Primary groups are found predominantly in societies where life is relatively simple. With the expansion in population and territory of a society, however, interests become diversified and other types of relationships, which can be called ‘secondary’ or impersonal, become necessary. Interests become differentiated. The service of experts is required. Techniques are elaborated, and the average member has neither the time nor the energy nor the skill to attend to them.
The new range of the interests demands a complex organisation. The members are numerous and too scattered to conduct their business through face-to-face relationships. Specially selected persons must act on behalf of all and hence, arises a hierarchy of officials called ‘bureaucracy’.
These features characterise the rise of the modern state, the great corporation, the large church, the factory, the army, the labour union, a university, a nationwide political party and so on. These are secondary groups. Meaning of Secondary Group: Ogburn and Nimkoff say that the ‘groups which provide experience lacking in intimacy’ can be called secondary groups. Frank D. Watson writes, ‘the secondary group is larger and more formal, is specialised and direct in its contacts and relies more for unity and continuance upon the stability of its social organisation than does the primary group’.
Characteristics: 1. Dominance of Secondary Relations: Secondary groups are characterised by indirect, impersonal, contractual and non-inclusive relations. Relations are indirect because secondary groups are bigger in size and the members may not stay together.
Relations are contractual in the sense; they are oriented towards certain interests or desires. Further, members are bound to one another by mutual rights, duties and obligations for the realisation of their objectives or interests. Relations are impersonal, because members are not very much interested in other members as ‘persons’. They are more concerned with their self-centered interests than with other persons.
Relations are non-inclusive, because they are partial and have limited range. These kinds of relations among people can be found in big factories, business corporations, governmental offices, banks, universities, political parties, trade unions, international associations etc. 2.
Largeness of the Size: Secondary groups are relatively larger in size. City, nation, political parties, trade unions, corporations, international associations, such as the Rotary Club, Lions Club, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Society of Jesus, etc., are, for example, bigger in size. They may have thousands and lakhs of members.
There may not be any limit to the membership in the case of some secondary groups. 3. Membership: Membership in the case of secondary groups is mainly voluntary. Individuals are at liberty to join or to go away from the groups. For example, they are at liberty to join political parties, international associations like the Rotary Club, Lions Club, business corporations and so on. However, there are some secondary groups like the state whose membership is almost involuntary.
4. No Physical Basis: Secondary groups are not characterised by physical proximity. Many secondary groups are not limited to any definite area. There are some secondary groups like the Rotary Club and the Lions Club which are almost international in character. The members of such groups are scattered over a vast area. 5. Specific Ends or Interests: Secondary groups are formed for the realisation of some specific interests or ends. They are called ‘special interest groups’ Members are interested in the groups because they have specific ends to aim at.
6. Indirect Communication: Contacts and communications in the case of secondary groups are mostly indirect. Mass media of communication such as radio, telephone, television, newspapers, movies, magazines, post and telegraph etc., are resorted to by the members to have communication. Communication may not be quick and effective even. Impersonal nature of social relationships in secondary groups is both the cause and the effect of indirect communication.
7. Nature of Group Control: Informal means of modal control are less effective in regulating the relations of members. Moral control is only secondary.
Formal means of social control such as law, legislation, police, court etc., are made use of to control the behaviour of members. The behaviour of the people is largely influenced and controlled by public opinion, propaganda, rule of law and political ideologies. 8. Group Structure: The secondary group has a formal structure. A formal authority is set up with designated powers and a clear cut division of labour in which the function of each is specified in relation to the function of all. Secondary groups are mostly organised groups. Different statuses and roles that the members assume are specified.
Distinctions based on caste, colour, religion or region, class, language etc., are less rigid and there is greater tolerance towards other people and groups. 9. Limited Influence on Personality: Secondary groups are specialised in character. People’s involvement in them is also of limited significance. Members’ attachment to them is also very much limited.
Further, people spend most of their time in primary groups than in secondary groups. Hence secondary groups have very limited influence on the personality of the members. MacIver is of the opinion that the specialised character of the secondary groups is an obstacle to the realisation of the individual’s fuller life and the development of his humane impulses.