HomePersonalDemocratic PeaceDemocide20th C. DemocideMegamurderersLesser MurderersWhy DemocideDimensionsConflictMethodsTheoryPolicyLinks

Volume 2

Expanded Contents


1. Introduction and Summary
2. The Concept of Field
3. Reality and the Intentional Field
4. Freedom and Intentional Humanism
5. Perceiving Another
6. Intentions, Attitudes, and Interests
7. Perceiving and Behaving
8. Behavior
9. Social Behavior and Interaction
10. Types of Social Interaction
11. The Equation of Social Behavior
13. The Sociocultural Space
14. The Field of Social Forces
15. The Sociocultural Field
16. Distances
17. Status Distance
18. Status Distance and Behavior
19. The Fundamental Nature of Power
20. Social Power
21. The Family of Power
22. Social Fields and Antifields
23. Groups and Antifields
24. Class
25. Social Class And the Class-Literature
26. Conflict
27. Conflict in the Sociocultural Field
28. The Elements of Social Conflict
29. The Process of Conflict
30. Social Fields and Types of Societies
31. The State and Political System
32. Societies, Politics, and Conflict
33. Societies in Empirical Perspective
34. Testing for the Existence of Exchange, Authoritative, and Coercive Societies
35. Is Conflict Manifest as Theorized?

Other Volumes

Vol. 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace

Other Related Work

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 12

The Transition To
A Sociocultural Field*

By R.J. Rummel

What we call "transaction," and what we wish to show as appearing more and more prominently in the recent growth of physics, is, therefore, in technical expression, neither to be understood as if it "existed" apart from any observation, nor as if it were a manner of observing "existing in a man's head" in presumed independence of what is observed. The "transaction" as an object among and along with other objects, is to be understood as unfractured observation--just as it stands, at this era of the world's history, with respect to the observer, the observing, and the observed--and as it is affected by whatever merits or defects it may prove to have when it is judged, as it surely will be in later times, by later manners.
---- Dewey and Bentley, 1949

The perspective on social behavior and the psychological field discussed in previous chapters require some clarification and a number of aspects should be made explicit. First, what one perceives of another is within a field of psychological forces, subject to unconscious distortion and evaluative weighting. However, this perception is not completely arbitrary, since it is a dialectical balance between external powers and one's perspective. An external reality bearing on us with great strength, such as an explosion, a crying baby, or a gun pointed at us, will force the balance towards correct perception.

Second, this picture incorporates social roles in two ways. One, internalized roles are part of our motivational structure. They comprise attitudes sharing common goals activated in similar situations and which constitute reasons for our social practices. Our perception of another partly relates the other to these roles and, given the proper occasion, will trip the customary role disposition. Two, our expectations about the outcome of our behavior towards another are included in our perception of the other's role. Thus, our behavioral disposition is partly a role disposition, and its eventuation in actual behavior partly depends on our perception of the other's role.

Third, culture is very much a part of this picture. Our perception is given interpretation and orientation through our cultural matrix: how one sees another and defines an occasion for behavior, and what expectations one has of another, are endowed with cultural meanings, values, and norms. Through the cultural matrix, our psychological field and our behavior towards another are part of a causal-functional cultural whole.

Fourth, the twin and crucial concepts of distance and power are an integral part of this perspective. In the literature social distance has played an important role in understanding behavior and conflict, and the emphasis on both social and political power needs no elaboration. Here both distance and power are included at the fundamental psychological level as an integral part of our perception and social behavior.

And fifth, the dynamic psychological field constitutes the process, structure, and gestalt that is our selves. Each self is a different field and although each confronts the other, although perspectives battle, perceptions overlap, and cultural matrices are shared, the fields remain distinct, each its own person. And this will be the only field of humankind, so long as we view reality and behavior from the perspective of the actor.

But we are also observers. Not only part of the drama of life, we are also spectators trying to understand it, to intuit its moral, and guide our life by it. As observers, whether social scientist, humanist, or writer, we bring a different perspective to bear. We try to encapsulate others in a common framework, to provide a more general unity to individual social interactions, to see humanity as a whole. At this aggregate level we can see then the structures, forces, and processes that commonly affect and engage us all, that form patterns in our society, culture, and history. And through this observer's perspective on humanity, we gain better comprehension of our own perspective and social interactions.

The transition from the dynamic psychological field is then a perspective transformation from an individually centered perspective from within ourselves as actors to that of an observer of human behavior in general. This is not to lose the dynamic psychological view, however, but to pluralize it, to see it in a multiple interactive context.

But, then, is there a sociocultural field combining the individual dynamic fields? Or is it an observer's arbitrary framework? A model of social reality? Is the only reality the individual and thus his field? Again, I must refer to my view of reality as a complex of multiple and entwined potentialities, dispositions, determinables, and powers. This reality is actualizable and exists in many forms and diverse manifestations. Which aspect we actualize is a function of our perspective.

As we try to understand our social interactions, we bring our self-centered viewpoint to bear and transform reality through but one perspective. As we try to observe people in general, however, to understand the structure and patterns underlying social interactions between individuals, we then are seeing the same reality through a different perspective. Both the actor's and observer's perspectives constitute the same reality, both can be simultaneously true. 


* Scanned from Chapter 12 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.

1 . "Transaction. This term, placed by Dewey and Bentley in the center of their inquiry into Knowing and the Known . . ., seems to me one of the most unfortunate, least suggestive, and most misleading names ever given a needed concept. The prefix 'trans' is here understood not in the sense of 'beyond' but of 'across, from side to side.' Transaction is to refer to organisms and their environments as observed in integration with, and within, their integrated fields (i.e., in 'transaction,' which term D. and B. prefer to field), not in separation or isolation, not as things acting under their own power ('self-acting'), nor as balanced against other things in causal relations (Inter-action'), but in such a way that none of the constituents of a fact can be adequately specified apart from the specification of other constituents of the full subject-matter" (Brecht, 1959, p. 512).

For citations see the Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix REFERENCES

Go to top of document