Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Annotated Chapter from Applied Sociology

Below you can find a copy of chapter 3 of Ward's Applied Sociology, the last of his trilogy of books establishing his views of sociology (Pure Sociology and Dynamic Sociology make up the other two components). In this chapter, Ward discusses what he sees as the purpose of Sociology as working to better the human condition through a reduction of pain that people suffer and an increase in pleasure. Through this chapter, some of the doctrines that fueled the New Deal and modern liberalism can be seen fairly clearly, particularly in the discussion of the new ethics. Ward was an idealist, seeking to cure the world of the pain it suffered through exploitation of man, but he was also a pragmatist trying to determine the components of the problem and engineering a solution in an attempt to reach the ultimate goal of alleviating suffering. It should be noted, that I don't believe Ward would have seen himself as an idealist (or even as an optimist), I think he believed himself to be a realist working for solutions he truly felt were possible to achieve if people simply tried.


The classic film, Metropolis, illustrates the pessimistic world view that Ward was trying to overcome by instituting changes in the social system that would free workers from being mindless drones without the violent revolutions or complete overthrow of the system called for by Marx (although Marx did later view change as possible without violence):

Also, check out this YouTube movie discussing the New Deal, which used many of Ward's ideas of applied sociology to engineer a society that relieved suffering and increased pleasure of the people. The video mentions Gallup's role in applying some of the ideas but does not credit Ward conceptualizing the original theoretical underpinnings.

And, just for fun, here's a right wing video discussing the New Deal as a failure and how Obama's New Deal is "equally doomed". Part of Ward's "fall from grace" stems from the views of some that the New Deal was a failure and that it proved social engineering for the betterment of mankind does not work in the same way as he envisioned it would, so I thought this video represented that view.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Annotated Bibliography

9 Feb 2009: This is the first draft, primarily just getting the list of Ward's own work obtained from his ASA page and filtering out the ones that aren't directly related to social theory/thought (more weeding is likely necessary, this initial weeding was based on title alone).
6 April 2009: Links have been added to digital versions of all texts where I was able to find a digital version (several of the ones that don't have digital versions are available at Iowa State University's library).

Ward's Legacy:

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Why L.F. Ward

This is a works-in-progress post that will discuss why I chose to focus on L.F. Ward as the classical theorist to explore for this semester. This will be my blog-focused way of providing much of the biographical information about Ward, although likely some elements of his biography will be split off into a separate post or organized into other parts.

03 February 2009

In Googling "L.F. Ward" today, I discovered that this page is actually number 2 on Google's results already so that puts a little bit more pressure on me to get this fleshed out some and to ensure a degree of integrity. For those unfamiliar with the 'L.F.' that stands for Lester Frank Ward, who was an American sociologist in the late 1800's and early 1900's. For those uninterested in my take on his bibliography, I refer you to the source of all human knowledge Wikipedia on L.F. Ward and the considerably more trustworthy American Sociological Association's biography on L.F. Ward, an organization he was president of in both 1906 and 1907. He was, in fact, the organization's first president. For additional information about Ward's younger years, it is recommended that the eager scholar pick up a copy of his Civil War journal
Young Ward's Diary: A Human and Eager Record of the Years Between 1860 and 1870 as They Were Lived (1935). The book is, unfortunately, out of print and no copy of it has yet been scanned by Google Books; however, if your local library is lucky enough to own a copy then you will be able to gain more insight into events that likely helped shape Ward's later views.

As both of those sources provide decent general biographies of Ward, I am choosing to forgo the reiteration of facts already linked, I am going to focus my discussion of Ward's biography on the elements that made me interested in focusing on his work as a social theorist for my Classic Sociological Theory course. Thus, I plan to take a somewhat personal interest in my discussion of Ward as a social theorist.

American Sociological Association's biography on L.F. Ward

No biography of any person, whether taken from the personal perspective of the writer or otherwise, would be complete without basic information about the birth and death of the individual the biography is written about. Lester Frank Ward was born 18 June 1841 and ceased to live on the date of 18 April 1913 at the age of 71 and 10 months (to the day). One of the traits about Ward's biography that particularly appealed to me was his diverse intellectual and vocational background. Before attending Susquehanna College in the 1860's, Ward was primarily self-educated and continued his motivation for self-learning throughout his life and saving money until he was able to complete advanced degrees at Columbian College (earning an A.B. in 1869 followed 2 years later by an LL. B. and finally an A.M. in 1872). His vocations included working in a wagon shop as a youth, a soldier in the Civil War, employee of the US Treasury Department (1865-1881; this was the work he did to save money to attend Columbian College and he continued this work while completing his degree and for some time after his formal education ended), an employee of the United States Geologic Survey (1882-1905 rising from an assistant geologist to a geologist in 1882 and then a paleontologist in 1892), and finally reaching the pinnacle of his intellectual endeavors with a faculty appointment at Brown University in 1906. Despite his vocational life being tied up in the Treasury and USGS, Ward nevertheless is best known for his pioneering work in Sociology including
Dynamic Sociology (1883), Outlines of Sociology (1898), Pure Sociology (1903), and Applied Sociology (1906). Several of these volumes, Dynamic Sociology, for instance, are out of print and buying copies on Amazon.com would cost nearly $100-200. Thankfully they are outside the range of copyright protection and Google Books has the full versions of the texts available (see the previous links). In 1905 and 1906 Ward worked with colleagues to establish the American Sociological Association and became the first president of the ASA in 1906 (1906 presidential address) followed one year later by his re-election in 1907 (1907 presidential address).

Now that the basic facts necessary of any biography have been established, let me dive head first into why I chose Ward:
  1. He's not a Marxist and thus not on the extreme of wanting to topple the current social system and create a 'new world order'
  2. He's not a follower of Spencer and thus not on the extreme right trying to defend an indefensible and impractical system of laissez faire.
  3. Thus, Ward stood squarely in the middle ground of the pragmatist, which is my preferred area of reference. To quote the ever fallible Wikipedia: "Ward['s] views would be more accurately described as pragmatic: he was in favor of what works, what is effective, and he dismissed socialism's claim that the government should own all means of production as untested and unproven."
  4. I had never heard of Ward before seeing his name on the list, it was completely unfamiliar to me, and that was one of my criteria for selecting a theorist to explore: I needed to know nothing about them and have everything to learn.
  5. Ward was empirically grounded in the ways of Enlightenment reasoning, which with all of its faults, still stands as a trusted metric of scientific knowledge and one that I believe should still be followed (with appropriate modificaitons, of course--nothing should remain unrevised unless proven perfect).
  6. Ward's theory of Telesis showed that he was a firm believer in analyzing society to understanding the elements that make it work and making the changes necessary to help those in need of help while also making things run in a 'better' way. As my post this week about social power probably revealed, I most definitely proscribe to the idea of analyzing social structures and manipulating the ascertained variables for the purpose of change.
That's all for this update, but this post may have additional biographical information added as I uncover it or as I find other things out about Ward that I find particularly appealing to my personal interests.


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