Cooley, Charles Horton 1864-1929

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COOLEY, Charles Horton 1864-1929

PERSONAL: Born August 17, 1864 in Ann Arbor, MI; died 1929, in Ann Arbor, MI; son of Thomas M. Cooley (a jurist). Education: University of Michigan, graduated 1887; pursued additional study in mechanical engineering and economics.

CAREER: Educator, sociologist, social psychologist, and writer. University of Michigan, teacher of politics and economics, 1892-1904, teacher of sociology, 1904-1929. Worked for the Civil Service Commission and the U.S. Census Bureau.


The Theory of Transportation, American Economics Association (Baltimore, MD), 1894.

Genius, Fame, and the Comparison of Race, American Academy of Political and Social Science (Philadelphia, PA), 1897.

Personal Competition; Its Place in the Social Order and Effect upon Individuals, with Some Considerations on Success, American Economic Association by Macmillan (New York, NY), 1899.

Human Nature and the Social Order, Charles Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1902, reprinted, introduction by Philip Rieff, foreword by George Herbert Mead, Transaction Books (New Brunswick, NJ), 1983.

Social Organization: A Study of the Larger Mind, Charles Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1909; reprinted, introduction by Philip Rieff, Transaction Books (New Brunswick, NJ), 1993.

Social Process, Charles Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1918, reprinted, introduction by Roscoe C. Hinkle, foreword by Herman R. Lantz, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1966.

Life and the Student: Roadside Notes on Human Nature, Society, and Letters, A. A. Knopf (New York, NY), 1927.

Sociological Theory and Social Research; Being Selected Papers of Charles Horton Cooley, introduction and notes by Robert Cooley Angell, Henry Holt & Co. (New York, NY), 1930; revised and expanded edition, A.M. Kelley (New York, NY), 1969.

(With Robert Cooley Angell and Lowell Juilliard Carr) Introductory Sociology, Charles Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1933.

Two Major Works: Social Organization, Human Nature and the Social Order, introduction by Robert Cooley Angell, Free Press (Glencoe, IL), 1956.

Contributor to periodicals, including American Journal of Sociology, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Psychological Review, Psychological Bulletin, Political Science Quarterly, Journal of Applied Sociology, New Republic, and Journal of Political Economy.

SIDELIGHTS: Psychologist, sociologist, and educator Charles Horton Cooley is known for demonstrating that "personality emerges from Social influences, and that the individual and the group are complementary aspects of human association," according to a biographer in World of Sociology.

Born in 1864 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Cooley was the son of Judge Thomas M. Cooley. Educated at the University of Michigan, he studied mechanical engineering and then economics. In 1889, he took a job with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, then went to work for the Census Bureau. He taught political science and economics at the University of Michigan from 1892 to 1904, and was a professor of sociology from 1904 until his death in 1929.

The Theory of Transportation, Cooley's first major work, explored ideas in economic theory, the most notable being Cooley's conclusion that "towns and cities tend to be located at the confluence of transportation routes—the so-called break in transportation," the World of Sociology biographer noted. Later books undertook broader analysis of the interplay between social and individual processes. In Human Nature and the Social Order Cooley examines ways in which social responses influence normal social participation. In Social Organization: A Study of the Larger Mind, he outlines a comprehensive approach to society and its major processes. The beginning of Social Organization also contains what some have considered "a sociological antidote to Sigmund Freud," according to the World of Sociology writer. "In that much-quoted segment, Cooley formulates the crucial role of primary groups (family, play groups, and so on) as the source of one's morals, sentiments, and ideals. But the impact of the primary group is so great that individuals cling to primary ideals in more complex associations and even create new primary groupings within formal organizations."

In his last significant book, Social Process, published in 1918, Cooley addresses the "nonrational, tentative nature of social organization and the significance of social competition," the World of Sociology biographer remarked. Cooley saw modern difficulties as the conflict of primary group values, such as love, loyalty, and ambition, and institutional values, such as progress, Protestantism, and other impersonal ideologies. "As societies try to cope with their difficulties," the World of Sociology contributor commented, "they adjust these two kinds of values to one another as best they can."



Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Palmisano, Joseph M., editor, World of Sociology, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Reiss, Albert J., Jr., Cooley and Sociological Analysis, introduction by Robert Cooley Angell, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1968.


American Journal of Legal History, April, 1992, Alan Jones, "Law and Economics v. a Democratic Society: The Case of Thomas M. Cooley, Charles H. Cooley, and Henry C. Adams," pp. 119-138.

Radical History Review, winter, 2000, Jeff Sklansky, "Corporate Property and Social Psychology: Thomas M. Cooley, Charles H. Cooley, and the Ideological Origins of the Social Self," p. 90.*

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Cooley, Charles Horton 1864-1929

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