1. Introduction and Summary
0, the difference of man and man!|
---- Shakespeare, King Lear IV.ii
Our mutual fields of expression generate forces bearing upon each other, forces that constitute sociocultural distances reflecting their mutual interests, capabilities, and expectations, their meanings, status, and class. So much has been described.
I have yet to focus directly on the meaning of distance and the concepts of class and status. I will do so in this Part. For, I will submit, crucial to understanding the our interaction in the social field is the socioculture distance between others and ourselves, and particularly in status, power, and class.
At the outset, I should note that the terminology classifying types of distances is in a state of flux. A taxonomy is needed, but no accepted terminology exists. The one comprehensive classification proposed by Willard Poole (1937) years ago has been ignored, I suspect, because of its ambiguous and confusing criteria.
Because the idea of distance is a concept in motion in the social sciences, we have a freedom to systematize the types of distances without creating confusion with entrenched terms. I will use this freedom to develop a classification that reflects the various determinates, functions, and consequences of distances underlying social interaction and that is oriented towards better understanding the social field and conflict.
Another level consists of those distances we as observers construct to explain behavior. Geographic distance between two individuals is such a construct, as are Bogardus' social distance scale (to be discussed later), the idea of cultural distance, and the notion of value distance.
Now, the major difference between subjective and objective distances is not that one is psychological and the other a construct. Both are constructs. The idea of a psychological field, of common components, and of distances within the field on these components are constructs I have imposed upon phenomena. The basic difference is that subjective distances involve an actor's perception or awareness of the other, while objective ones reflect some comparative aspect of individuals, whether they are aware of each other or not, as does the air distance between people in Chicago and Honolulu, or the distance in values between Lebanese and Burmese, irrespective of their knowledge of each other.
Subjective distances are psychological links between the perception or awareness of another and behavior towards him; objective distances are independent variables comprising some aspect of individuals as seen by an observer and proposed to explain their behavior towards each other. The differences between these two levels should become clearer, as I consider different types of distances.
Physical distance is an attractive concept, for which one can find many simple
empirical laws in astronomy and physics. Understandably, therefore, in trying to
find similar laws for human behavior some social scientists have applied distance decay functions,
Clearly, physical distance is an objective distance: it defines a distance relation between individuals regardless of their mutual perception or awareness. Physical distance is usually an intervening variable, quantifying a condition of behavior as in the proposition that transactions between economic centers are a positive function of their joint sizes and an inverse function of their distance, or social interaction is negatively correlated with the distance between individuals.
Physical distance changes its character when psychologically considered when we view it through the perspective of an actor, as something subjective. Then it becomes what I call personal distance, or the perception of physical distance within the psychological field. Consider Figure 16.1, which shows the physical distance between individuals Mary and Jim conversing at a party. This distance is a measurement imposed by an observer on the situation involving these two and assumes some common space with common components, within which they are located. Such is the three dimensional physical space. For observing Mary and Jim, it suffices to deal with just two dimensions, labeled North-South and East-West in Figure 16.1.
Now consider Figure 16.2, which shows Mary's psychological field with two of its components, sex and security. Here, personal distance is shown as a transgeneration of physical distance, as a transformation of the physical components defining physical distance to psychological components defining personal distance. Jim is intimately close (1.5 feet) to Mary and, assuming he is a stranger, his closeness is projected on both her sexual and security psychological components. She may be excited and wary, and this joint effect comprises the personal distance vector.
The subjective distance is no one-to-one transformation of the objective distance. Indeed, as is clear from Figure 16.2, the spaces and components of the two levels may be entirely different. Subjective distances are always projections on psychological components in psychological space. They are always defined by motivations, temperaments, abilities, moods, or states. Objective distances, however, may be defined in any space, such as that of values, science, or culture, and on any component, such as occupational, age, education, intellectual, and wealth components.
Now to return to the specific discussion of personal distance. As noted by Edward T. Hall (1959, 1966),
There is an extension of personal space to what we define as our property or territory. Territoriality is no less an aspect of human life than it is of other mammals. We define what is ours, what property and, particularly, space belong to us. Within this space we feel comfortable, secure. But let a stranger breach this space, let an intruder enter our house or get too close to us, and we are immediately wary, alert, insecure, and perhaps even frightened.
For example, our home constitutes our personal space, a definition of our territory. If it is burglarized while we are away, we feel a deep personal violation, a desecration of our space. We are uncomfortable and insecure, as though under constant threat with nowhere to hide. And if we are burglarized again, we can be driven to extreme measures, such as selling the house and moving into a fortress of an apartment, or turning our home into a dog patrolled, electronically protected retreat.
