NATURE OF THE GROUP An argument as persistent and almost as futile as the aforementioned one about the priority of the hen or the egg, has exercised some sociologists over the question as to whether the group is an independent entity in itself or simply the aggregate of its members. To those for whom it has separate existence such terms as “group mind,” "group will," "esprit de corps." "culture-soul," "collective representations,” and the like are literal descriptions of something very real. However, to the skeptics who aver that “group” is merely a convenient term for describing the joint action of individuals, the group has no existence apart from persons, the behaviour of a group is nothing more than the sum of the behaviour of its members, and the whole is merely equal to the sum of its parts.
Zimmerman has pointed out that a society should not be thought of as a real "group person” having a "group mind," nor is it solely an aggregate of individual behaviour. Rather it should be conceived as a set of culture consistencies – common patterns of interaction which carry on from year to year and constitute a stable factor in interaction. This is the structure.
The structure may be studied directly, trends in culture may be investigated; and the “collective representations" of group action may be analyzed. While attention is given to these collective aspects of human behaviour, the fact is not lost sight of that in the last analysis group life can only be perpetuated through the behaviour of the individuals. Cooley has synthesized the two approaches even move closely by showing that the individual and society are but different aspects of the same thing, two sides of the same coin. The person and the group are not identical but they are coexistent and interrelated.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GROUP LIFE From our day to day life we find that people must live in groups. Infact without group life, life of an individual may become horrible and miserable. Group life has certain characteristics which may be briefly discussed as under:
1. Interrelation of Members : In a group, members must have social relationship. Simply coming of people together does not form a group. Thus though it is a collection of people yet the members are either directly or indirectly related with each other.
2. We-feeling : Members of groups have we-feeling in the sense that they feel that they are one, whereas all other are outsiders. They feel that harmful powers should be collectively defeated. They have a sense of collectivity.
3. Feeling of Unity : It is essential for member of a social group that they have a feeling of unity. It is this feeling which in actual practice develops a sense of sympathy among the members and brings them nearer to each other.
4. Common Purpose : For a stable social group it is essential that its members must have some sort of common purpose which means either common ends or common needs. Without that, group cannot come into existence.
5. Common Behaviour : Not only for this that ends and needs should be common but it is essential that there should be common behaviour of the members. In fact, with common needs and ends, behaviour becomes more or less common.
6. Organisation : A social group is always organised and has certain norms and rules of behaviour. It cannot remain unorganised or disorganised.
7. Group Norms : Each group is required to have certain norms which it must evolve, if it does not have them. It is expected of all members to respect those norms at all costs.
8. Control Over Members : A group must have control over its members. Each member is required to live in discipline and under control. Those who neglect group discipline are punished and greater punishment is public criticism.
9. Groups are Dynamic : Social groups are dynamic and not static. They are subject to changes, whether slow or rapid. Old members die and new members are born. Whether due to internal or external pressure or forces, groups undergo change.