William Graham Sumner

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William G. Sumner

William Graham Sumner (born October 30, 1840 in Paterson , New Jersey , † April 12, 1910 in New Haven , Connecticut ) was Professor of Sociology at Yale University . At the same time, he was the leading American proponent of an industrial free trade society, which in his opinion the socialists understood by " capitalism ".

As a sociologist, he developed the concepts of diffusion , the folk customs of ethnocentrism and conflict between in-group (ingroup) and outgroup (outgroup).

Sumner's work led him to believe that attempts at reform were useless. He was a staunch supporter of the laissez-faire economy and an intellectual defender of free trade. In its heyday, Sumner clubs were everywhere. He heavily criticized socialism and communism , then the emerging competition. He called Edward Bellamy an opponent by name. He published his national variant of socialism in Looking Backward (1888) and the much more successful sequel Equality . The clash of their ideas set the stage for the Cleveland, McKinley, and T. Roosevelt governments.

In 1881 Sumner was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . In 1908 he became the second president of the American Sociological Association .

Works (selection)

  • Folkways. A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals. New York 1906 digitized
  • Social duties. What the classes of society owe one another. Authorized translation by M. Jacobi. With a foreword by Th. Barth. Published by Elwin Staude, Berlin, 1890 digitized


  • Robert E. Park: William Graham Sumner's term of society. Translated from English by Hanna Meuter special edition 1933. Available in the Viersen district archive, Meuter estate serial no. 269

Individual evidence

  1. ^ William Sumner: Folkways. 1906, p. 12 .
  2. ^ Members of the American Academy. Listed by election year, 1850–1899 ( PDF ). Retrieved September 24, 2015