Issue Number 11-12 of the Journal “Transilvania”, Sibiu, 2013
My review tackles a special double number of the journal “Transilvania”, which focuses on alternative ways of presenting and analyzing the Bucharest Sociological School. This undertaking was coordinated by Professor Zoltán Rostás. The purpose of the publication was twofold.
First, to present a more realistic and detailed view of the founder and leader of the Bucharest Sociological School, Dimitrie Gusti, as well as of his main disciples and collaborators. These detailed analyses aim to present a more accurate understanding of the characteristics of scientific life during the interwar period, particularly in regards to the applied social sciences. The focus on accuracy is meant to clarify, to demystify, and to accurately determine the role of each member participating in the theoretical and institutional labors of the Gustian School. In his tone-setting opening article, Professor Rostás argues that the current, post-1989 social history has presented a distorted image of the Gustian School and its members. Consequently, the aim of this volume is to present the School’s members through their activities – discounting in as much as possible any present-driven concerns or values that might influence future analyses.
The second aim of the volume, while not explicit, is nonetheless equally important. This is to showcase the great diversity of social phenomena that were analyzed from a sociological perspective by the Gustian School.
A characteristic feature of the articles in the present volume is their critical engagement with the existing clichés regarding the Bucharest Sociological School, in the process retaining the aspects that merit retention as valid, while discarding misconceptions. In his article entitled “Regional thinking in the Gustian movement of uplifting villages”, Dumitru Sandu nuances the idea and practice of Gustian Sociology, emphasizing the regional aspect of the monographic research.
Theodora-Eliza Văcărescu’s article reveals a totally different approach, informed by women’s history and the history of social movements in general. Her article, “Among Dimitrie Gusti’s Sources of inspiration: Women’s and Feminist Organizations as (possible) precursors of Gustian monographic and interventionist activities”, traces the organizational links between the voluntary activities for women’s emancipation and the interventionist actions directed towards broader social problems undertaken by late 19th and early 20th century by feminist and women-led organizations with the social intervention policies later undertaken by the Bucharest Sociological School. These long cumulative efforts eventually found legislative expression in the 1938 Social Service Law. The author’s research makes clear that there were clear affinities between the members of these women’s organizations and the Bucharest Sociological School.
In her article, Sanda Golopenţia is seeking the answer posed in the title: “Was «Sociologie Românească» published informally?” This approach is quite novel, since the “common knowledge” about “Sociologie Românească” (Romanian Sociology) is that the founder and chief-editor was Dimitrie Gusti. It is likewise widely assumed that the published materials were the result of common debates – as H. H. Stahl recalled – without any precise editorial coordination. This was possible due to the fact that, according to Sanda Golopenția, the chief-editor position fulfilled by Dimitrie Gusti was merely a formal one. Because of his numerous activities and projects, the Professor simply could not devote his full attention to the journal.
The paper portrays the determinant role of Anton Golopenția, who was the assistant editor between 1937 and 1942, in the journal’s evolution. This well-documented article highlights the considerable effort performed by Anton Golopenția towards coordinating the editorial work in the following domains: (1) creating the rubrics considered essential for a professional sociological journal, (2) elaborating thematic issues, (3) assuring a sufficient quality and number of articles so that the journal volumes may appear on a regular basis, (4) the fundraising activity necessary for every publishing activity.
The author concludes by stating that the journal was not published informally. Rather, its high level of professionalism was inspired by Anton Golopenția, ably assisted by collaborators such as G. Focşa, D. Dogaru, and S. Popescu. By way of conclusion, the author proves that the journal was not published informally. On the contrary, its high level of professionalism needed a well-defined editorial conception. This was articulated by Anton Golopenția and his above-mentioned collaborators Sanda Golopenția’ second article is entitled “Papers on youth and its magazines in the correspondence between Anton Golopenția and Octavian Neamțu.” It consists of a selection of several personal letters between the two scholars. The entire correspondence will appear in Anton Golopenția: The epistolary rhapsody IV (Rapsodia epistolară, vol. 4). The letters are edifying, in that they present informal reflections concerning the dominant ideas in Gustian circles, aspects of everyday life, and the challenges of publishing sociological writings during 1934-1936.
