American Sociology
Albion Small

Howard Odum

The fourth president of the American Sociological Society was Albion Woodbury Small for 1912, and selected for a second term in 1913, completing an extraordinary succession of Ward, Sumner, Giddings, all living and working vigorously beyond seventy years and all symbolizing the rise of American sociology as a college and university subject rapidly gaining its major place in the curriculum. Like his predecessors, Small came from New England ancestry; like Giddings, he was the son of a minister; like Sumner, he himself was trained for the ministry, and, like them all, he came relatively late into sociology, without special training in American sociology, although he had two years in Germany, one at Johns Hopkins University, and three as professor and president of Colby before coming to Chicago in 1892 to set up the first and largest department of sociology in the world at that time.

His ex-officio leadership was the greatest of any of the Big Four in several ways. In the first place, half of the presidents of the American Sociological Society came from the University of Chicago Department of Sociology, either as faculty members or Ph.D. graduates of later distinction. By 1950, there were nearly two hundred Ph.D. graduates, representing every state in the union, teaching in more than a hundred colleges and universities throughout the land, and contributing the greater portion of the texts and special works in American sociology. In the next place, Small's founding of The American Journal of Sociology was epochal and this, together with his editorship and contributions for over thirty years, undoubtedly constituted his greatest contribution to American sociology. His treatise on "Fifty Years of American Sociology," published in the Journal in 1916 is still the standard reference, practically equivalent to a monograph. So, too, no one equaled Small in insuring the publication of the Proceedings of the annual meetings

(95) of the Society in the earlier days when problems of publishing were not simple.

Nevertheless, Small's books, while not approximating those of Ward and Giddings, were substantial contributions to the sociological literature of the times. His main books included Introduction to the Study of Society (with Vincent), 1894; General Sociology, 1905; Adam Smith and Modern Sociology, 1907; Meaning of Social Science, 1910; Between Eras: From Capitalism to Democracy, 1913; Origins of Sociology, 1924. Of special and distinctive importance was Small's General Sociology and his Origins of Sociology in interpreting German sociology to the new sociology of the United States. In this respect he might well be likened unto Talcott Parsons in the later era in that, having sojourned in Germany and been stimulated to the special study of Ratzenhofer and others, he published his own adaptations as compared to Parsons, whose study in Europe resulted in his special interpretation and adaptation of Max Weber and others, and who then proceeded to construct his structure-function theory, thus reviving the influence of German sociology fifty years later. Yet with all of his varied activities Small insisted that "If you consent to tell the world anything about me, do not mince matters at all in telling the plain, blunt truth that I spent my life insisting that there is something at the far end of the sociological rainbow," as quoted by Hayes on page 184 of Odum's American Masters of Social Science.

In some ways the heart of Small's methodology might be summarized in just that, namely, the presentation of historical sociology from whatever sources possible to an American audience. In all this Small was not so much interested in methodology as in results. In Chapter 3 we have quoted Small at length on the origins of sociology and in Chapter 15 on his methodology. Edward Carey Hayes, an early student and contemporary, wrote of Small on page 187 of American Masters of Social Science that "while his works will perpetuate his contributions to sociology, . . . [they] cannot convey to his successors an adequate understanding of the . . . man. . . ." Barnes estimated, on page 777 of his Introduction to the History of Sociology, that "Small exercised an influence upon American sociology greater and more salutary than any other individual except, perhaps, Giddings." Barnes has made an excellent summary of Small's contributions on page 787. He gives "first place

(96) to his work as a historian of sociological thought" in which he was "the most voluminous American contributor of his generation. He rendered a real service in interpreting the development of Germanic social science in such a fashion as to be of great utility to American readers. This was an achievement of the highest importance and, in all probability, was one which would not have been performed at all if Small had not executed it."

Although more lengthy references to Small than to Giddings, Ward, and Sumner have been made in previous chapters, two special aspects of Small's work need to be emphasized here as indicative of the timeliness of some of his work as appropriate to certain contemporary situations. One is his assumption that life is pervaded by ethical realities and problems. The other was Small's constant pleading for the social sciences to work together. Concerning the former, Hayes estimated, on page 187 of American Masters of Social Science, that adequate recognition of the two facts of ethical realities and the unitary character of life constitutes the sociological point of view of Small. Concerning the cooperation of the social sciences, Small wrote so vividly and plausibly that he might well have been writing for the Social Science Research Council in the 1920's and again in the 1940's. See especially more about Small in the sections on Faris, Burgess, Reuter, . . ..


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