Review of Source Book for Social Origins

Carl E. Parry

SOURCE BOOK FOR SOCIAL ORIGINS. Ethnological Materials, Psychological Standpoint, Classified and Annotated Bibliographies for the Interpretation of Savage Society. By William I. Thomas. Chicago : University of Chicago Press ; London: T. Fisher Unwin. Pp. xvi, 932.

This book is essentially a vast bibliography, classified, partially annotated and illustrated by selections from some of the works referred to. The classification proceeds upon two plans. The first is upon the basis of the questions treated, and includes seven parts : the geographic and economic environment ; mental life and education; invention and technology ; sex and marriage ; art, ornament and decoration; magic, religion and myth; and, finally, social organization, morals, the State. Each of these parts contains from five to ten selections from different authors,

( 113) followed by some brief critical comment and a bibliography relating to the topic under discussion. Under Sex and Marriage, for instance, are found selections from Westermarck, Spencer and Gillen, Rivers, Herbert Spencer, and Ernest Crawley, occupying in all eighty-three pages, followed by comment of five pages, and a bibliography of eighty-three titles. At the end of the book a second scheme of classification embraces six bibliographies in which titles are arranged according to the races and countries to which they relate. These two methods of arrangement enable one to find references or selections relating to problems, for instance, whether the savage mind can hold abstract ideas ; or to some particular people, for instance, the Indian. Something like fifteen hundred titles are enumerated altogether, including general works on comparative ethnology, special works on descriptive ethnology, works on ethics and psychology, and especially government reports on ethnology and articles in anthropological reviews and magazines. The critical notes include advice as to where to begin, and in what sequence to read.

The editor holds in mind the limitations under which a small library may suffer, and so extends the bibliographies. He cherishes some hope of interesting the general reader, so includes selections designed to tempt him to seek the books from which they come, and suggests that he read slowly. He takes it for granted that students coming from different intellectual fields, or aspiring to different professional careers, will be interested in different aspects of the general subject, so makes it possible, for instance, for one interested in the mind of the child to follow his bent, while one interested in the origins and development of art can follow his. And almost any worker upon almost any problem ever raised in ethnology or cultural anthropology will be able to find selections, notes, or references relating to that problem. Scarcely any quest is belittled, and there is a charming absence of dogmatic attempts to settle everything.

Physical anthropology, however, is rather consistently excluded; and this is probably the chief respect in which the book may be said to have a ‘psychological standpoint.' One need not expect to find here much attention given to anthropometry, craniology, or such matters. To look for suggestions having a positive psychological flavor will be well rewarded, and references to many parts of the wide forest of psychological literature

( 114) will be found, so synthetic thinkers may be helped to construct a system of their own adequate to the interpretation of the material. This seems to be the notion which Professor Thomas entertains, for he presents the concepts of control, attention, habit and crisis in but a tentative way. To present a ready-made system is farthest from his aim. ‘Control' is our old acquaintance, "control of the environment that the race may survive"; and to ask how this or that fact bears on control is said to be always pertinent; `attention' is said to be always active at those points where the emergency, called here `crisis,' calls for the formation of new `habits,' so it is always in order to ask of any custom, for instance, what emergency called forth the habit in which it is manifest, and upon what substratum of habit already acquired it was built. A student may be helped to avoid utter confusion by following some such scheme as this, but of course it does not emancipate him from the necessity of keeping abreast of what is now being done in social psychology.

The merit of this book, as a source book, will grow upon one the oftener he consults it, especially if he has already been trained in the fundamental principles of the philosophy of history and has some acquaintance with the literature of ethnology. It is like having at hand for consultation a man who has read everything there is.

CARL E. PARRY. University of Michigan.


No notes.

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