The Bucharest School of Sociology
EAST CENTRAL EUROPE, Vol. 27, part 2, 2000
The majority of Western texts covering the history of the social sciences provide little, if any, information about the discipline of sociology in East Central Europe. The lack of information is not due to an oversight on the part of Western researchers, but rather follows from the particular nature of the history and politics of many East Central European countries over the course of the last century. In most of the countries of the region, sociological research was phased out directly after the Second World War, and by 1948 it had been banned in the course of the introduction of Communist regimes, as were other “imperialistic” disciplines, such as cybernetics or genetics. When the discipline of sociology was eventually resuscitated after several decades, only in Hungary and Poland did it gain relative independence within the Communist system. However, in most of the affected countries – and in Romania in particular – the discipline was rehabilitated merely for the purpose of newly legitimizing the Party. Field research was only acceptable as a means of providing “scientific arguments” supporting the directives of planned socialist development.
These factors have played a significant role in limiting the availability of information on social research in the region until relatively recently. For example, leafing through any Western reference book, it is nearly impossible to find any historical material about Dimitrie Gusti and his Bucharest School of Sociology from the inter-war period. The evolution of this school, however, was an essential cornerstone in the institutionalization of Romanian sociology. The characteristics which distinguished the Bucharest School of Sociology from Western schools of sociology were not individual ideas or goals, but its context. Its founder and director, Dimitrie Gusti, possessed unique abilities: he was simultaneously an academic, an organizer, and a public-relations man, and it is above all this combination of academia and politics which gave the school its strength.
The school’s founding and evolution had a significant impact on the direction of social research; careful consideration of this fact is long overdue. In this paper I shall present a view different from the perspective which was popular among historians and critics in the 1960’s and 1970s, who constructed an image of the Bucharest School of Sociology in accordance with contemporary Communist conceptions of its cultural and scientific heritage. By analyzing the socio-cultural context, documents, and the texts of interviews conducted with former members, I shall examine the elements that the Bucharest School of Sociology shared with schools of sociology in the West, as well as the factors that distinguished it as a unique undertaking, a product of the political and cultural influences of its time.
A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE BUCHAREST SCHOOL OF SOCIOLOGY
In order to describe the Bucharest School of Sociology in any detail we need first to define the notion of “school”. Several definitions have been used in the history and sociology of science. The oldest and most popular perception defines the “school” as a “community of ideas” in the sense of a notional community of scholars who do not necessarily know one another or even belong to the same period. A second definition of the term is used to designate a group of scholars from one country. A third interpretation defines a school around a theory elaborated by a classic scientific personality who is no longer living. Finally, a “school” can also be seen as a “workshop” held together not only by a common conception, but also by direct interpersonal relationships. The workshop-school is a scientific community that differs from the other types of school according to its essential founding principles. Workshop-schools such as those founded by Durkheim or in Chicago in the 1920s need a charismatic founding figure, an adept who is aware of his innovating mission, a favorable institutional framework, and a clear conception that is original enough to mobilize supporters, even if it’s not clearly articulated. Gusti’s Bucharest School of Sociology can be considered a classic “workshop-school” for a number of reasons. The findings of my own research into its history are in full accordance with Edward Tiryakian’s characterization of it:
The school is comparable, in its formative stage at least, to a religious community, a sect, or a brotherhood. It usually provides an intellectual sense of mission to its members. They are drawn together by a set of ideas, techniques, and normative dispositions expressed by the founder-leader, which at the time of the school’s beginning are at odds with the prevailing views in the wider profession. The school may have a tacit sense of bringing salvation to the profession, that is, rescuing it from a state of stagnation and/or degradation; the school seeks to “put new clothes” on the profession, to modernize it, to renovate it, to give it a new beginning. Even the most cursory analysis of the Bucharest School of Sociology cannot fail to recognize the features that place it in the category of a workshop-school.