Yet another piece of interesting information in Golopenţia’s second article pertains to Octavian Neamţu’s migration from the journal “Dreapta” (Right) to “Sociologie Româneasca” (Romanian Sociology), a journal in which Neamţu did not initially believe in. At Gusti’s request, however, Neamțu became one of the journal’s closest collaborators, as well as the editor, that is until Anton Golopenția returned from abroad and took over the direction of the editorial work.
In general, Dimitrie Gusti is exclusively connected with the Bucharest Sociological School. However, two articles in this double number of Transilvania place the Professor and the Gustian School in a broader national context. The first article on this topic is penned by Dumitru Stan. It is entitled “The Master and Disciple.” The article presents the various hypostases of the relationship between the two coryphaei of Romanian sociology, Dimitrie Gusti and Petre Andrei. It shortly narrates the history of the relationship between the two personalities, which started very cordially in a mentor-disciple mode, only to evolve into bitter disagreements between the two professors. According to the author, the widely recognized Gusti did not take kindly to criticism. Yet Petre Andrei came to emphasize two week points of Gusti’s sociological system. First, he counterposed his own notion of “sociologia cogitans” to Gusti’ already elaborated concept of “sociologia militans”. Second, and from a primarily methodological perspective, Petre Andrei challenged the hegemony of the monographic method as the dominant way to conduct sociological research. According to Andrei, there were plenty of other valid research methods within the discipline of sociology.
The second article written on this topic is written by Andrei Negru. He presents “The Interwar Perspective of the Cluj School of Sociology on the Sociological School of Bucharest”. If the Bucharest – Iaşi connection was an eminently personal one, the relationship between Cluj and Bucharest-based sociologists affords us a broader perspective pertaining to the methodological, institutional, and research orientations within interwar Romanian sociology. Most Cluj-based academics felt free to choose whether or not to follow the Gustian methodology. Negru brings evidence regarding both rejection of mainstream Gustian methods (Virgil I. Barbat) and critical acceptance of the Gustian postulates (Gheorghe Em. Marica).
We might therefore conclude that the Bucharest Sociological School did not monopolize the field of sociological research in interwar Romania. At the same time, it functioned as a critical marker for all scholars in the field – their stance toward the School constituting a significant factor in determining their professional status.
Another aim of this issue is to present alternative portraits of other prominent members of the Gustian School. These portrayals modify the commonly received mainstream knowledge about them. One of these articles is written by Ionuț Butoi. His “Mircea Vulcănescu: a polemical monographist” brings forth a hitherto neglected aspect of Vulcănescu’s activities as a scholar and public figure. The author’s analytic framework is provided by the intellectual and political field within which Vulcănescu’s conducted his activities. By means of two partially published debates that reveal Vulcănescu’s perspectives, Butoi shows how difficult it was for sociologists to write about social issues without being politically and/or ideological labeled. At the same time, the scientific status of “sociologist” was one of the few means available for eluding the media stereotypes about intellectuals developed for the non-academic reading public. Butoi’s article is important because it shows the challenges faced by the monographists during the 1930s in finding a middle way between the totalizing currents of Marxism and Fascism.
Yet another objective of this issue is the attempt to reclaim the tremendous amount of valuable information collected during the monographic campaigns. Florentina Țone’s ”A recovery attempt: The sanitary portrait of the village Fundul Moldovei (Bucovina) in the summer of 1928” represents the kind of diligent effort of historical reconstruction that illustrates this goal. In comparison with other campaigns, the one undertaken at Fundul Moldovei was rather poorly publicized, although its results were remarkable. Ţone’ merit was to overcome the paucity of the remaining official documentation, most of it lost and/or destroyed lost due to the hostility of the former political system. Utilizing the few remaining sources, as well as Professor Nicolae Rainer’s personal letters, the author succeeded in conveying the thoroughness with which the original data was collected and, in so doing, presents us with a compelling description of the sanitary situation at Fundul Moldovei.
