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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
12. The Transition to a Sociocultural Field
13. The Sociocultural Space
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 14

The Field
Social Forces*

By R.J. Rummel

Social force. Any effective urge or impulse that leads to social action. Specifically, a social force is a consensus on the part of a sufficient number of the members of society to bring about social action or social change of some sort. In the plural, the social forces are the typical basic drives, or motives, which lead to the fundamental types of association and group relationship.
---- Fairchild, 1970


The sociocultural space defines a field of interacting individuals and the relationships between their fields of expression. Are there forces at work here? Is this, in fact, a dynamic or equilibrium field? The answer is that it is a dynamic field within which the mutual perceptions and behavior of individuals are a balance of vector powers or forces.

One set of forces are the powers toward manifestation mutually exerted on each other by the fields of expression. A field of expression--an individual--is a region of energy and forces to another; it is an aspect of reality striving to be determinate, specific, within a percipient's perspective. In the sociocultural field these forces are then the fields of expression transformed to the mode of power.

For example, when we converse, the other person's words, gesticulations, posture, facial expressions, eyes, and so on constitute determinables and dispositions bearing upon us with various powers to be manifest. If he is charismatic and exciting his field of expression will command considerable power over our perception; if he is a bore we will have to exercise conscious force to maintain perceptual contact.

Figure 14.1

Since these powers toward manifestation bear in the same direction (towards another field), I can treat them all as one vector of power pointed in the direction of the other field and with a magnitude equalling the amount of power the field has to be manifest,1 as illustrated in Figure 14.1 for two persons i and j. For simplicity only two common components of the common sociocultural space, two fields of expression associated with individuals i and j, and only j's vector of power are shown. The location of each field in this two-dimensional space is a function of the relative wealth and philosophical-religious meanings these fields manifest.2 These relative positions thus measure the underlying intentions, values, and potency mutually manifest in these fields. This is not to say that their spatial position defines their actual intentions, values, and potency, but only that which each perceives. The actual intentions of a person is a subjective affair which we can never really know but only infer from his field of expression.

The direction of j's vector of power is toward i in Figure 14.1, since i is the percipient. Holding constant the perceived occasion, which can inflate or dampen components of the vector of power,3 the length of this vector indicates the power toward manifestation of the other's field. That is, the greater the differences from us in wealth and philosophy-religion, the more these differences are forced upon our perception. Considering the sociocultural space as a whole, our attention tends to be drawn to the foreigner, the flamboyantly dressed person, a well-known athlete, a reputed gangster, and so on. The more others differ from ourselves, the more their social reality impacts on our perception.

Thus, distance in sociocultural space is not analogous to distance in physical space. In the latter, gravity, magnetism, and other forces become attenuated with distance, as for example in the law that the force of attraction between two physical bodies is the product of their masses divided by their squared distance. In sociocultural space, distances between individual fields measure their manifest differences in intentions, values, and potency. And the distance from individual i to j may not be the same as from j to i.4

Since this vector of power towards manifestation in sociocultural space is a distance, I will henceforth use the term sociocultural distance vector, or just distance if I can do so without ambiguity, to refer to this power. Later I will discuss this in more detail, since the idea of social distance has played a useful role in sociological thought.


As pointed out previously, reality's power to be manifest is confronted by our own perspective transformation of reality. That is, we confront reality with our own vector of transformation. However, this perspective is no constant, but a partial function of the particular occasion. For example, our perspective on our spouses will vary as we are in bed together, listening to a concert, eating with our children, or faced with danger.

Figure 14.2

An occasion, therefore, is very much a part of the sociocultural space. It is relative to individual fields of expression and has sociocultural location in terms of its meaning, value, and norm, class and status relevance.

Figure 14.2 shows an occasion in a common sociocultural space of two individual fields. The vector from i to occasion is that of perspective transformation from i. This confronts the distance vector (vector of power) "from j. Thus, i's actual perception of j is the balance between--the product of--the perspctive and distance vectors.

To be more specific about this relationship, let us take a closer look at the occasion. This itself is a complex field of expression, a mosaic of manifestations, dispositions, and so on. We intuit an occasion through the relevant patterns involved by factoring it into meaningful components. Thus, an occasion may manifest both religious and aesthetic meanings and values, or be relevant to our prestige.

Now, the occasion as part of the sociocultural space is thus defined on all the spatial components, even. if some have no relevance (in the same way a one-dimensional line or two-dimensional piece of paper can be located in the three-dimensional space of a room). Similarly, then, the perspective vector from i to the occasion will be defined on all the components, as will be the distance vector.

The product of the perspective and distance vectors is then the weighting of each component of the sociocultural distance vector by the corresponding component of the perspective. That is, the manifest aspects of another relevant to our wealth and philosophy-religion will be weighted by those parts of an occasion associated with these components for us.

An equation may help clarify this weighting. Let Pi stand for i's perception, d for a component (such as wealth or philosophy-religion) of the distance vector between i and j, and alpha () for the component of the perspective vector from i to the occasion. Then, for Figure 14.2,

Equation 14.1:

Pi = 1d1 + 2d2,

where the first subscript stands for the philosophy-religion component and the second for wealth.4a

Clearly, alpha can be plus or minus. This is to say that our perspective on an occasion can inflate, depress, or reverse the power towards manifestation of another. For example, we may perceive someone similar to us in physical size more readily than someone smaller if the occasion suggests that the other threatens us. Thus, even though the vector of power to be manifest is quite weak, the occasion may magnify it for us; even if the vector is quite strong, the occasion may eliminate it (we may not hear a scream for help if we ourselves are fighting for our lives).


