Review of The Basis of Social Relations
The Basis of Social Relations. A Study in Ethnic Psychology. By DANIEL. G. BRINTON, A.M., M.D., LL.D., Sc.D., late Professor of American Archæology and Linguistics in the University of Pennsylvania. Edited by Livingston Farrand, Columbia University. ("The Science Series.") New York : G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1902. Pp. iv + 199.
PROFESSOR BRINTON has shown in this volume an intimate and appreciative knowledge of all the important anthropological theories. No one seems, in fact, to have been better acquainted with the very great body of facts represented by these sciences. Yet we find here neither a clear theory of the development of the mental faculty in the race, nor an adequate presentation of materials which might be used toward the construction of a theory. On the other hand, the author has presented very important suggestions for such a study. There will be nowhere found, indeed, a statement of so many factors which must be reckoned with in the study of mental development in the race. Professor Brinton has a most pregnant manner of stating his opinions, and a knack of getting at the meaning of an array of facts, but he con-tents himself with stating all aspects of the truth without attempting to reconcile them. To take a single instance illustrating this : on p. 96 he says : "There is no more certain sign of the degeneration of a race, nation, or class than a decreasing birth-rate. When it reaches the point that the deaths in its ranks exceed the births, extinction has already begun. Providing that fecundity continues normal, the onslaughts of war, famine, and pestilence may be remedied ; but when, through agencies of any description, the birth-rate sensibly falls off, there can be no escape from destruction." Again, on p. 139, it is shown that the fear of population transcending the food-supply " means more intense competition, a more bitter struggle for property, a more constant occupation with sordid details, to the neglect of reflection, study, and abstract thought. Reproduction, therefore, to its utmost limits would be of no advantage to a community, but decidedly deleterious. Its effect on the collective mind would be lowering, as it would center the general attention on material aims and personal
( 704) interests." These two statements are not hard to reconcile, and, in fact, they reconcile themselves when they appear together, but it is somewhat remarkable that the writer should not make them in the same connection, and that he should show no interest in bringing them into relation.
Professor Brinton had apparently conceived a violent prejudice against the sometimes pedantic practice of referring to sources of information in footnotes, and it is interesting to see how far and laboriously he goes out of his way to avoid mentioning by name the sources of his information or opinion. In these pages he has quoted the latest American writer on the subject," "a famous student of his kind," " an eminent analyst," " an American scientist,"" a venerable authority," "a thoughtful writer," "a specialist," "a French writer," etc., without mentioning the names of these persons. This plan certainly proves less satisfactory than calling people by their names. In fact, for some reason, perhaps because the descriptive epithets did not hold out, names are used somewhat generously in the latter part of the book.
The work of Mr. Farrand as an editor is all that could be desired. It is only to be regretted that the death of Professor Brinton prevented his giving final shape to his work.
W. I. THOMAS.