Social Change with Respect to Culture and Original Nature

By William Fielding Ogburn | Go to book overview

7
HABIT

Slowness to change in modern terminology is called conservatism. Conservatism is considered an attribute of a people of a particular age and locality or as a trait of a special class of individuals. Although conservatism certainly has important cultural factors, it is often thought of as a psychological trait. Existing accounts of conservatism therefore tend to be psychological explanations. A consideration of some of these more or less psychological explanations of why culture is slow to change will be undertaken.

Before discussing certain psychological explanations of the slowness of culture to change, it is desirable to call attention to certain points of methodology involved in explaining social phenomena psychologically. The subject was discussed somewhat in preceding sections, but there are so many aspects of the relation of sociology and psychology that the treatment never seems completed. The point has been taken that in analyzing social phenomena the explanation should first be historical or cultural. Very often when this is done, there seems no psychological problem left. But it is true that every cultural form or manifestation of behavior has its psychological side since it could not exist except through the agency of human beings. But because prior psychological analyses have frequently led theorists astray, we are hardly justified in becoming doctrinaire in our devotion to the historical method. On the other hand there are cases where a special knowledge of the psychol-

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