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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
11. The Equation of Social Behavior
12. The Transition to a Sociocultural Field
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 10

Types 0f Social Interaction*

By R.J. Rummel

Infinite love whose latence is the plenitude of all.
---- Coleridge, Destiny Nations iii


Social interactions are complex in their manifestations and interrelationships. These interactions can involve smiling, talking, or winking; threatening, fighting, or debating; and negotiating, discussing, or litigating. The interactions can be overt or covert, active or passive, brief or long-lived. They can be organized, unorganized, or disorganized, direct or indirect, shallow or intense, narrow or universal. And so on. There is clearly a diversity of characterizations, processes, forms, types, and the like. How can we make sense out of this complex?

At this point, I should introduce an ontological distinction of much use in understanding and dealing with such extensive but interrelated variety. The distinction is between manifestations and latents. I have argued that reality is an arena of multifold and interwoven potentialities, and an actuality of dispositions, determinables, and powers; and that these powers bear upon a percipient forcing a perspectival transformation of reality's dispositions and determinables into specific and determinate objects and events. The important distinction at the moment is that between what is distinct, specific, and determinate, and the underlying potentialities, dispositions, determinables, and powers. The former I will call manifestations; the latter, latents.

Manifest social interactions are the specific behaviors we perceive. A person throws a ball; another catches it; a third yells "Throw it to me." We see these interactions as specific behaviors: a person's arm moving, a ball flying through the air, another with his hands outstretched, and so on. Yet, these discrete behaviors are unified by an underlying and interrelated complex of potentialities, dispositions, determinables, and powers, by an underlying causal-functional-meaningful system of relationships. Manifest to our perception are the specifics of a ball being tossed back and forth, but also making sense of this interaction we perceive the latent, the-game-of-volleyball. That is, volleyball is the meaning latent in the specific behaviors we perceive; is the latent giving causal and functional unity to these manifestations; and is a complex of dispositions and determinables which we have perceptually transformed into these manifestations.

In the context of the social meaning of behavior, I have already defined certain latents. Latent in another's manifest behavior are his intentions, which unify diverse and specific actions; his reasons, which explain and provide understanding; and the causes which have produced certain manifestations. Intentions, reasons, and causes are latents. Moreover, that which defines manifest behaviors or interactions as social is a latent, an underlying orientation towards another self.


We perceptually and cognitively organize reality within a framework of regularities, patterns, constancies, and invariances. We give to the world and perceive an order that enables us to understand and predict and to plan and control our future. That which delineates this order are the latents common to the manifestations we perceive. Common to a variety of American foreign policy actions widely separated in time and place is an underlying policy (act) to contain Soviet Communism; common to the many different specific aspects of national governments is liberal democracy; common to specific social interactions is a shared orientation to another self; and common to the manifest physical locations of objects is a four-dimensional space-time.

Of course these common latents are within the perspective of the percipient; they are a part of the transformation of external potentialities, dispositions, and determinables into specific, determinant, manifest things, objects, events, and so on. Potentialities and actualities combine, intersect, and overlap in a complex multifold, but nonetheless certain ones are common to different aspects of reality. No matter how people differ, they also share common potentials and dispositions, such as aging, hunger, and sleep; different sheets of blank paper similarly share a potentiality of lines, plane shapes, and written words; and many materials share a common disposition to burn.

The complex of potentialities, dispositions, determinants, and powers which underlie our manifest reality are entwined and interwoven. Within our perspective this complex of relationships is transformed into the manifest data, phenomena, facts, and so on of our existence. As potentialities, dispositions, determinables, and powers, latents are enmeshed in this complexity, combining in multitudinous ways beneath the distinct surface of their manifestations. Thus, the action of a governor signing a tax bill reflects complicated interrelationships between his aim to be re-elected, the union's pressure towards increased state revenue to pay for higher civil service salaries, the anti-tax lobbying of business and citizen groups, an ideology calling for support of more public services, Republican Party opposition, and so on. Thus, the understanding of a specific chess move is an intricate function of the potentialities of the chess board, the determinable configuration of the various pieces, the possible moves of each piece, the power of the various dispositions inherent in the opponent's moves to be manifest to us, the field of expressions projected by him, and so on. All these are latent within any chess move.

