American Sociology
Kimball Young

Howard Odum

Like the account of his successor, Carl Taylor, whose retelling of the social incidence which brought him into the field of sociology appears in the next section, Kimball Young's story is so realistically representative that it is relevant to the total record of American sociology. Here was an American of the third generation of the great frontiersman, Brigham Young, born in Provo, Utah, in 1893, graduated from Brigham Young University in 1915, taught high school for a year in Arizona, and then entered into a breathtaking trek across new fields "back East." Young spent five quarters at the University of Chicago in sociology, took off from there to Stanford University in California for a Ph.D. in psychology in 1921, was assistant professor in the University of Oregon for two years, then across to New England as assistant professor at Clark University, stamping ground of Hankins, Odum, and Frazier. Then he went back to Oregon as associate professor in 1922 to 1926, thence to the University of Wisconsin as associate professor of sociology from 1926 to 1930 and professor of social psychology for ten years, 1930 to 1940; then again to the Northeast as chairman of the Department of Sociology at Queens College until 1947, and then back again to the Middle States as head of the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University. And in the meantime he had been author of some of the most popular text-books used widely in all parts of the nation by thousands of students in the rapidly expanding American sociology.

As was the case with most of the presidents of the American Sociological Society, Young, the thirty-fifth president, in 1945, was influenced by his teachers and by his reading of some of the classical source books. He could, he wrote, write a long piece about his coming of age in sociology but instead gives only some highlights to be published in American Sociology.

"My father, as you know, was a son of Brigham Young and brought up in the faith of the Mormons. Yet he was a well-read man — only had a third-grade schooling, formally — knew Shakespeare, Sam Johnson, and most of the hard-headed literary lights of English literature. He read Tom Paine, Robert Ingersoll, Darwin, Huxley, and especially Herbert

( 219) Spencer. He even tackled Schopenhauer, though I fancy he found him a bit tough going. Politically he was a `Jacksonian' democrat — and this in the midst of the Reed Smoot type of Republicanism. (Incidentally, he `knew everybody' worth knowing in Mormondom, and Smoot was a close personal friend. You see, our family were among the élite of the Church, so even though he was looked upon as heterodox, he was liked and respected. This helped in my own adjustment, too.) Now my father and an old friend of his, Doctor Richards — also a son of a prominent Mormon — would spend hours on end arguing politics, economics, religion, and philosophy. I used to hear them while I was at play and though I did not understand much of what they said, I gathered a critical attitude, a questioning frame of mind, from hearing them checkmate each other in their own disputations.

"Added to this was my own reading of some of the simpler items in Ingersoll and Paine, at about the coming of puberty. But with respect to sociological interests and teaching, it was such books as Tylor's Anthropology, which I read when 13 years of age, and various histories, that set me on my way.

"In high school (which was the preparatory department of the Brigham Young University, at Provo, Utah) I had excellent teachers, especially in civics, history, and literature. In college it was John C. Swenson, sociologist, Joseph Peterson, psychologist, and William Chamberlain, a philosopher, who gave me the chief shove toward sociology and social psychology. I devoured the first two volumes of Cooley, which were texts in a course in social psychology. I cut my sociological teeth on Small and Vincent, and we even made little community maps and the like, along the lines of those in that long-forgotten but, for its time, invaluable book. But I majored in history, as there was not yet a separate department of sociology.

"After a year of teaching in a high school in Arizona — English and history — I took off to Chicago, under the stimulation of William J. Snow, another teacher at the Brigham Young University who told me about W. I. Thomas and his course in `Social Origins.' (I had never heard of Thomas till then, and had read nothing of his.) The five quarters at Chicago, where my record was very sound, as a student, `fixed' me for sociology and social psychology. Within two quarters I had become 'reader' for Thomas and was reading like mad everything I could lay

( 220) my hands on in sociology and social psychology. G. H. Mead had a great influence on me, but I took work with Small, Park, Burgess, E. S. Ames, G. B. Foster, and others.

"However, I took my doctorate in psychology under Terman at Stanford, and used my work at Chicago to fulfill my requirements for a full or double minor. But though I taught straight psychology for some years after taking the Ph.D. my first love was social psychology and the psychology of personality. With regard to the latter, I must add one more comment. At Oregon, beginning in 1920, I gave what must have been one of the first courses under the title: `Psychology of Personality.' I used Wells' Mental Adjustments as the basic text and had the students read Freud and other dynamic psychologists."

