Law and Social Change: Sumner Reconsidered
The views of William Graham Sumner concerning law and social change have usually been dimissed with the assertion that he viewed the law as a wholly passive instrument. This is best tested by an examination of his propositions concerning the induction of arbitrary social changes by means of law. His intent was to specify the conditions under which such changes could be effected. Some of his conditions were circumstantial, that is, the extent to which the behavior to be changed had been conventionalized. Others were tactical, that is, the extent to which the pressure was applied to external conduct. His central idea was that men can always perform the prescribed act, although they cannot always think or feel prescribed thoughts or emotions. There is no sharp difference between Sumner's thinking and that current among social scientists on these matters.
Ball, Harry V., George Eaton Simpson, and Kiyoshi Ikeda. March 1962. “Law and Social Change: Sumner Reconsidered.” American Journal of Sociology 67(5): 532-540.
University of Chicago Press
American Journal of Sociology