The combination, the relationships, the connections between latents--between potentialities, dispositions, determinables, and powers--are known intuitively only by their empirical patterns. We perceive and cognize clusters of latent relationships. We simplify this underlying complex and give it perceptual and rational order through latent functions. And we then see the manifestations of our world as dependent upon or explained by these functions.

A latent function is an organization we impose upon latents to provide order and understanding to them. It is a function in the sense that each of the latents so patterned is perceived as though dependent on this organization.1 For example, the latents underlying the diverse manifestations of the human body, such as head size, height, weight, and arm length, are perceptually organized into two main latents functions: fat versus thin and tall versus short. Head size, height, weight, and so on are then perceived as functions of how fat and tall a person is.

As another example, all the complex latents generating the manifest location of a geographic place are organized by two latent functions: north versus south and east versus west. Similarly, the complexity of physical positions and motion is ordered by three latent functions--the three Euclidean dimensions--of our local physical space. And likewise, the complicated field of social behavior within a family is encompassed in terms of certain latent functions called roles: that of father, mother, wife, husband, and child.


To provide more intellectual purchase on this concept of latent function,2 let me tie it into the notion of a space. The concept of space for many unfortunately has become connected to physical objects. Thus, we talk about the space within a room, the space between earth and the moon, our exploration of space, and so on. The term connotes some kind of physical extension, separation, area, or volume. There is, however, a more general meaning. Space can be considered a domain of certain potentialities, dispositions, determinables, and powers, such as an arena within which these intersecting latents form patterns and clusters.3 We can thus perceive a psychological space, a sociocultural space, a space of meanings, or of language, a behavioral space.

Space, as a particular complex of relationships, must be bounded; it must have dimensions or components which span and order these relationships. The space of a sheet of paper which is the domain of potential lines, pictures, and so on is spanned by two components: it is two-dimensional. No matter which potentials are transformed into manifestations--a circle, a cube, the written word, dog--these manifestations are a function of these two components.

Similarly, our many physical manifestations form a physiological space within which the variety of underlying physical relationships are a function of our height and girth. And the political space comprising the many latents and manifestations of national governments are spanned by components we call liberal (or Western pluralistic) democracy, communist totalitarianism, and monarchy. Finally, the space of our social status characteristics and behavior is defined by components of wealth, power, and prestige.

So far I have said this. First, reality is a complex of latents underlying its manifestations. Second, we give simplicity, order, and predictability to this manifest reality by perceiving the underlying interwoven latents as latent functions. Third, a particular reality of manifestations and latents and their complex relationships form a space. And fourth, such a space is bounded, spanned, and generated by certain components. The connection between space and latent functions can now be made. The latent functions are the components of a space of manifestations and interrelated latents.

One example may suffice. Consider the multitude of overt behaviors reflecting conflict within national societies, such as attacking public buildings, refusing en mass to work, sniping at police, ambushing army units, surrounding the president's residence with tanks, assassinating government officials, gathering to protest government policies, and killing. Such manifestations reflect underlying dispositions and determinables--latents--we call riots, demonstrations, general strikes, purges, coup d'états, revolutions, guerrilla warfare, and so on. These latents are the conceptual-perceptual organization of such specifics, as a thrown bomb, crowd of screaming citizens, ambush, and the like; they unify and order the diverse manifestations.

However, these manifestations (a particular death, a specific tank, a red flag being waved) and their underlying latents (riot, mutiny, revolution) form complex relationships within national societies. Often there is not just a riot or assassination or bombing. All these latents may mutually influence or retard each other; they may be elements in some rebel's grand plan or simply mutually reinforcing causal events. However, they may be also quite independent, reflecting different lines of social tension.

