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Sumner, William Graham (1840–1910)

William Graham Sumner was an economist, a sociologist, and a leading defender of individualism and the free market. He opposed most of the reforms that coalesced in the progressivist program after 1900, and he also denounced American imperialism. His Folkways (1907) is one of the most important works in early American sociology.

Sumner was born in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of an English-born artisan, from whom he inherited a lifelong dislike of social causes. After the death of his mother in 1848, his experience in an emotionally starved household under the care of a penurious stepmother reinforced a keen sense of the gap that separates emotion and fact, a major theme in his work. Sumner came to social science by way of religion. After ...

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