Below are two brief articles that discuss the phenomenon of in-group --
out-group distinctions. The first short article focuses on the way
in which the in-group -- out-group distinction helps to maintain
boundaries between groups of people. In many social situations, the
maintenance of such boundaries is very important.
The second article is a more detailed description of the meanings inherent in in-group -- out-group distinctions. It is one of the best discussions of this phenomenon to be found. You will have to overlook some of the outdated terminology and illustrations. Written in 1963, it predates our modern terminology with respect to ethnic/racial minorities, and our predilection for political correctness.
Frankie: Shush, just now I realized something. The trouble with me is that for a long time I have been just an "I" person. All other people can say "we." When Berenice says "we" she means her lodge and church and colored people. Soldiers can say "we" and mean the army. All people belong to a "we" except me.In-groups and out-groups, in short, are not actual groups except in so far as people create them in their use of the pronouns "we" and "they." The distinction is nevertheless an important formal distinction because it enables us to construct two significant sociological principles, which we shall now proceed to examine.
John Henry: What are we going to do?
Frankie: Not to belong to a "we" makes you too lonesome. Until this afternoon I didn't have a "we," but now after seeing Janice and Jarvis I suddenly realize something.
John Henry: What?
Frankie: I know that the bride and my brother are the "we" of me. So I'm going with them, and joining with the wedding.'
(Copyright 1949, 1951, by Carson McCullers and reprinted by permission of the publisher, New Dirertions.)
[The botanist] has a strong feeling for systematic botanists as against plant physiologists, whom he regards as lewd and evil scoundrels in this relation; but he has a strong feeling for all botanists and indeed all biologists, as against physicists, and those who profess the exact sciences, all of whom he regards as dull, mechanical, ugly-minded scoundrels in this relation; but he has a strong feeling for all who profess what he calls Science, as against psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and literary men, whom he regards as wild, foolish, immoral scoundrels in this relation; but he has a strong feeling for all educated men as against the working man, whom he regards as a cheating, lying, loafing, drunken, thievish, dirty scoundrel in this relation; but so soon as the working man is comprehended together with these others, as Englishmen, he holds them superior to all sorts of Europeans, whom he regards…This amusing bit, of course, is highly exaggerated, but there is no doubt that it makes the point.