Whether these manifestations and latents are acts or actions, interdependent or independent, they form a space delineated by three separate latent functions: turmoil, revolution, and guerrilla war.4 These functions are independent clusters of latents and manifestations common to national societies. They are patterns underlying overt conflict behavior, which make sense out of this reality and order its confusing complexity. They are the components of this space.
Figure 10.1

As components, turmoil, revolution, and guerrilla war define the location of particular national societies within this space. The location of a society depends on the manifestation of rioting, demonstrations, purges, and other kinds of overt conflict. For simplicity, let Figure 10.1 illustrate the two-dimensional conflict space for 1955-1957, defined by just the two components (latent functions), turmoil and guerrilla war.5 Within this space seven specific national societies are given their manifest location. India is in the lower right quadrant, meaning that the multifold variety of societal conflict in India includes much turmoil but near average guerrilla war, whereas Cuba (in 1955-1957) had much guerrilla war and turmoil combined. And so on.

In sum, manifestations and latents comprise a space in which all the interrelationships have underlying them latent functions which are the components of this space.


With the above groundwork, my concern is now to encompass the complicated, interwoven, multifold acts, actions, and practices that comprise social interaction--the latent functions of social behavior.

Many such functions have been proposed in the literature. Conflict, competition, accommodation, and assimilation; class struggle, cooperation, war, conflict, and liberation; accommodation, cooperation, competition, conflict, coercion, and neutrality. These are suggested components--latent functions--of social interactions that have appeared in one sociological text or another. Among the best known and most applied classifications of social interaction into their major patterns are those of von Weise (associate versus disassociative), Tönnies (Gemeinschaft versus Gesellschaft), Durkheirn (mechanical solidarity versus organic), and MacIver (community versus association). Given the perspective I am developing here, however, these classifications are defective. Some do not encompass the many varied forms of social interaction, such as antagonism; some do not provide the underlying dimensions that determine the classifications; some confuse acts, actions, and practices. One classification, however, best captures the many meanings and manifestations of social interactions, and untangles them into a concise and useful set of components. This is Sorokin's, and I will selectively build on it in the remainder of this chapter.6

Social interaction presents us with varied manifestations and latents. We conceptualize these as aid, promise, and adjust; transact, contract, and reward, bargain, negotiate, and contest; disagree, struggle, fight, sanction, brawl, clash, combat, battle, and war; threaten, compel, deter, defend, dispute, and protest; exchange, communicate, demonstrate, test, and reciprocate; and so on. With a dictionary of synonyms, such a list could be expanded many pages. We could transform the fist directly into specific manifestations, such as kill, touch, and kiss, or into more general latents, such as conflict, cooperate, and federate. Regardless of how we expand this fist, we would find that all social interaction may be characterized by their meaning, direction, intensity, extension, duration, and organization.

The meaning of social interaction involves understanding such behavior as act, action, or practice. This I have already discussed (Section 8.2 of Chapter 8).

The direction of interaction concerns the degree to which such behavior involves common goals and compatible actions and values. More specificity can be given the direction of interaction in terms of our categories of meaning. Direction depends on whether people orient their acts towards each other's selves, and whether the acts involve common intentions and the desire or aim of helping each other achieve that intention.

Social interaction does not necessarily comprise acts, or actions for that matter. It may be entirely at the level of practice. For example, two people may shake hands at a party, mumble some customary words, and then each search out his different group. Or the interaction may comprise mutual actions for which the associated acts are not oriented towards the parties involved, such as that between sales clerk and shopper. Their actions are mutually oriented at the moment a sale is being made, but the buyer's aim may be to buy a present for his son, while the clerk's actions may be directed towards a sales volume that will win him a promotion.

