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Folkways, an essay compiled by William Graham Sumner, is a closely examined analysis of the inner-workings of society and why it works the way that it does. This particular essay has influenced many other philosophers/sociologists by the way we view the process of understanding rules and regulations set by society. Not just specific individual cultures around the world over the span of the era that humans have inhabited the Earth, but how we all act together to form what we call a society. And that, even though most ethnocentric individuals in their own societies deny, we all work remarkably similarly when it comes to forming our own respective groups and intertwine them into the massive web of individual relations with each other to form the societies that we live in everyday.

This essay is basically a description of how these rituals in human nature first developed and evolved into the complex ways that we all (as contributors to our respective cultures) work together to keep these same basic rules true to all have the same basic powers to collectively and equally work together to form the hierarchy of rules or morals and all follow the same ones to keep peace among ourselves to keep everyone in order so that the essential needs can be met for everyone in that society. As William Graham Sumner states in his essay the first task of life is to live…Need was the first experience and it was followed at once by a blundering effort to satisfy it…they controlled and aided the first efforts to satisfy [these] needs. This excerpt explains how he perceives how acts are needed to be done, and in order to have any sort of control on how it is done, then we all have to understand that these are the basic needs one as to have in order to satisfy these acts.

He also spends most of his time explaining what happens when these basic acts are being done, and how that transforms into the folkways that we have; where we all adopted the same way for the same purpose; hence the ways turned into customs and became mass phenomena. Or in plain English, we all follow each other to do the same type of ways to achieve the acts that seem to be the most beneficial and efficient for everyone, while concerning everyone else around you and making sure they are also free to do whatever it is they need to, with the same type of processes. But he also admits that by using this type of thinking to achieve what it is that needs to be done, that As time goes on, the folkways become more and more arbitrary, positive, and imperative. And that the only way to change the seemingly immovable processes by which to do these things, is to influence the majority of the group by showing that it is in fact the more efficient way to do it. When this conviction as to the relation to welfare is added to the folkways they are converted into mores, and, by virtue of the philosophical and ethical element added to them, they win utility and importance and become the source of the science and the art of living.

He goes on to explain that after all of these truths are seen, that there is nothing more holding these folkways to stay engraved in society, passed down from person to person, than human nature itself because acts by which men try to satisfy needs…looks no further than the immediate satisfaction and so folkways, therefore, are not creations of human purpose and wit. They are like products of natural forces which men unconsciously set in operation…like the instinctive way of animals…maximum adaptation to an interest. So the definition of folkways are…(1) subject to a strain of improvement towards better adaptation of means to ends…(2) subject to a strain of consistency with each other…answer their several purposes with less friction and antagonism when they cooperate and support each other. So with all of these consistent throughout all of the individuals working together in their society, then everything is set to hold itself together to go from there on and collectively work together for its needs. The folkways are the right ways to satisfy all interests, because they are traditional, and exist in fact…The notion of right is in the folkways…When we come to [them] we are at the end of our analysis.

So with the mystery of folkways unveiled, then the system of what Sumner calls mores can be seen and analyzed as well. The mores are the folkways, including the philosophical and ethical generalizations as to the societal welfare which are suggested by them, and inherent in them, as they grow. So the mores which have been developed to suit the system…have become the norm for the whole body of usages…Therefore the scientific discussion of a usage, custom, or institution consists in tracing its relation to the mores. And the understanding of these types of rules on society brings that if one follows their life under these restrictions, then everyone can work together to hold up their respective society. And what can be seen as the restrictions are simply: Good mores are those which are well adapted to the situation. Bad mores are those which are no so adapted.

With all of these types of societal rules made, then it can easily be seen that the way it works is simply in order to make every possible act as efficient and logical to the specific situations, instead of all individually going towards everyone s own goals. This has been shown to be the most effective method of treating a large group of freethinking people and in that has been seen as the best way to treat each individual s right to act as they need to be. And when al of these points are set in order, then everything else falls together to the way it is working today in society, and thanks to William Graham Sumner, it is known exactly why this is.


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