The Function of Socialization in Social Evolution


Ernest W. Burgess

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The factors in social evolution are reducible to three: geography, heredity, and socialization. Anthropogeographers have assembled the evidence for the influence upon man of his physical environment. Students in biology, and in ethnology and psychology as well, have stressed the importance in social progress of individual and racial characteristics, both organic and mental. The sociologist, on the other hand, has pointed out the limitations of these explanations of human development: first, because each tends to disregard the facts brought forward by the other, and secondly, because both ignore the part played by socialization.

The thesis of this essay is that socialization, rather than either geography or heredity, is the dominant factor in social evolution. The evidence for this position is presented in the study of the factors involved in discovery and invention, in social progress, and in personal development.

My obligations to those who have studied this problem are indicated only in part by the references in the text and the footnotes. To Albion W. Small I owe the stimulus to persevere to the completion of this work and the suggestion to select the history of the English people for the analysis of the rôle of socialization in social progress. The teaching and writings of William I. Thomas, George E. Vincent, Charles H. Cooley, George H. Mead, Charles A. Ellwood, and James R. Angell have been especially helpful in the development of the social psychological standpoint for the interpretation of the process of socialization. The delay between writing and publication is responsible for the absence of reference to Wallas' The Great Society and to Ellwood's The Social Problem. My greatest indebtedness is to my sister for her constant assistance in all parts of the preparation of this study.

E. W. B.


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