Two opposing directions of interaction can be defined: solidary and antagonistic. The first involves acts of similar intentions and a mutual orientation of the parties towards helping each other achieve these intentions. Examples of this are friends helping each other pass an examination, parents mutually cooperating to bring up their children, high school volunteers cleaning a park together, a team of scientists trying to discover a cure for cancer, a doctor and overweight patient both working towards the patient losing weight, a lawyer and client both trying to right an injustice done, and so on.

On the other hand, while acts may be mutually oriented the parties may intend to hinder each other from achieving their purpose. This I call antagonistic interaction. Examples are two people competing for promotion to the same position, generals fighting for the same territory, or labor and management struggling for the distribution of the same profits. The interaction between a prisoner and his guard, a mugger and victim, and master and slave are also examples.

Note that antagonistic interaction does not imply that intentions are all divergent. The parties share a mutual orientation towards each other, and they may share a common desire. They have the same aims (a promotion, possession, achievement, and so on) which, however, they do not want to, or cannot, have together. The antagonistic interaction is characterized by this main element: a perception of incompatible purposes and the belief that the achievement of one's own aim entails frustrating the others.

Between solidary and antagonistic is . mixed interaction, which is partly antagonistic, partly solidary. The mutual acts may be solidary--intending to cooperatively achieve a common intent--but their actions may be actually antagonistic. Competitors in a school athletic program may see these actions as designed to strengthen school esprit. Doctor and patient may both have the patient's health uppermost in mind, but the patient's actions may be antagonistic, as when he refuses to stay in bed as ordered. Politicians may intend to fight inflation together, but the separate bills they promote may be incompatible.

On the other hand, the acts may be antagonistic while the actions are solidary. Two nations fighting a limited war while mutually preserving sanctuaries or fire-free zones is an example. Another is parents arguing while keeping their voices down so as to not wake up their children; or a president and a supreme court diverging on the limits of the president's powers while carefully maintaining the integrity of the constitutional process.

Moreover, the practices involved in interaction may be quite inconsistent with the parties' intentions and actions, whether solidary or antagonistic. A person's morality may defeat either goals and actions. The belief that under no circumstances should one kill another is inconsistent with mutual national defense against foreign attack. A mutual desire among children to smoke together secretly may be defeated by the inability of one of them to lie to his father. The actions of competition for a girl's love may be channeled by strong courtship norms. Or chess players may follow the rules no matter what the stake. Clearly, then, when actions and practices are basically consistent with the direction of the associated acts, then the interaction is mixed.

Besides meanings and direction, social interactions are also characterized by intensity. Deeply felt, strongly motivated intentions can be involved, as in a world chess match, a war, a labor strike, an election campaign, a marriage, or birth of a child. On the other hand, the interactions may involve little emotion or peripheral intentions, as with those planning a picnic together, riding in a car pool, playing tennis to relax, or disagreeing over what movie to see.

In addition, the interactions may be extensive or narrow. They may invoke a range of activities, such as mutually trying to make a marriage successful, beating all competitors for the presidency of a country, fighting a war, conducting or defeating a guerrilla campaign, or building a good academic department. Or the interactions may be narrow, restricted to particular activities, such as people bowling together in a league, cooperation among friends cleaning up after a party, a legislative disagreement over the tax on imported watches, or the competition for a particular parking slot.

Another characteristic of interaction concerns their duration. Interactions may be of momentary or relatively short duration, such as a dispute at a supper table as to who will get the last piece of pie, the cooperation of parents washing a baby, or the interaction between sales clerk and shopper. Some interactions are of extended duration, however, as in the rivalry of nations at the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, the mutual love directed interaction of a marriage, or the prolonged preparations of a politician's supporters for an eventual campaign for governor.

Finally, interaction can be characterized as to whether it is organized--that is, governed by law-norms defining a group. Law-norms and group will be more precisely defined later in relation to antifields (Chapter 23). For my immediate purposes, it should suffice to discriminate between interaction regulated by a group and that which is not. Thus, interactions between individuals robbing a store, preparing for a joint vacation, or having a conversation may not be organized, while trade between nations, the competitive lobbying of interest groups, or divorce proceedings are organized interaction.

