Review of The Theory of Socialization by Franklin Giddings

Albion Small

PROFESSOR GIDDINGS has done well to offer this syllabus as a guide to the larger work, The Principles of Sociology. A third edition of the latter has already appeared, and a French translation by Vte. Combes de Lestrade has been issued as No. VII of the Bibliothèque Sociologique Internationale.

Professor Giddings is furnishing a rare illustration of what can be accomplished by first-class thought power in spite of a dangerous method. Sociology, in his conception, is primarily and chiefly concerned with those phases of social fact about which evidence is least accessible and least controllable, viz., social genesis. In default of data he is compelled to present as a system a series of dicta and deductions from premises that are utterly inadequate. The result is some splendid guesswork. As he himself insists (Preface to 3d ed., p. xvi) science cannot get on without guessing. I do not question the

( 112) scientific functions of guessing, and I cordially acknowledge the service which Professor Giddings has performed by his guesses. My contention against his method is that it conceals from himself, and necessarily therefore all the more from his less skilled readers, the hypothetical character of the support upon which the alleged principles rest. He does not satisfy his own condition (idem, p. xvii): "The one imperative obligation resting on the scientific writer is to use language that will clearly reveal to the reader how much of the study in hand is still in the guesswork stage, how much of it is in the deductive stage, and how much of it has arrived at verification." To be strictly perspicuous the title of his larger work should have been " Hypotheses about Socialization.", The same material organized in accordance with such a title would have had scientific dignity which does not belong to it in its present form. The radical vice of the method, then, is haste to abbreviate the process of collecting, criticising, and organizing evidence, and eagerness to get conjectures accepted as principles while there is justification merely for suppositions. The whole subject of social evolution is so nebulous that I for one do not expect to be convinced that principles of social evolution, in the sense in which Professor Giddings thinks of them, will ever be made out. In the present condition of the evidence, at any rate, all that it seems reasonable to hope for with reference to the earlier modifications of associated men is clearer discrimination of social forces, their qualitative differences, and the forms in which they work. It is an orgy of the imagination to regard results of that sort as anything more than formal principles. In so much there may be no credible hint about the relative dynamic value of the forces. Professor Giddings has really raised some most searching questions which the special sciences of society must answer. Putting speculative answers to these questions in the form of a coherent system may or may not increase the probability that the answers are in accordance with reality. In any case Professor Giddings has at most marked out work for specialists who- should gather and canvass more evidence. Until that work can be done, a philosophy of social evolution in its elementary stages, which is substantially what Professor Giddings is after, is mostly guesswork, and treatment which obscures this fact is a methodological mistake.

On the other hand it seems to me that Professor Giddings' propositions will 'do much to promote analysis of social status, of social structure and functions in general, and finally of contemporary social

(113) forces which may be organized for progress. This by-product of his work is in my esteem its most valuable contribution to sociology. His so-called "principles" may well be tested as categories for classifying social operations, and for distinguishing elements of psychic influence in society. In this view The Theory of Socialization is a distinct advance upon the larger work to which it refers. The sixty-nine theses which it contains are rather in the form of statical propositions than of assertions about social genesis. As such they invite verification by evidence more easily accessible than that which would be pertinent upon a theory of social evolution. It might be said that if I admit the possible correctness of these propositions as statements of present forms of social influence, I may not dispute their correctness if applied to any stage of social evolution. But my principal objection to Professor Giddings' method is not to the content of his propositions. It is rather against change of venue to a remote region where evidence is all so hypothetical that I must take Professor Giddings' opinion for proof. When examination of social forces is brought out into the open, by theses which may be tested by concrete experience, we are on the way to knowledge. In this respect Professor Giddings' syllabus brings the matter into much better shape than it has in the Principles. The logical form of the propositions is more evident than when they are met in the more elaborate version. Their strategic strength or weakness is much plainer.

The recurrence of the phrase "consciousness of kind" affects me as would reiteration of the proposition "Nature abhors a vacuum" to explain physical phenomena. Consciousness of kind means so much in Professor Giddings' use that it means nothing. It amounts to a cipher sign for the general question, What influences cause social reactions ? As an answer to the question it is either absolutely non-committal, or it is a sort of Polonius, meaning camel, weasel, or whale to suit occasions.

While I am unable, therefore, to take "consciousness of kind" seriously, in any other sense than as a way of expressing the problem, not the solution, and while I am obliged to regard the ambition to construct a metaphysics of socialization at this stage of investigation as an amiable extravagance, I am decidedly of the opinion that The Theory of Socialization presents Professor Giddings' thought in such shape that it will materially 'assist in completing a preliminary sociological survey.



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