Thus, personal space defines our boundaries of security-insecurity and of comfort-discomfort with others . Personal space is our territoriality; and personal distance demarcates this territoriality.
Psychological distance is the subjective distance between an actor and another in the actor's psychological space. It partly involves the perceived differences and similarities in motivations, such as needs, sentiments, roles,
Moreover, an aspect of psychological distance is the values associated with the culture matrix and the superego, as well as the self-sentiment goals (self-esteem, self-actualization, self-development) and cognitive belief structures. Psychological distance thus subsumes the political and ideological as well as what is often called intellectual distance.
For subsequent analyses, it will be necessary to focus on three particular subjective elements of psychological distance. One is interest-distance , which reflects the perceived differences and similarities in interests, and thus entails one's perceptions of another's intentions, wants, goals, and means.
Interest-distance is illustrated in Figure 16.3a, which show interests as activated attitudes--vectors with projection on attitudes within the subspace of psychological needs. The two attitudes are shown as coordinates in i's need-space and their activation is indicated by the interest vector for individual i.
Now let i perceive j's interests as shown in Figure 16.3b. The latter's interest can be opposed to, irrelevant to, or complementary to i's. If it is opposed, it will be in an opposing direction as along the promotion-attitude in the figure. If irrelevant, it will be at right angles to i's interest as along the to-be-liked-attitude. If complementary, it would lie in the same direction as i's. The interest-distance vector shown in Figure 16.3c then reflects the overall interests of j relative to i's.
A second subjective element of psychological distance is ideological distance. Among a person's interests are those involving interconnected political and social programs, policies, goals, and means. Wanting to legalize abortion and drugs, redistribute income, desegregate schools, ship food stocks to the world's hungry, control the military, eliminate the CIA, and elect only true liberals constitute a socio-political cluster of interests, an ideology. We perceive other ideologies in terms of our own, as a cluster of interest-distances all impinging on our self-perceived location in attitude subspace.
There is one more distance to consider. The above distances delineate the subjective psychological and motivational differences and similarities between people. Two people, however, may be quite disparate in interests and personalities, have different perspectives, and yet be very close. As opposites sometimes do, they may attract each other, grow to appreciate their differences as adding spice to their relationship. This attraction is not captured by the other psychological distances, and yet it seems psychological. But is it? An answer depends on how we define social versus psychological.
In this book I have restricted the concept psychological to our inner or mental components, forces, and processes. Social then has meant interactions or relations between people involving an orientation towards or taking account of their mutual selves. Of course, all behavior is fundamentally psychological, since all of our activities involve our inner realm, our selves. However, social scientists have found it fruitful to restrict psychological to what is inner oriented, leaving to the sociological domain behavior externally and manifestly oriented towards others. Thus, kissing is usually sociological, as is hugging or striking another. The feelings and sentiments of love, liking, or animosity underlying such behavior, however, are psychological. They are inner emotions, feelings, or dispositions, aspects of our temperament or motivations.
Therefore, the affinity we feel towards another is by itself psychological and yet I have presented no concept for it. Such a concept does exist in the literature. Called "social distance," it is most identified with the sociologist Emory Bogardus, who defined (1925, p. 299) it as "the degrees and grades of understanding and feeling that persons experience regarding each other"
Social distance as Bogardus defined it is an affinity between people, and regardless of the label, it is primarily a subjective psychological distance, as some like Sorokin (1969, p. 362) have alleged.
As I have done with psychological distance, I will classify social distances into basic types encompassing social relationships, which are status, power and class. But first a word about social distance. As part of their fields of expression, all participants in social interaction present a configuration of characteristics identifying their social backgrounds, role dispositions, class, and status. Income, home ownership, educational level and school, neighborhood, occupation, organizational memberships, family, sex, age, race, and so on identify a person's position in social space, his location within the web of social relationships. And the differences and similarities between people are then captured by their objective distance on these characteristics, or by what I call social distance.