In total, then, we can characterize certain interactions as an act, actions, or practices; as solidary, mixed, or antagonistic; intensive or superficial; as extensive or narrow; as of long or short duration; or as organized or unorganized. Social interactions manifest various combinations of these characteristics, of course. They may be intensive, but narrow, short, and unorganized, solidary interactions (as sexual intercourse); they may be intensive, extensive, and of long duration and considerable antagonistic organization (as war); or intensive, narrow, short, organized, and antagonistic (as a coup d'état); or superficial, extensive, of long duration, and disorganized but solidary (an affair of convenience).


Consider now a social behavior space encompassing interaction in all its variety of characteristics and combinations of acts, actions, practices, intensities, extensions, durations, organization, solidarities, and antagonisms. What are the major consistently recurring combinations? That is, what are the latent functions underlying all these interactions--the components of this space?

Although approached through different conceptual frameworks, it is this kind of question that sociologists have answered by classifying interaction into such forms as Gemeinschaft versus Geselischaft, community versus association, cooperation versus conflict, associative versus disassociative, and familistic versus compulsory. The latter is Sorokin's classification, and the one adopted here win be close to his understanding of these terms. The latent functions of social interaction, the components of social behavior space, are then familistic, compulsory, or contractual.

A familistic component comprises mutual acts, actions, and practices that are consistent and complementary in a solidary direction. Moreover, familistic interaction is extensive and intensive, of long duration, and if organized involves open, democratic, or paternalistic leadership. A warm, loving, family atmosphere exemplifies this, where all behave in a cooperative atmosphere of mutual give and take and the family's concern encompasses the total acts, actions, and practices of its members. The mutual affection, thoughtfulness, and interaction of close friends is also intensive and extensive, of long duration, and solidary, and thus familistic.

If we select from the above modalities of social relationships in the interaction system the following ones: (1) universal totalitarian or all- embracing in extensity, (2) high in intensity, (3) purely solidary in direction, (4) durable--then a combination of all the four modalities gives us what I style the familistic system of interaction or social relationship. Such is its "chemical formula."
---- Sorokin, 1957, p. 445

The lives of those involved form an organically interdependent unity, interrelated into a we. What concerns one concerns them all; it is not a question of what each personally can achieve from the interaction, but what can be done together. The social interactions between father and son, master and devoted protege, or between members of religions, sects, athletic teams, and military units, is often of this familistic nature.

A second component resembles Tönnies' Gesellschaft (1963) and will be called the contractual component. This is partly solidary, partly antagonistic. It is usually confined to a narrow range of interaction, is limited in duration, involves only actions, and is legalistic. Thus, contractual interaction tends to be utilitarian, a specific association of the actions of individuals for independent purposes. Treaties, alliances, contracts, agreements, and understandings mainly constitute this component of interaction. It is manifested in benevolent neutrality, passive resistance or reluctant cooperation, competitive cooperation, and simultaneous love and hate; it enters primarily into interaction between buyer and seller, employer and employee, and citizen and bureaucrat. And some modem couples have transformed their marriages into a contractual affair.

The Contracted Type. In the terms of the modalities, its "chemical formula" is as follows.

(1) It is limited definitely in the extensity of the life activities involved in the interaction.

(2) As to the intensity, it may be high or low, depending upon the nature of the "contracted sector" of activities, but this sector is always limited; therefore the high intensity if limited by this sector and never extends over the whole life circle.

(3) It is limited in its duration; even when it is durable, the duration is again specified by the contract.

