members of the group react to the actions of each member. When a member irritates or annoys the others, they may show their disapproval through ridicule, laughter, criticism, or even ostracism. When a member's behavior is acceptable, a secure and comfortable "belonging" is the usual reward.
Many novelists have used the subplot in which a character violates the norms of the group in some way, is disciplined by group disapproval, and must earn group acceptance through penitence and renewed conformity (like Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt). In most primitive societies, where virtually all groups were primary groups, there was very little serious misconduct. Each person was born into certain kinship groups--for example, a family, a clan, and a tribe. One could not move on to another tribe or clan, for a person divorced from kinship ties had no social existence-that is, no one was obligated to regard and treat him or her as a human being.
One who wanted tu survive "ad to 'get slung with the groups in which one was enmeshed. Since there still privacy and no escape, the penalty of serious nonconformity was an intolerable existence: For example, the polar Eskimo institutionalized ridicule and laughter as a social control. The person who violated cultural norms was mercilessly ridiculed. Lowe describes the use of scorn and ridicule by a number of American Indian peoples:Gossiping sometimes took special forms of ridicule. An Alaskan youth thus reports his experience: "If you do not Millinery within your village, they joke about you-they joke so much that it makes it disagreeable." The Crow sang songs in mockery of a miser, a bully, or a man who should take back a divorced wife-the acme of disgrace.
Certain kinsmen had the privilege of publicly criticizing a man breaches of etiquette and ethics, and there was nothing he would fear more than to be thus pilloried. This system was developed by the Blackfoot along different lines. "For mild persistent misconduct, a method of formal discipline sometimes practiced. When the offender has failed to take hints and suggestions, the head men may take formal notice and .decide to resort to discipline. Some evening when all are in their tips l head man will call out to a neighbor asking if he has observed the conduct of Mr. A. ThiS starts a general conversation between the many tip is, in which all the grotesque and hideous features of Mr. A,'s acts are held up to general ridicule, amid shrieks of laughter, the grilling continuing until far into the night. The mortification of the victim Is extreme and usually drives him into a temporary exile or, as formerly, upon the warpath to do desperate deeds," A primitive man sacrifices half his property lest he be dubbed a miser; he yields his favorite wife if jealousy is against the code; he risks life itself, if that is the way to gain the honor of a public eulogy. That is why villages of the same tribe are not forever cutting one another's throats or ravishing available women, even if they lack written constitutions, jails, a police force, and revealed religion.
A great deal of "leadership" and "authority" rests upon the skillful manipulation of the group as a control device. Successful teachers, for example, 8ften use the class to maintain discipline; they manipulate the situate so that the child who misbehaves will look ridiculous before the class. But if they allow a situation to develop wherein the misbehaving child appears to the class as a hero or this' control is lost.
Normal people everywhere need and seek approval of others, especially of primary group associates upon whom they depend for intimate human response. English workers sometimes punish another worker who has violated group norms by "sending him to Coventry." This means that workers will not speak, answer, or look at the person, and will act as though the other worker weren't there at all. The victim usually either does penance or quits the job. Thousands of novels, dramas, and operas have elaborated this theme. Most people will give almost anything even their lives if necessary, to retain this approval and the comforting feeling of belonging to the group most important to them. It is the overwhelming need for group acceptance and approval that makes the primary group the most powerful controlling agency in the world.