From a different theoretical viewpoint, Matei Costinescu’s “On Modernity and Technologies of Nation-Building in the Projects of the Bucharest Sociological School” also plays a gap filling role. The author provides both an international and theoretical perspective concerning the School’s efforts to construct a modern Romanian nation and state. Here, the main stages of Gusti’s scientific career and institution-building efforts appear the result of a well-designed, coherently pursued path of development. Portrayed as technocrat who nonetheless retained “poporanist” sensibilities, Gusti was privileged to see first-hand how modern nations and states are constructed. His perspective was dyadic, in that he became familiar with both German and French nation-building efforts. Gusti’s innovation resided in the fact that he did not attempt the wholesale adoption of western models of nation-building. Using social-scientific methods as a means of uncovering the wellsprings of Romanian cultural authenticity, Gusti developed and partially implemented the vision of an alternative, rural modernity that willed itself in tune with Romanian national culture. The author argues that the Village Museum in Bucharest best encapsulates Gusti’s vision of Romanian national culture. Composed of disparate parts of the national heritage, the museum assembled them into a synthesis symbolizing a coherent national identity.
The article written by Zoltán Rostás’, “Rehabilitating Romania Sociology – An Unembellished History”, best reflects the aim of this double volume. This is to disperse the mists and mystification surrounding the history of Romanian sociology. The article starts with the formal dissolution of Bucharest Sociological School led by Dimitrie Gusti, which occurred due to the disestablishment of sociology as an academic discipline by the newly-installed communist regime 1948. The analysis concentrates on a two-decade period (1948-1965), during which the academic discipline of sociology and Dimitrie Gusti were initially repudiated, then separately rehabilitated. Rostás challenges the received wisdom – which holds that the rehabilitation of sociology in 1965 should be attributed to the 9th Congress of the Romanian Communist Party. This widely accepted narrative attributes an important role to Miron Constantinescu in persuading Nicolae Ceaușescu to rehabilitate and re(legimitize) the discipline.
By contrast, Professor Rostás proves that the rehabilitation of sociology in Romania was a more complex process, one that involved both an international and a domestic dimension. In the first place, much of the impetus for the rehabilitation of sociology came from Moscow after 1953. The Moscow-led initiative was not without reverberations in Romania. The resumption of sociological research in Romania gradually opened the door towards the past, a process that inevitably revealed Gusti’s key role in the establishment and practice of Romanian sociological research. In short, Gusti’s rehabilitation was part of the broader process whereby Romanian sociology became once more an officially sanctioned academic discipline. The author recounts that the rehabilitation of the sociology did not happened suddenly. In fact, it took longer than a decade (1954-1965), the more so since the first recovery attempt had gone awry. Only the second attempt may be considered somewhat successful. But not even this second attempt succeeded in bringing about the wholesale rehabilitation of sociology as an autonomous discipline. Rather, it was placed under control by the communist regime and subordinated to its aims.
Generally speaking, an important aspect of the presented volume is to bring the founder and the eminent members of the Bucharest Sociological School closer to the reader. In a world where social media is pervasive, where the visual plays an important role, the current volume – filled as it is with vintage photos – renders the members of Gustian school more familiar. It does so by showing them in everyday moments, thereby avoiding the cliché of the elusive, well-dressed academic. Even the cover picture suggests the “alternative” character of the publication, showcasing the scholars in their swimsuits and sliding down the water slope of a mill.
I also consider that by its highly visual aspect, the presented publication, in comparison with other publications in the field, can reach a younger generation of readers which can receive a more accurate presentation of the Sociological School of Bucharest.
In conclusion I would like remark two own impressions. Firstly, even if the multitude of the presented themes in this issue of the journal “Transilvania” seem to have a mosaic character, after reading through it leaves the impression of a whole, which praises the highly professional method of volume coordination by professor Zoltán Rostás.
Secondly, I feel that I could somehow argue with the title of this volume, as the proven results in the articles leave the sentiment that this is the genuine history of the Sociological School of Bucharest, and of Dimitrie Gusti, and the currently accepted and “known” is “the different one”.