William Graham Sumner

William Graham Sumner, 1840–1910, American sociologist and political economist, b. Paterson, N.J., grad. Yale, 1863, and studied in Germany, in Switzerland, and at Oxford. He was ordained an Episcopal minister and from 1872 was professor of political and social science at Yale. In economics he advocated a policy of extreme laissez-faire, strongly opposing any government measures that he thought interfered with the natural economics of trade. As a sociologist he did valuable work in charting the evolution of human customs—folkways and mores. He concluded that the power of these forces, developed in the course of human evolution, rendered useless any attempts at social reform. He also originated the concept of ethnocentrism, a term now commonly used, to designate attitudes of superiority about one's own group in comparison with others. His major work was Folkways (1907). The massive Science of Society by Sumner and Albert G. Keller, a colleague, was not completed and published until 1927 (4 vol.; Vol. IV by Sumner, Keller, and M. R. Davie).

See H. E. Starr, William Graham Sumner (1925); A. G. Keller, Reminiscences (Mainly Personal) of William Graham Sumner (1933); W. G. Green, Sumner Today (1940, repr. 1971); R. G. McCloskey, American Conservatism in the Age of Enterprise (1951, repr. 1964); M. R. Davie, William Graham Sumner (1963).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

William Graham Sumner: Selected full-text books and articles

Essays of William Graham Sumner
Albert Galloway Keller; William Graham Sumner; Maurice R. Davie.
Yale University Press, vol.1, 1934
Essays of William Graham Sumner
Albert Galloway Keller; Maurice R. Davie.
Yale University Press, vol.2, 1934
FREE! War, and Other Essays
William Graham Sumner; Albert Galloway Keller.
Yale University Press, 1911
The Science of Society
William Graham Sumner; Albert Galloway Keller.
Yale University Press, vol.1, 1927
FREE! Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals
William Graham Sumner.
Ginn, 1906
A History of Social Philosophy
Charles A. Ellwood.
Prentice Hall, 1938
Methods in Social Science: A Case Book
Stuart A. Rice.
University of Chicago Press, 1931
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "The Sociological Method of William Graham Sumner, and of William I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki"
The Development of Sociology
Floyd Nelson House.
McGraw-Hill, 1936
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XXIII "The Sociology of William Graham Sumner"
Sociology and Scientism: The American Quest for Objectivity, 1880-1940
Robert C. Bannister.
University of North Carolina Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "Chap. 6 "Up from Metaphysics"
The Course of American Democratic Thought
Ralph Henry Gabriel; Robert H. Walker.
Greenwood Press, 1986 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 18 "William Graham Sumner, Critic of the Positive State"
A History of American Philosophy
Herbert W. Schneider.
Columbia University Press, 1946
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of William Graham Sumner begins on p. 396
The American Mind: Selections from the Literature of the United States
Harry R. Warfel; Ralph H. Gabriel; Stanley T. Williams.
American Book, vol.2, 1937
Librarian’s tip: "William Graham Sumner 1840-1910" begins on p. 935
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