Sumner's exceptional study of the various morals and customs which emerged throughout the history of mankind is presented here in its entirety.
First published in 1906, Folkways attempts to chronicle the evolution of ethics in human society. How various moral tenets were arrived at and refined across all spheres of human activity are chronicled and discussed by Sumner, whose fascination with the dimensions of human morality manifests in this book's ambitious scope and vivid historical examinations.
A wide-ranging manual, Folkways begins by defining and characterizing the various mores established by humanity. Sumner frequently draws parallels between the various societies and cultures, noting how human beings would commonly arrive at remarkably similar conclusions when applying moral tenets to their laws and behaviors.
The chapters of this book are organized according to the moral sphere they concern: the first emergence of ethics in human society as civilization, currency and cities emerged; the ethical dimension to wealth in these societies; and the process by which morals influence the human being from his earliest childhood. All through his treatise, Sumner compares and contrasts the various human societies, and their treatment of specific phenomena.
Ethically contentious phenomena such as slavery and abortion feature, while widely condemned and taboo subjects such as cannibalism, incest and human sacrifice also receive their own chapters. The concept of blood feuds and revenge, and of vigilantism as a primitive form of justice, are also investigated.
Together with deeds considered morally wrong, Sumner also examines behaviors which are deemed good or worthy. Asceticism, the adherence to monogamy and lifelong union, and even good sportsmanship, are studied. How deeds are considered and portrayed in popular drama and exhibitions, and how these portrayals reflect upon the societies which produce them, are discussed.
As a study of human morality and ethics, Folkways remains an influential and wide-ranging text. It has influenced greatly subsequent authors in the fields of sociology, politics, philosophy, anthropology and other fields of scholarly thinking, to the point where it is today considered an under-appreciated classic.
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CHAPTER IV LABOR, WEALTH Introduction. Notions of labor. Classical and mediaeval notions. Labor has always existed. Modern view of labor. Movable capital in modern society; conditions of equality; present temporary status of the demand for men. Effect of the facility of winning wealth. Chances of acquiring wealth in modern times ; effect on modern mores ; speculation involved in any change. Mores conform to changes in life conditions ; great principles; their value and fate. The French revolution. Ruling classes; special privileges ; corruption of the mores. The standard of living. 157. The topics treated in Chapter III tools, language, and money belong almost entirely in the folkways. The element of esteem for tools is sometimes very great. They are made divine and receive worship. Nevertheless, there is little reflection stimulated to produce a sense of their importance to welfare. Therefore the moral element pertaining to the mores is not prominent in them. When the moral element exists at all in regard to tools, language, or money, it is independent and rises to the conception of prosperity, its sense and conditions. There are notions at all stages of civilization about productive labor and wealth, as parts of the fate of man on earth and of the conditions of his happiness and welfare. At this point they take the character of a philosophy, and are turned back on the work, as regulative notions of how, and how much, to work. The mores of the struggle for existence are in those notions. From the time when men had any accumulated wealth they seem to have been struck by its effect on thecharacter of the possessor. The creature seemed to be stronger than the creator. Here ethical reflections began. They have been more actively produced since it h...