In addition to a large number of articles in the current social science journals, Young's main works include Mental Differences in Certain Immigrant Groups, 1922; Source Book for Social Psychology, 1927; Social Psychology, 1930, 1944; Social Attitudes (with others), 1931; An Introductory Sociology, 1934, new editions, 1942, 1949; Source Book for Sociology, 1935; Personality and Problems of Adjustment, 1941. Young was general editor of the "American Sociology Series" for the American Book Company, member of the board of editors of the Journal of Social Psychology, and The American Journal of Sociology. He combined his broad interest in the social sciences, being a member of the Social Science Research Council, of the American Psychological Association, and of various local and regional organizations. While at Wisconsin he also collaborated in The Madison Community, produced with R. D. Lawrence, a bibliography on censorship and propaganda.

His evaluation of sociology's status and trends, as of 1948, as is the case with most authorities, could be expanded beyond this preliminary estimate. He begins by saying, "Sociology is just now — say in the past ten years — beginning to mature. When I began as a student with Thomas, Park and Small, in 1916, the work was still largely oriented along philosophic lines. Thomas and Park were just beginning to stress empirical field studies, but without being able to give the graduate student much in the way of rigid training in method. (I had my first course in statistics, for example, with James A. Field, an economist.) However, under Park I did the first, or one of the first, ecological field studies in Chicago, working the area north of the river along Clark Street to Chicago Avenue. (I

( 221) am told that later the graduate students literally `wore out' my M.A. thesis, reading it as a `bad' example and as a warning `what not to do.') It was not till the early 1930's that more rigid methods began to take root. Remember, how in the late 1920's we discussed method with such sound and fury, but no one did much empirical research. Gradually the movement started: Chapin, Rice, Burgess, the group at North Carolina, and later Stouffer and his whole generation. Today we are beginning to look a little like a science.

"As one who has produced a tolerably successful textbook, I should say that our students are beginning to reap the benefits of this empirical trend. But as to theory to go along with it, that is another story. We now need a synthesis — say as of 1950 — and we have no Aristotles around, although Parsons, Merton, and Lundberg have acquitted themselves pretty well."

Concerning his own work, he says: "If I have made any special contribution to sociology, it has been in social psychology and with reference to this one matter: I have long maintained (a) that not all learning is cultural learning (that is, the learning in which we are interested); (b) that basic to cultural learning, or conditioning, if you prefer this term, is social learning which is older than culture; (c) that is to say, social learning is found not only in man but in all mammals, especially the primates; (d) as a result of this we find many of the basic features of social order among the prehuman, higher forms, e.g., apes and monkeys, such as familial group, play group, dominance and submission, prototype of in-group vs. out-group, and others; (e) and finally that even in human society we find social learning which is not identical to what we call `cultural' learning. Those who stress cultural determinism scout this and do not properly recognize the difference. Now, for want of a better term I have called this `personal-social' learning or conditioning. It is not a happy term but I do think the idea is important. Few people have paid any attention to it, and most of those who do have misconstrued my meaning a bit. Burgess comes near to it in his discussion of the psychogenics of the personality."

More specifically, Young writes: "In any case, this is my one original contribution to social psychological theory, although others also considered the matter in varying ways. Second to this, I believe I have done a tolerable job in bringing together cultural anthropology, sociology,

( 222) and social psychology. This is seen in my sociology books, and in my Social Psychology itself.

"I think of myself as a social psychologist, concerned with both basic phases: (a) collective behavior, e.g., crowds, fashion phenomena, public opinion, and like areas; and (b) personality development and operation. To me we need to tackle really big problems, but those which can be made manageable. We neglect our possible contribution to international affairs. We have not as yet tackled industrial problems as we should. And even in the field of majority-minority groups we have messed around trying to rationalize rather than understand conflict and intolerance. Until other persons than members of minority groups begin to tackle these topics seriously, we won't advance very much. Most people are afraid to go at the problems honestly because they fear the Jews and Negroes won't like what they find out. As to our biggest need, it is still methodological, but we are making advances."

Kimball Young's presidential address was entitled "Society and the State: Some Neglected Areas of Research and Theory," and was published in the American Sociological Review in Volume XI, No. 2, pages 137-46, April, 1946.


No notes

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2