Review of American Social Psychology by Fay B. Karpf
KARPF, FAY BERGER. American Social Psychology: Its Origins, Development, and European Background. Pp. xvii, 461. New York: McGraw-Hill Company, 1932. $3.50.
The main title of Mrs. Karpf's book is slightly misleading and suggests a somewhat provincial tone to the work. Actually, the volume is about equally divided between the European and American contributions to social psychology.
The opening chapter gives the general philosophical roots of social psychology, pointing out the idealistic evolutionism of Hegel, the positivism of Comte, and the naturalistic evolutionism of Spencer. Then follow chapters dealing with the rise of social psychology in Germany, France, and England. The development of folk psychology by Lazarus, Steinthal, and Wundt emphasized the objective social organization and culture in relation to individual mentality. Later German writers such as Schäffle, Gumplowicz, Ratzenhofer, and Simmel dealt with various phases of interaction, including conflict. In France, Tarde, Le Bon, Durkheim, and Levy-Bruhl attempted to set the individual over against the collective patterns and to show the place of imitation, participation, or unconscious factors in the development of custom, constraint, and collective behavior. The English contribution came first through Spencer and Darwin, who gave us an evolutionary framework that was quickly adapted to psychology and sociology. Secondly, McDougall, Wallas, and Trotter attacked social behavior in terms not of the doctrine of rational man, but of an instinctive, emotional being who represented the end of a biological series of evolution.
The discussion of the immediate background of social psychology in America reviews the work of Ward in sociology and of James in psychology. The balance of this half of the volume deals largely with recent writers. The review of Baldwin is fairly complete, but the treatment of Cooley seems unfortunately too concerned with his thesis on the relation of heredity to environment, while but passing mention is made of his profound analysis of interaction in the early stages of personality growth or of his sensible handling of leadership, emulation, social organization, and social processes. On the other hand, we are given a pretty good notion of Ross's contribution to the field.
The discussion of Thomas is considerably overbalanced, since so much attention is paid to the monograph on the Polish peasant, the theoretical sections of which are curiously much of Znaniecki, whereas Thomas's early study of the social psychology of sex differences, his psychological analysis of culture, and finally his rather recently altered standpoint as witnessed in his The Child in America are neglected or mentioned very incidentally. The review of Dewey is full, but Mead is made too subordinate to the former. After all, Dewey owes much to Mead, who had a more incisive conception of the rôle of interaction than Dewey. The closing sections deal with the lesser fry among contemporary social psychologists.
There are a few unfortunate omissions and wrong implications that, in the interest of accuracy, may be noted. It is evident that Boas's early field studies in ethnology profoundly affected Thomas and stimulated the latter to give up the curious biochemical views of his early papers on sex and society. Also, the recognition of the importance of Thomas's 1912 paper, "Race Psychology: Standpoint and Questionnaire," and so forth, would help to answer the problem of the relation of the concrete study of the Polish peasant to the emergence of the theoretical social psychology in
( 240) the published monograph on the Poles. Again, to attribute the major influence on the Chicago community studies to Thomas to the neglect of Park and Burgess is inaccurate. Thomas certainly has never shown any great interest in the so-called ecological method. And finally, to say that Allport was affected by Thomas is rather far-fetched.
On the whole, Mrs. Karpf has done us an admirable service in this survey. She has assiduously collected a pertinent body of quotations to illustrate the views of the writers whom she has discussed. It is true that at times her interest in these quotations themselves seems to carry her beyond her needs. There is some unnecessary repetition at the expense of a more critical analysis and interpretation. An excellent bibliography is included at the close.
University of Wisconsin