Review of Source Book For Social Origins

Katharine E. Dopp

Source Book for Social Origins. By WILLIAM I. THOMAS. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1909. Pp. 932. $4.77 library edition ; $3.02 school edition.

"In good sooth, my masters, this is no door. Yet it is a little window, that looketh upon a great world." In this quotation found on the title-page may be found the spirit which animates the Source Book for Social Origins.

The book is divided into seven parts treating respectively of: I. The Relations of Society to Geographic and Economic Environment ; II. Mental

( 290) Life and Education; III. Invention and Technology; IV. Sex and Marriage; V. Art, Ornament, and Decoration ; VI. Magic, Religion, and Myth; and VII. Social Organization, Morals, and the State. In each part the author includes valuable extracts from the works of representative investigators in special fields, adding comments at the close of each part, together with an extensive bibliography.

It is impossible to do justice to a work of this kind in the space that can be given to a review of the book; for the volume presents the equivalent of a small carefully selected library accompanied by such comments as an instructor might make to his students. In the interpretation of the selections presented, the author renders assistance to the student by indicating the partial attitudes. of those who would interpret all social phenomena in terms of "so-called elemental or dominant forces." "The social process is a complex, and cannot be interpreted by any single phrase." The value of the concept "control" in relating all human activities is discussed and illustrated, and its relation is shown to attention as the means of securing control. The discussion of the relation of attention to habit, on the one hand, and to crisis, on the other, should interest all students of education as well as those of history, economics, and sociology.

In the introductory chapter the author indicates the influence of the theory of evolution upon the development of all the sciences dealing with man and shows how this view precludes the possibility of completely understanding any "single situation in life" from `its immediate aspects alone." "Everything is to be regarded as having an origin and a development, and we cannot afford to overlook the genesis and the stages of change." That this ideal is "incompletely realized" the author freely admits and as a means of encouragement he directs attention to the methods of the biologist and the psychologist. He points out that the biologist does not attempt to explain a given form of life by a study of that alone, but that even closer attention is given to simpler related forms. So the psychologist interprets the adult mind only after he has studied child-psychology as well as that of many forms of animal life. The use of a similar method—a genetic and comparative method—is urged in the study of social life; for it is in the simple forms that the meaning is "writ large," and this is one of the factors in the interpretation of the complex activities of social life. It is thus not as an end in itself that the author urges the study of social origins, but as a means—a means of making a fuller use of a method which yields rich results, a means of bringing missing factors to the solution of complex social problems, a means of bridging the chasm which exists between the biological and social sciences.

Who are the people most likely to profit by the study of this volume? The author indicates the character of the audience he has in mind in these words : "I do not, of course, wish to belittle the effort of the historian to establish his facts, but to the young person who is planning to go into history, economics, civics, education, or psychology, I do wish to make this suggestion : If he will plan his work with reference to gaining (1) a sound and comprehensive knowledge of biology, (2) an even more particular knowledge of psychology, and (3) a very intimate knowledge of anthropology and ethnology, he will find himself in possession of an apparatus which will enable him to do a

( 291) rare class of work in his special field. It is for such a person that this volume is prepared, quite as much as for the student of sociology." It certainly is to be hoped that young people preparing to teach in the high schools as well as those teachers who hitherto have not had the opportunity to get the point of view here presented, will be among those who find in this volume a method of interpreting social life.



No notes

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2