Social distance is a force underlying social relationships. To turn this around, relationships reflect distances. Clearly, social distance is the independent variable. Some, however, who also have seen a close connection between the two have made distance dependent. For example, Leopold von Weise says (1932, p. 243):
Social distances are but the most formal and general aspects of social relationships, and social relationships are the results of social processes; social distance may therefore be defined as a condition produced by a social relationship in conjunction with other social relationships. In other words, any specific social distance is a resultant of at least two relationships of differing tendencies, and inasmuch as a social relationship is after all only a relatively stable state of association or dissociation among human beings brought about and maintained by one or more social processes, it is impossible to define the latter in terms of distance: any social process is a sequence of occurrences through which the distance prevailing between human beings, etc., is increased or decreased. The importance of distance as a sociological category thereby becomes apparent; it is the relatively stable equilibrium (of motions of approach and avoidance) produced by the dynamic interplay of social processes, and although the present system lays primary emphasis on social dynamics, it is a category of rank co-ordinate with social process. In distance we have the most abstract aspects of action pattern.|
The difference between us as to which is the dependent variable is a matter of perspective. What is important is the agreement on the close association between social distance and social relationships.
Now I dislike the term social distance, because of its possible confusion with Bogardus' well-known social distance concept. Unfortunately, since no other term so well fits the meaning of this distance, I will use it at the risk of ambiguity or miscommunication. But just to be clear, social distance means here the over-all distance between people in their sociological attributes,
Social distance as a term captures the idea of social differences and similarities between people, and of their relative location in social space. Of primary interest in understanding different kinds of social interaction, however, is the relative locations of people on the components of this space. Accordingly, I should bring out three subtypes of social distance: status, power, and class distances.
The first subtype, status-distance , will be developed in Chapter 17. People are differently located within patterns of deference and domination; each has a position within society's stratification system; each is part of a "pecking order." And where people sit in this order, their total status, is generally a function of their wealth, power, and prestige. Thus, the status-distance between people is their objective differences on these three components.
The second subtype is a subset of status-distance. Of special importance to understanding conflict and war is the configuration and distribution of power among people and their groups, the change in this configuration and distribution, and the role power plays in perception, expectations, and behavior. I will present a thorough discussion of all this in Chapter 20 and Chapter 21. For the moment I will just pose power-distance as one of the three objective sociological distances of concern.
Class-distance is the third subtype of social distance. As will be described in Chapter 24, class is a dichotomous classification of people into those who authoritatively command or rule and those who are commanded or ruled. All individuals are members of organizations and all organizations have some division between those who occupy authoritative role positions and those who do not. This is a class division, I will argue, which confers benefits, rights, and duties and which ultimately separates interests into those supporting and those opposing the status quo.
But people also belong to many organizations, such as a nation, province, city, religion, occupation, and so on. Consequently, individuals may alternatively belong to one class or another, depending on the organization. A mayor may also head a national association of mayors, but be simply a member of his church and of the American Bar Association, and a citizen of the United States. Thus, relative to each other, the class position of two individuals may be reversed depending on the organization. We can therefore define an objective class-distance as the consistency in class relationship. If regardless of the organization one individual is always in the superordinate class relative to some other, then his class-distance is maximal. Later (Section 24.2) I will argue that the larger the aggregate class-distance in society, the more likely is a conflict front traversing society.
Class-distance is clearly objective, a framework an observer imposes on the relations between people. An actor may have no cognition or perception of it. Nonetheless, I will argue, class-distance is correlated with the growth of class interests, with the conflict between the "ins and outs," "them and us," "those who have and those who want." Abstractly, class-distance reflects the objective probability that individuals will be found on the same or opposite sides of the clash between supporters and opponents of the status quo.
As will be discussed later, class and status are not the same. A person of high prestige, such as a gold medal winner in the Olympics, may have no authoritative position of command. Similarly with a famous scientist of much intellectual power, such as Einstein or Fermi. Similarly with a wealthy person whose millions come from oil found under his property. On the other hand, a person holding the highest position of command may find that his status is almost destroyed, as with Nixon in his last months as President. Thus, status and class distances comprise different objective sociological characteristics, although they certainly overlap.
Should not differences on these separate components also comprise distances? Is it not important to also define objective religious-philosophical distance, ethical-legal distance, and so on? Of course. The difference in religion between two people surely helps us understand their social interaction. However, this degree of discrimination in cultural distances is unnecessary at the level I am working. For most of my purposes in describing the sociocultural field and our social interactions and conflict, the concept of cultural distance in conjunction with the previously defined psychological and social distances will suffice.
Overall, I have defined four types of distances and eleven subtypes as shown in Table 16.1. My interest here is not basically classificatory, but in making meaningful distinctions that aid our understanding of our social selves and our interactions. These distinctions will then be worked in subsequent chapters.
