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Folkways A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals   By: (1840-1910)

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Folkways by William Graham Sumner is an indispensible sociological work that delves deep into the significance of usages, manners, customs, mores, and morals within different societies. Although published in 1906, Sumner's observations and analyses remain relevant and thought-provoking to this day.

Sumner's book serves as a thorough exploration of folkways, which he defines as the shared behaviors, beliefs, and values practiced by members of a particular society. Through extensive research and meticulous attention to detail, Sumner uncovers the underlying foundations of folkways, their formation, and their influence on social dynamics.

One distinct quality of Sumner's writing is his ability to present complex sociological concepts in a clear and concise manner, making it accessible to both academics and general readers. His language is straightforward, yet his arguments are deeply rooted in sociological theory, shedding light on how folkways shape social norms and ultimately impact the behavior of individuals within a community.

Throughout the book, Sumner provides a multitude of examples from various cultures and historical periods, offering readers diverse perspectives on different folklife practices. This allows readers to see the universality of certain folkways, while also highlighting the unique cultural idiosyncrasies that set societies apart.

Sumner's exploration of folkways also extends beyond a mere descriptive analysis; he delves into the moral implications of differing usages and customs. By examining the ethical codes developed within societies, Sumner raises important questions about the relativity of moral standards and the potential consequences of violating them.

While the book primarily focuses on folkways, Sumner does not shy away from exploring other sociological aspects, such as the relationship between folkways and law or the role of folkways in societal progress. His comprehensive approach ensures that readers gain a holistic understanding of the subject matter, lending further credibility to his arguments.

Despite its age, Folkways remains a seminal work in the field of sociology. Sumner's insights and observations serve as a foundational framework for studying the sociological import and significance of the customs and norms that govern human behavior.

In conclusion, William Graham Sumner's Folkways is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in delving into the sociological importance of usages, manners, customs, mores, and morals. With its insightful analysis, comprehensive examples, and thought-provoking arguments, this book continues to be relevant in addressing fundamental questions about human behavior and the functioning of society.

First Page:


A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals



Professor of Political and Social Science in Yale University

Thus it is clearly seen that use, rather than reason, has power to introduce new things amongst us, and to do away with old things. Castiglione, Il libro del Cortegiano , I, § 1.

That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat, Of habits devil, is angel yet in this, That to the use of actions fair and good He likewise gives a frock or livery, That aptly is put on. Hamlet , III, 4.

What custom wills, in all things should we do't. Coriolanus , II, 3.

Ginn and Company Boston · New York · Chicago · London Atlanta · Dallas · Columbus · San Francisco

Entered at Stationers' Hall

Copyright, 1906, by William Graham Sumner All Rights Reserved

Printed in the United States of America 733.1

The Athenæum Press Ginn and Company · Proprietors · Boston · U.S.A.


In 1899 I began to write out a text book of sociology from material which I had used in lectures during the previous ten or fifteen years... Continue reading book >>

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