Review of American Social Psychology by Faye Karpf
In his Foreword, Professor Ellsworth Faris mentions some of the difficulties in writing a history of social psychology. One might study each writer in terms of his personality as influenced by his culture, individual differences, and life history; or his work as generated and conditioned by the general culture of his time and place; one might deal with the historical development of specific doctrines or concepts. Dr. Karpf attempts none of these approaches. The method she has chosen may be more or less illuminating than one of the foregoing, but we must evaluate her work in terms of what she has attempted rather than in terms of what she might have done. A book can be only one book.
The title suggests the purpose. The method is to give a more-or-less chronological account of the social-psychological writings of some of the leading men in nineteenth century Germany, France, and England. For each country, Hegel, Comte, and Spencer furnish the philosophical back-grounds. Simmel is about the only modern German discussed, the others being Lazarus, Steinthal, Wundt, Schäffle, Gumplowicz, and Ratzenhofer; Lévy-Bruhl and Le Bon are the modern Frenchmen, Durkheim and Tarde being the others; modern England is better represented by McDougall, Trotter, Wallas, and Hobhouse, the others being Darwin, Spencer, Bagehot, Tylor, and the evolutionary anthropologists. The author's purpose is to give the major psycho-sociological contributions of these men as a background for her discussion of the development of American social psychology. Part I is well documented, mostly from translations and from American secondary sources. The latter may be justified as giving the reactions of the cited American writers to the work of their European predecessors and contemporaries. There is little other attempt than this to show how their work actually influenced the American writers.
Space prevents any discussion of the men selected or of the presentation of their views. It is questionable to my mind whether any adequate discussion of European influence on American social psychology can omit such early writers as Hobbes, Hume, Locke, Ferguson, Reid, Stewart, Smith, Montaigne, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Herder, who are barely
( 772) mentioned, or such important nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers as J. S. Mill, B. Russell, K. F. Lessing, F. Tönnies, L. von Wiese, M. Weber, A. Vierkandt, A. Fouillé, C. Bouglé, and V. Pareto—to say nothing of the psychoanalytic writers, all of whom are not, or just barely, mentioned. There is no sound reason for excluding writers merely because they are pre-nineteenth century if their thought has had any direct influence upon American writers, as I think it indubitably has.
In Part II we find a good discussion of the social-psychological contributions of Ward, James, Baldwin, Cooley, Ross, Mead, Dewey, Thomas, Faris, Ellwood, Bogardus, F. Allport, L. L. Bernard, and K. Young, with incidental reference to the work of many others. Here, again, one perhaps should not quarrel with the selection of men for treatment, but it seems to the reviewer that such a book should not be content with mere passing references to the contributions of Royce, Small, M. P. Follett, E. C. Hayes, Sumner, J. M. Williams, J. B. Watson, and A. P. Weiss who is not mentioned at all. Faris wisely remarks (Foreword) that there are more books than classes of books. A wise and witty Frenchman has gone farther, saying there are only two classes of books: those made from other books and those from which other books are made. In writing the history of the development of any science, only writers of the second class should be considered. Most of the writers Dr. Karpf considers are in this class, but so are Royce, Freud, Sumner, Watson, and Weiss.
In general, the author has failed to show specifically just how the American writers considered were influenced by the European writers she has treated. Hence, the material in Part I is of little direct value in the development of the material in Part II, except in the case of Ward, Baldwin, and Ross. Part I is valuable as a historical and interpretative essay, but it does not serve the purpose suggested in the title. For example, while Cooley's thought is admirably presented, there is no reference to his indebtedness (which he freely acknowledges) to the work of Darwin, Spencer, Preyer, Goethe, Montaigne, Thomas à Kempis, P. G. Hamerton, Bryce, Tarde and De Tocqueville. This general criticism is somewhat vitiated by several pages of relating discussion concluding the chapters on German, French, and English writers and seven pages in "Summary and Conclusions" in which the larger aspects of European influence are related to the American pattern in an excellent manner. But there should be more of it. The interdependence of the American writers is shown more clearly than is the influence of Europeans upon Americans.
The book is clearly and interestingly written, well organized and well documented throughout. An extensive and valuable Bibliography of over
( 773) five hundred titles is appended. The foregoing criticisms should not be taken to mean that the reviewer thinks the book has no value. On the contrary, it is an honest, competent piece of work. The reviewer, however, believes that the same amount of conscientious effort expended on any one of the three other approaches mentioned in the Foreword would have given us a more illuminating picture of the real origin and development of American social psychology. This book is written in the tradition of ideational individualism rather than in the developing tradition of cultural determinism. Social-psychological and sociological history and interpretation, especially, should be presented from the latter point of view. So far, little has been done.