Sociocultural distance and perspective are only one side of the social coin; the other side involves social interaction with its underlying behavioral dispositions and expectations. The same space defining two fields of expression relative to each other also locates their social interaction. Let us take a closer look at this interaction.

Figure 14.3

As a consequence of another's manifest sociocultural distance from us and our own personality, needs, roles, sentiments, attitudes, interests, and so on, we are disposed to behave towards another in a particular fashion. In terms of i and j, i has a disposition to behave towards j as exemplified in Figure 14.3 by the vector Wij. The vector is the behavioral disposition of i towards j (thus the symbol ij) in the interaction space defined by the familistic and contractual components; it is the tendency of i's behavior to be familistic and contractual. The field of expression of i is at the origin of the space, since the behavior disposition vector originated with i.5

Our behavioral disposition is weighted, however, by the occasion. The other may ask us a question, shake his fist, look sad, or whatever. This occasion, however, itself is part of the behavioral space as shown in Figure 14.4, for it generates our expectation about the corresponding outcome or consequences of our behavior; its location in the space delineates the nature of this behavioral outcome appropriate to the occasion. These expectations are described by the vector beta from the occasion to i's field.

Figure 14.4

To be clear, this expectation vector is a power to manifest in i's perspective a particular expected behavioral outcome regarding the specific occasion. We not only act towards others as we are disposed by our view of them and our personality, but we also act towards them on the basis of what we think will happen on a particular occasion as a result of our behavior.

Dispositions and expected outcomes mutually underlie our actual behavior. No matter how familistically disposed towards another, we are hardly inclined to act solidarily if we expect a slap in the face. On the other hand, even if the occasion calls for close cooperative effort we are disinclined to aid our enemy unless the occasion is one directly threatening our security, as in an earthquake or foreign invasion.

Occasions such as club meetings, interviews, family picnics, class reunions, lectures, and introductions form patterns of behavioral tendencies. They generate an expectation vector which itself is a power towards manifesting specific expectations in i's psychological field. Thus, being in a girl's apartment after a date is an occasion with much power to manifest certain expectations.

Thus, this vector of power (expectations) shown as beta () in Figure 14.4, is itself confronted by i's perspective on reality. And this perspective is the behavioral disposition of i towards j, since this disposition involves i's personality and perception of j.6 Behavior is then the product of dispositions and expectations.

Specifically, as illustrated in Figure 14.4, the location of the occasion vector in behavior space defines the expected outcome, in this case, what combination of contractual and familistic behavior can be anticipated. Therefore, the relationship between expectations and dispositions can be put in equation form. If B ij stands for i's actual behavior towards j, then

Equation 14.2:

Bij = 1W1 + 2W2,

where the first subscript refers to the familistic component, the second to the contractual, and w is the corresponding disposition of i towards j.


* Scanned from Chapter 14 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. "I suspect now that a reader who has his footings in the older natural science and the older philosophy and psychology will make indignant protest to the effect that while the talk is about space and geometry the illustrations are all drawn from 'activity,' which he takes to be a category of wholly different nature. The immediate response to such criticism is 'Consider the vector... (Bentley, 1954, p. 97).

2. Inevitably some readers will raise measurement questions at this point. In Part IX of this book (Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix), I will deal with the mathematical structure, operationalization, and empirical testing of this framework at the level of state-societies. To give the interested reader a handle on this, however, can imagine that these components are latent vectors defined by a common factor analysis of indicators of individual wealth, such as income and size and location of home; and of measures of religion and philosophy, such as religious affiliation, number of times attended church per year, view of abortion, and so on. (On factor analysis, see "Understanding Factor Analysis")

Measurement of such qualitative distinctions is possible, and on that basis a space such as the one I am describing can be empirically delineated. See Rummel (1970, Section 9.1.3).

3. For example, another's manifestation of sexual interest in us can go without notice when we are suffering from a toothache and on our way to the dentist. On the other hand, if the occasion is a party after we have had a few drinks, the slightest hint of interest may be magnified in our perspective.

4. "The relativity of status and distance concepts are, in the second place, frequently overlooked in connection with the undoubted facts that the distance of group A to group B may be different from the distance of group B to group A as estimated by each, respectively, or as measured by different scales" (Lundberg, 1939, p. 315).

4a. Equation 14.1 and the following Equation 14.2 are meant to be conceptual--to aid in understanding the structure of field-dependent behavior. Since many technical complexities are omitted for simplicity and conceptual clarity, these are not operational equations to be used for calculation and prediction. For the operation equations, see Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace, Chapters 5-9, particularly Section 8.2.

5. This means that distances, perspectives, expectations, and occasion are relative to the actor i insofar as his social behavior is concerned. "As gravity is always relative to the center of some mass in relation to other factors (e.g., distance) so sociation, association, and dissociation are always relative to some group and its social distance (or other relation) to other individuals or groups. Both terms fundamentally denote measurement toward or away from a position. That position, i.e., the position of a societal movement, we call sociation as association or dissociation according to the direction of the movement toward or away from any status-point we choose to select. 'Toward' and 'away from' are of course purely linguistic conventions in terms of which we agree to designate behaviors in opposite directions from any chosen point. In sociology the 'position' and 'direction' always refers to social rather than geographic space" (Lundberg, 1939, p. 263).

6. Therefore, in Figure 14.2 the vector is from i to the occasion, since i is bringing his perspective to bear on the occasion. This perspective transformation of the occasion then constitutes i's behavioral disposition towards j, which is Wi j in Figure 14.3. However, we not only transform an occasion through our perspective into behavioral dispositions, but the occasion itself strives to manifest certain expectations within i. Thus, in Figure 14.3 the vector of expectations is from the occasion to i.

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

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