(4) Within the contract sector it is solidary (in a contract which the parties freely enter into and which fairly distributes their rights and duties). But this solidarity is in a sense egotistic, directed to getting either mutually some pleasure or service or profit or utility from the other party, or even to getting "as much as possible for as little as possible."
---- Sorokin, 1957,p.447

Separate from the familistic and contractual is the compulsory component. This is mainly characterized by a consistent antagonism of acts, actions, and practices, as between lifelong enemies, competing religious groups, conflicting nations, a military dictator and his subjects, and slave and master. It may or may not be intensive, extensive, of long duration, or organized. It comprises the attempt of one or more parties or groups to coerce others. The use of coercion or manipulation are hallmarks of this component of social interaction, whereas love, cooperation, mutual respect, and tolerance identify the familistic component.

In contradistinction to the familistic and contractual relationships, the compulsory relationships are marked by the following traits.

(1) They are internally antagonistic.

(2) It does not give any freedom to the coerced party, while to the coercing party it gives a freedom (in the sense of doing what one pleases) sometimes much greater than that given by the contractual relationships to both parties.

(3) Respectively, in the pure compulsory relationship, the parties remain to each other total strangers and outsiders, much more so than in any of the preceding relationships.
---- Sorokin, 1957, p. 450


Thus is my perspective on interaction. In sum, I have argued that interaction is social if it is oriented in its meanings towards another self, and that such interaction consists of acts, actions, or practices. Moreover, I have discriminated between manifest and latent social interaction and have defined as latent functions the patterns of latents through which we order interaction and make it predictable. These functions are components spanning a space of social interaction--a social behavior space.

Social interactions can also be characterized by their direction (solidary, antagonistic, mixed), intensity, extension, duration, or organization. All interactions manifest these characteristics to one degree or another and in various combinations. A natural question then is whether certain combinations are particularly common and subsume all the rest.

One such combination is the familistic, which unifies solidary acts, actions, and practices together with a variety of interactions into a deeply felt whole--a self-submerging cooperative unity. In contrast, a compulsory combination of characteristics primarily involves antagonistic acts, actions, and practices together with interactions manifesting coercion and manipulation. A third combination is contractual, a mixture of the familistic and compulsory, and usually consists of narrow actions of limited duration.

The familistic, compulsory, and antagonistic forms are latent functions; they are the components which define, for my purposes, the space of social interaction. 


* Scanned from Chapter 10 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. My use of latent function is not to be confused with "function" or "latent function" as employed in the functional approach to society. This approach seeks a correspondence between social behavior and the needs or goals of society. A "manifest function" would then be some need of society overtly fulfilled by a behavior, such as imprisoning thieves to protect the members of society. A "latent function" is some function satisfied covertly or indirectly by behavior, such as "conflict functioning to sew society together."

I do not subscribe to the functional approach and therefore apply the concept latent function at some risk of being misunderstood. I use it nonetheless, because on both technical and conceptual grounds it precisely denotes my meaning. Latent has the conceptual meaning of underlying or hidden and, when qualifying vectors ("latent vectors"), has the mathematical denotation appropriate to the picture I am developing. Function I use in its mathematical sense. A latent function for me is then a latent vector (often called eigenvector) of a matrix of phenomena.

2. A more specific and elaborate discussion of latent functions is in Rummel (Chapter 10 of The Dynamic Psychological Field).

3. More specifically, and consistent with my perspective objectivism, I am thinking of a vector space. Reality as a complex of powers is a complex of vectors. Dispositions have a direction of manifestation. They tend towards a specific something, and they have an associated strength to be manifest--like the power to be manifest in perception that comprise the determinable cries of a baby.

4. For the empirical evidence, see Section 35.4 of Chapter 35.

5. This plot is from the (unstandardized) factor scores of a component analysis of nine domestic conflict behavior variables (latents) for 1955-1957 data. The guerrilla war ("subversion") and turmoil components were delineated, along with a revolution component. For the details of the analysis, see Rummel (1963). On the nature of factor components and factor scores, see "Understanding Factor Analysis".

6. See Pitirim Sorokin (1969, especially Chapter 5). For a discussion of alternative classifications of behavior and a comparison with his own, see pp. 110-18. Sorokin's (1928, 1966) two major summaries of sociological theories and approaches are also helpful.

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

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