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THE SCIENCE OF SOCIOLOGY - William Graham Sumner, The Forgotten Man and Other Essays (corrected edition) 
The Forgotten Man and Other Essays, ed. Albert Galloway Keller (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1918).
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THE SCIENCE OF SOCIOLOGY
THE SCIENCE OF SOCIOLOGY1
In the present state of the science of sociology the man who has studied it at all is very sure to feel great self-distrust in trying to talk about it. The most that one of us can do at the present time is to appreciate the promise which the science offers to us, and to understand the lines of direction in which it seems about to open out. As for the philosophy of the subject, we still need the master to show us how to handle and apply its most fundamental doctrines. I have the feeling all the time, in studying and teaching sociology, that I have not mastered it yet in such a way as to be able to proceed in it with good confidence in my own steps. I have only got so far as to have an almost overpowering conviction of the necessity and value of the study of that science.
Mr. Spencer addressed himself at the outset of his literary career to topics of sociology. In the pursuit of those topics he found himself forced (as I understand it) to seek constantly more fundamental and wider philosophical doctrines. He came at last to fundamental principles of the evolution philosophy. He then extended, tested, confirmed, and corrected these principles by inductions from other sciences, and so finally turned again to sociology, armed with the scientific method which he had acquired. To win a powerful and correct method is, as we all know, to win more than half the battle. When so much is secured, the question of making the discoveries, solving the problems, eliminating the errors, and testing the results, is only a question of time and of strength to collect and master the data.
We have now acquired the method of studying sociology scientifically so as to attain to assured results. We have acquired it none too soon. The need for a science of life in society is urgent, and it is increasing every year. It is a fact which is generally overlooked that the great advance in the sciences and the arts which has taken place during the last century is producing social consequences and giving rise to social problems. We are accustomed to dwell upon the discoveries of science and the development of the arts as simple incidents, complete in themselves, which offer only grounds for congratulation. But the steps which have been won are by no means simple events. Each one has consequences which reach beyond the domain of physical power into social and moral relations, and these effects are multiplied and reproduced by combination with each other. The great discoveries and inventions redistribute population. They reconstruct industries and force new organization of commerce and finance. They bring new employments into existence and render other employments obsolete, while they change the relative value of many others. They overthrow the old order of society, impoverishing some classes and enriching others. They render old political traditions grotesque and ridiculous, and make old maxims of statecraft null and empty. They give old vices of human nature a chance to parade in new masks, so that it demands new skill to detect the same old foes. They produce a kind of social chaos in which contradictory social and economic phenomena appear side by side to bewilder and deceive the student who is not fully armed to deal with them. New interests are brought into existence, and new faiths, ideas, and hopes, are engendered in the minds of men. Some of these are doubtless good and sound; others are delusive; in every case a competent criticism is of the first necessity. In the upheaval of society which is going on, classes and groups are thrown against each other in such a way as to produce class hatreds and hostilities. As the old national jealousies, which used to be the lines on which war was waged, lose their distinctness, class jealousies threaten to take their place. Political and social events which occur on one side of the globe now affect the interests of population on the other side of the globe. Forces which come into action in one part of human society rest not until they have reached all human society. The brotherhood of man is coming to be a reality of such distinct and positive character that we find it a practical question of the greatest moment what kind of creatures some of these hitherto neglected brethren are. Secondary and remoter effects of industrial changes, which were formerly dissipated and lost in the delay and friction of communication, are now, by our prompt and delicate mechanism of communication, caught up and transmitted through society.
It is plain that our social science is not on the level of the tasks which are thrown upon it by the vast and sudden changes in the whole mechanism by which man makes the resources of the globe available to satisfy his needs, and by the new ideas which are born of the new aspects which human life bears to our eyes in consequence of the development of science and the arts. Our traditions about the science and art of living are plainly inadequate. They break to pieces in our hands when we try to apply them to the new cases. A man of good faith may come to the conviction sadly, but he must come to the conviction honestly, that the traditional doctrines and explanations of human life are worthless.
A progress which is not symmetrical is not true; that is to say, every branch of human interest must be developed proportionately to all the other branches, else the one which remains in arrears will measure the advance which may be won by the whole. If, then, we cannot produce a science of life in society which is broad enough to solve all the new social problems which are now forced upon us by the development of science and art, we shall find that the achievements of science and art will be overwhelmed by social reactions and convulsions.
We do not lack for attempts of one kind and another to satisfy the need which I have described. Our discussion is in excess of our deliberation, and our deliberation is in excess of our information. Our journals, platforms, pulpits, and parliaments are full of talking and writing about topics of sociology. The only result, however, of all this discussion is to show that there are half a dozen arbitrary codes of morals, a heterogeneous tangle of economic doctrines, a score of religious creeds and ecclesiastical traditions, and a confused jumble of humanitarian and sentimental notions which jostle each other in the brains of the men of this generation. It is astonishing to watch a discussion and to see how a disputant, starting from a given point of view, will run along on one line of thought until he encounters some fragment of another code or doctrine, which he has derived from some other source of education; whereupon he turns at an angle, and goes on in a new course until he finds himself face to face with another of his old prepossessions. What we need is adequate criteria by which to make the necessary tests and classifications, and appropriate canons of procedure, or the adaptation of universal canons to the special tasks of sociology.
Unquestionably it is to the great philosophy which has now been established by such ample induction in the experimental sciences, and which offers to man such new command of all the relations of life, that we must look for the establishment of the guiding lines in the study of sociology. I can see no boundaries to the scope of the philosophy of evolution. That philosophy is sure to embrace all the interests of man on this earth. It will be one of its crowning triumphs to bring light and order into the social problems which are of universal bearing on all mankind. Mr. Spencer is breaking the path for us into this domain. We stand eager to follow him into it, and we look upon his work on sociology as a grand step in the history of science. When, therefore, we express our earnest hope that Mr. Spencer may have health and strength to bring his work to a speedy conclusion, we not only express our personal respect and good-will for himself, but also our sympathy with what, I doubt not, is the warmest wish of his own heart, and our appreciation of his great services to true science and to the welfare of mankind.
Speech at the Farewell Banquet to Herbert Spencer, held November 9, 1882.