One other point should be made. These distances are interrelated and interdependent; they overlap in those different aspects of distances they describe. Social distance subsumes class, status, and power distances, and the latter is subsumed by the status-distance. Our objectively different meanings, values, and norms are clearly reflected in our psychological distances.
Why not, then, classify distances into logically independent and distinct types? Because these different overlapping distances manifest different aspects of the sociocultural field, different actualities, depending on which perspective on behavior we find useful. To separately conceptualize a person as husband and companion is to take different views on his behavior, views that provide important different understanding, but still entail interrelated and overlapping phenomena.
Hence the application of the principles of identity and difference on the
basis of the meanings manifested by material objects, overt actions, and
persons often leads to results radically different from those arrived at on
the basis of their biophysical properties.
---- Sorokin, 1969, p. 50
Distance as a concept can mislead unless we keep in mind three assumptions involved in its use here, assumptions about commonality, behavior, and directionality. Concerning commonality, a distance assumes that there is something common between individuals which can be compared in some quantitative or qualitative fashion. It requires some common attribute along which the difference can be assessed.
Thus, the very application of a distance concept requires a corresponding similarity . For example, to consider the philosophical distance between a Burmese and Frenchman requires that they both have a philosophy; to determine the class-distance between two Australians requires that they have some common group memberships; to assess the language distance between a Lebanese and Syrian assumes that both have a language. We cannot assign a distance when there is no corresponding commonality. Consider evaluating the physical distance between the Catholic church, a nonterritorial religious group existing throughout the world, and Canada, a territorially defined group. A territorial distance between them has no meaning.
It is important to recognize this commonality that underlies distance. For not all differences, but only those along a common dimension, are reflected. If we were to meet an alien being completely different from us, we could not conceptualize any distance between us until we found a commonality (such as having a specific physical location, sharing a similar molecular structure, employing sound waves to communicate, and so on). This in turn shows that distance assumes a common space with common components. Distances cannot reflect differences in unique attributes.
The ten distances suggested here are within a common space, with common cultural components (such as language, religion-philosophy), common social components (e.g., class, wealth), and common psychological components (e.g., sex, self-assertion). And indeed, in previous chapters and in The Dynamic Psychological Field, I have dealt with only common components and spaces.
Through understanding that distances measure diversity in commonality, we should recognize that a distance reflects both similarity and dissimilarity. China and the United States may be different, but we cannot impose a distance relation on that difference until we determine an underlying commonality. The distance will then reflect how similar and dissimilar the two nations are along this commonality, such as a distance in status in the international stratification system.
The second assumption of the distance concept is behavioral. Often it is assumed that the greater the distance, the more antagonism, dislike, hostility, and conflict; the less the distance, the more solidarity, cooperation, affinity, and so on. Likes attract and unlikes repel. I will deal with this question in detail in Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective, but here I want to emphasize that distance is behaviorally an empty concept. Later I will argue that certain distances (such as in wealth) lead to particular behavior. But for the moment, the general idea of distance implies neither cooperation nor conflict, neither solidarity nor antagonism.
Finally, my distance concept assumes directionality. In virtually all the social science literature employing distance, it is assumed to measure only the magnitude or degree of similarity and dissimilarity between two people on some commonality. Distance is then a number, a scalar, as in the between-city, mileage-distance tables in travel atlases. However, there is another aspect to distance, which is not only the distance-magnitude but its direction along the common dimension or in the common space that is involved.
For example, let the wealth of Bob, Jim, and John be $30,000, $20,000, and $10,000 respectively. Now, the magnitude of the wealth distance between Bob and Jim, Jim and John would be $10,000. That is, Jim is equally distant in magnitude from the others. However, the direction here is also important. For understanding Jim's behavior it is significant whether Bob and John were richer or poorer than he is. Thus, if we took direction into account we would find that the distance between Jim and Bob is for Jim -$10,000 and for John +$10,000. The signs then show whether the magnitude is greater or less than Jim's.
Another example is power. Without going into detail, it is important for explaining behavior to know not only how powerful an actor is relative to another, but also whether he is stronger or weaker than the other.
Such examples seem trite, when written down. But it is extraordinary that trivial though the point may seem, social scientists have concerned themselves with only distance magnitude.
Since both the magnitude and direction of distance are significant to social behavior, I conceive of distance as a vector . A vector is precisely defined by both these characteristics; its orientation in space and its arrowhead indicate the direction of the distance such as in Figure 16.2, and its length measures the distance magnitude.
Distance is a dynamic part of the social field--a force with power (magnitude) and direction of movement. Distance as a scalar magnitude could not carry this interpretation. Only distance as a vector in sociocultural space can.
