chapter  2
26 Pages

“A Great Social Secret”: Social Control, 1895–1905

WithSean H. McMahon

The main European influences on American sociology consequently shaped the ideas of Edward Ross. By the 1880s, European ideologies clashed as evolutionary determinism limited the accumulation of social knowledge. American scholars accepted the European concept of a science of society and by the late 1880s they had crafted a useful discipline. The English scholar Herbert Spencer expanded the ideas of Comte and first introduced them to America. Spencer's 1876 text, The Principles of Sociology, established an ambitious mandate for the social sciences. All humans across place and time, wrote Spencer, shared a number of emotions and inherited traits. Spencer advocated the scientific advancement of knowledge as a sociological goal. He acknowledged that human emotions, and controls from religion or politics, were powerful social agents. Like forces within the natural world, equal and opposite reactions followed any exertion of social force.