Early Life and Economic Advocacy, 1866–1900
“My high-tension intellectual life,” wrote Edward Alsworth Ross early in his autobiography, “has been actuated by the passion to know.” He directed this passion both outward, to contemporary American society, and inward toward a knowledge of self. The mid-nineteenth century marked the end of individual-scale reforms and the beginning of a nationwide attempt to reshape society as a whole. Ross's writings from his 1891 dissertation to two final economic monographs in 1896 show a transition from state socialism to a vision of social cohesion, which he later called social control. The concept of social control bound his own unique construction of society into a theory which provided immediate structure to inchoate strands of American thought. An orphan at an early age, and possessed of a gifted intellect, Ross strongly resisted the Protestant, Republican ties of his youth. His biographer admitted that Ross had “no adherence” to Protestant “rites or theology.”.