And as a force, the sociocultural distance vector is simply a composite of the social and cultural distance vectors.
* Scanned from Chapter 16 in R.J. Rummel, The Conflict Helix, 1976. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.P2)/D2, where B is some kind of behavior, such as communication, P1 is the population of the sender location, P2 the population of receiver, and D is the physical distance between them.
1. Poole systematized distances in the following way:
- (1) The personal distances
- (a) Subjective--the individual's conception of his relation to another.
- (b) Objective--individual differences in ideas, ideals, philosophies of fife, etc.
- (c) Forms of socialization--the overt pattern of interaction.
- (2) The social distances
- (a) Subjective--a group's conception of its relation to an out-group. Some phases we call race prejudice.
- (b) Objective--cultural differences between the in-group and out-group.
- (c) Forms of socialization--norms of social distance and their expression in society.
2. My use of this concept is close to Poole's (1937) "Subjective Personal Distance." About this distance, he says the following (p. 100): "Regarding individuals apart from their positions as members of various groups (we can do this for practical purposes), the relation between any two can be spoken of as their personal distance. What is their relationship; what is the nature of this distance? There is, first of all, their own idea of the relation, the relationship as it exists for them, a matter quite apart from the relationship in itself, as it would appear to an observer who knew each individual thoroughly, despite the fact that no such observer can exist. Of these two relationships, the one held by the interacting parties and the one that might prevail if either knew the other better, only the first is of importance for immediate social interaction. What you think another to be determines your treatment of him. We will call this distance 'subjective,' for it is an idea in your head. Its objective reality is unknown, but you treat your idea as if it were the true distance."
3. See, for example, Morrill and Pitts (1967).
4. For a comparison of studies using distance-mass functions, see David L. Huff (1965). A typical distance-mass function is B = (P1
5. Hall also uses the concept of personal distance, with meaning similar to mine.
6. Remember that roles in psychological space are clusters of attitudes sharing the same goals and activated in the same situation.
7. The most direct measure of relative interests between any i and j would be the cosine between their interest vectors. It would be negative if interests tend to oppose, zero if they tend to be irrelevant, and positive if they tend to be complementary, and the size of the cosine would measure the degree of perceived opposition, irrelevance, and complementarity. However, here I am dealing with i's interests alone. The actor i is fixed in space and only the perceived others vary. The variation in interest-distance vectors across all others is then a linear function of their location in this interest subspace. Thus i sees others' interests relative to his own. They are distance vectors with magnitude and orientation in terms of i's own interests.
8. See also Bogardus (1933, p. 268).
9. Incidentally, Sorokin's whole Chapter 7 (1969), "The Roles of Similarity and Dissimilarity in Social Solidarity and Antagonism," is worth careful study.
10. Compare with Wright (1942, p. 1442): "Social distance is the relation of social entities to others measuring the degree of their contact or isolation."
11. Then why not use "attribute distance" as the appropriate term? Because there are a multitude of nonsociological attributes, such as cranial size, length of feet, use of false teeth, average hours of sleep, and so on. Such a definition implies a distance on all such attributes, as well as those of sociological significance. Distance measures similarity, and some actually do define the sociological relevant similarity and dissimilarity as across all attributes. See, for example, Davis (1966), who argues that the greater the similarity across all attributes, the greater the mechanical solidarity , in Durkheim's terms (p. 80).
12. This may seem another point at which philosophical analysis outruns scientific methodology. But techniques are available for quantitatively defining these common components and spaces and the appropriate distances within them. See Rummel (1970, Section 5.2 and 22.1) and Chapter 33.
13. The distance-direction is arbitrary. Let i be the actor's wealth and j be the object's, then the distance could be computed as i minus j or j minus i. By convention, I compute the distance as actor minus object, so that the distance vector is pointing towards the actor (i.e., it is a power bearing upon the actor).
14. An indicator of this one-sided view of distance is the development and popularity of smallest space analysis (alternatively called multidimensional scaling or nonlinear factor analysis), which are techniques based on distance magnitudes (see Rummel, 1970, Section 22.3). Sorokin (1969, P. 362) also saw social distance as simply a magnitude: "This conception of sociocultural space contains in itself a definite conception of such derivative notions as 'social distance.' Sociologically, two or more sociocultural phenomena are near to one another if they occupy the same or an adjacent position in the vector system of the sociocultural space; and they are distant from one another if their position in the vector system is different . "