William Graham Sumner
Yale Professor of
Sociology; Episcopal
Works: What Social
Classes Owe to Each
Other (1883)
Folkways (1906)
Sumner’s Beliefs
A nation cannot allow
plutocracy to emerge
(control of the
political system by
those with the greatest
wealth and power)
NOR can it allow the
poorest and least
powerful to either.
Sumner believed that
those who must be
“taken care of” by
others MUST be
disenfranchised (i.e.
not allowed to vote)
for they cannot be
permitted to even
slightly govern those
that are providers.
Sumner’s Beliefs continued…
Likewise, those who
have the power to
lobby in government
cannot be allowed to
govern those who
represent the working
and consumer classes.
Only individuals
should govern, not
He dubbed the socalled “man in the
middle” (middle
producers, “the
forgotten man” and
viewed American
democracy as flawed
in its current
Conclusions by Sumner
Families that have too
many children
represent a threat to
themselves and all
others in a nation.
When capital
must be divided
among many versus a
few, hardship always
Thus, the efficient use
of capital by a society
is the most important
thing that can happen
for that society’s
continued well-being.
Preserving the will of
the “forgotten man” is
imperative to a stable

William Graham Sumner Presentation