Meaning of Interests and Attitudes in Society!
By interest is meant “any aim or object which stimulates activity towards its attainment.” Attitude is the state of consciousness within the individual human being. “It refers to certain regularities of an individual’s feelings, thoughts, and predispositions to act towards some aspect of his environment.”
It is a subjective reaction with relation to objects. Thomas and Znaniecki define attitude as “a state of mind of the individual towards a value.” It is sentiment or a feeling pattern of behaviour in response to particular people or objects. It is usually a hypothetical construct not directly open to observation but inferred from verbal expression or overt behaviour. Interest, on the other hand, is the object of attitudes.
It is an object of the will. It is something objective, something sought or pursued. All attitudes imply objects towards which they are directed, but it is the state of mind, not the object, which is denoted by the term ‘attitude’. The ‘objects’ need not necessarily be material external facts.
These may be immaterial as well, for example, scientific theories or religious beliefs. Objects, widely interpreted, are those items to which one devotes attention and these objects are the interest of the person.
Some illustrations will clarify the meaning. When we say a man is afraid, we must also say what he is afraid of. He may be afraid of the teacher, police, snakes, God, ill health or even his own ‘inner desires’. In this case the objects of which he is afraid are his “interest”, while fear is his altitude towards these objects.
Take another instance. We say that a person is interested in jaw. Here we have not’ pointed out his attitude i.e., what is the attitude that attends his interest. A burglar, a judge, a policeman, a lawyer all are interested in law but the attitude of each of the persons is different.
A burglar is interested in law because he wants to avoid arrest, a judge is interested in law because he wants to determine the guilt of the burglar, a policeman is interested in law because he wants to arrest the burglar, a jurist is interested in law because he wants to save the burglar from imprisonment.
Thus we find that the attitudes of these persons are not identical, though their object of attitude i.e., interest, is common. Similarly both the atheists and the devotees are interested, in God, but their attitude to God is different. One is interested in women because he hates them; the other is interested because he loves them.
Interest common and like, attitudes like but not common. From the above illustrations it follows that whereas interests may be identical, attitudes can never be so.
Attitudes are subjective. Interests are objective. It may also be understood that interests may be like and common while attitudes may be like but never common.
We give an example to illustrate our point. A number of students wish to use MacIver’s book Society, of which there is only one copy in the college library. Now their attitudes are like because they wish in a similar way to possess the same book, but strictly speaking their attitudes are not common inasmuch as there are as many acts of wishing as there are students.
Interest i.e., book, is one and common but the attitudes are not common but only like If instead of one copy, the library has many, then the interests are also like because all the copies of the book are like. Thus, Interests may be like and common whereas attitudes may be like but never common.
“Different people,” as MacIver observes, “cannot have a common attitude any more than they can feel a common pain. They “can have only like pains and like attitudes, because the subjective element is always individualized.
It may also be noted that whereas like interests lead to competition for the same good, common interests lead to co-operation. It is an important question for every harmonious society as to how to turn like interests into common interests.