The principles of sociology (1920) by Edward Alsworth Ross

The principles of sociology 

Edward Alsworth Ross


This book I am offering has been a slow growth. Seventeen years have elapsed since I laid out the chapter scheme and began collecting material for it. It contains a system of sociology, i.e., the parts are fitted to one another and taken together they are in- tended to cover the field; but I do not put it forward as the system. While it is that organization of knowledge about a society that helps me the most, no doubt other equally valid systems are possible. 

True systems will, of course, not contradict one another, but they may differ in perspective. Sociologists equally sound may differ as to which truths deserve the foreground and which should be relegated to the background. A system is a way of making some aspect of reality intelligible, and we differ as to how to present social reality so as to make it intelligible for most people. In time sociology will discover, as the older sciences have done, the best perspective for exhibiting its results. Then the systems of sociologists will come into closer agreement. 

This book aims to light up the major problems of society at the stage of development which has been reached in about a third of the human race. It is, of course, a pleasure to understand human relations just as it is a pleasure to understand the motions of the "planets even though we cannot influence them. But this book is furthermore intended to help people arrive at wise decisions as to social policies. The will of enlightened man is so bent on directing, or, at least, influencing, the course of society, moreover, the possibilities of social amelioration are so tempting, that the chief object in explaining society is to help people determine the best thing to do. While the emotions supply much of the driving force behind social betterment, and while moral indignation and moral enthusiasm are among the more powerful beneficent emotions, I have given as little characterization as possible to the conduct or conditions I describe. I have sought to explain rather than to praise or blame; so that in my description of the most sinister and de- testable social phenomena I preserve objectivity which I hope the reader will not mistake for indifference. I wish to acknowledge my debt to Miss Sidney Horsley (now Mrs Clin Ingraham) for valuable aid in gathering materials for this volume.

Edward Alsworth Ross was a progressive American sociologist, eugenicist, economist, and major figure of early criminology 
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