THE BUCHARESTSCHOOL OF SOCIOLOGY AND WESTERNSCHOOLS: SOME SIMILARITIES
It is probably safe to argue that the characteristics which make the Bucharest School of Sociology similar to the Western schools of the time can be derived, for the most part, from their shared historical experience: the popularity of the ideal taking shape in the formation of scientific schools around the turn of the century, which might be expressed as follows. The strong personalities of the time were no longer satisfied with launching and imposing new theories, but considered it a personal duty to collect followers who would expand on these theories and carry them further. The students who grew up in the spirit of this ideal took it upon themselves to organize a further workshop-schools. The inter-war period was a propitious time for the formation of such scientific communities. Despite the existence of various full fledged schools, attempts to establish new ones were rarely made after the Second World War, although some masters, such as György Lukács from the Budapest School of Philosophy, were still intent on this. Lukács’s student Mihály Vajda confesses having noted, during the incipient phases of Lukács’s school, that “for modern thinking, the idea of school-forming is altogether anachronistic”, implying that the imposition of certain scientific paradigms does not necessarily need to be legitimized by the existence of a school. There might have been a significant relationship between the ideal of scientific creativity (both collective and individual) and the historical age.
Therefore, it can be argued that Dimitrie Gusti’s (1880-1955) idea of forming a school of sociology was in tune with the scientific culture of the age. He was certainly the ideal initiator and leader of the Bucharest School of Sociology. During his ten years of study, mainly in Wilhelmian Germany, he got to know professors such as Wilhelm Wundt, Friedrich Paulsen, Arnold Bucher, Georg von Schmoller, Frank von List, Ferdinand Tonnies, Paul Bart, Karl Lamprecht, and Friedrich Ratzel. After one year of collaboration with Emile Durkheim, Gusti returned to Iasi University, eager to impart to others his plans to reform both sociology and, indeed, Romanian social reality. Although books of sociology had been published by Romanian authors (in Romanian and French), it was Gusti who first introduced sociology into the Romanian academic system before the First World War. Taking this cue from the Berlin model, he initiated the “seminar of sociology”, the first academic research association in social sciences, and a related, highly professional journal. The outbreak of the First World War postponed the realization of these projects until after the war, when the Romanian Social Institute was established in the capital of a country which by then had doubled its territory.
Due to his organizational abilities and strong determination, Professor Gusti succeeded in involving in his endeavor students and graduates intent on social investigation. His conception, and especially the emphasis he put on the researcher going out of the library and getting in touch with rural reality, was received enthusiastically. For one-and-a-half decades, Gusti was the live core and organizer of all Bucharest-School-of-Sociology field research, although after three or four years a middle level consisting of his collaborators (Mircea Vulcanescu, Henri H. Stahl, Traian Herseni, and Anton Golopentia) came to mediate between him and the students. This group would become more and more important for Bucharest-School-of-Sociology activities, given that Gusti was increasingly involved in state affairs. Nevertheless, the charisma of the professor and school leader was still there, unaltered, even after 1930.
Gusti’s ability to galvanize the organization of the school and of other institutions was not, however, matched by an equal talent for field work in the rural milieu. Gusti’s most talented collaborator, Henri H. Stahl, in an interview that formed part of an oral history project conducted in the 1980s with the surviving members of the Bucharest School of Sociology, recollected some little-known anecdotes which illustrate Gusti’s inability to connect personally with the “common people” of his own country:
[Answer] He went to a stud farm near Rusetu, which stirred his interest; he wanted to see, to understand what such an enterprise meant, so he spoke to the manager and the doctors there, not to the peasants. It was possible for him to speak to the doctors and he was a good investigator. At this level he was, certainly. But he was less good at the peasant level.
[Question] Interesting. A man who was so deeply concerned with the peasant issue was unable to …
[A] No, no, no. He was a “German professor”. Very rigid, very distant. He tried hard, poor fellow, to be popular, but he couldn’t manage it.
[Q] I couldn’t even have imagined this, not until I was told about the buttonhole carnation.
[A] He took pleasure in that: no matter where he was, in town or country, and he was well dressed, too. He was always impeccably dressed, a buttonhole, genteel, polite, but … he was no researcher. A researcher behaves differently.
[Q] Did he at least understand what was required, but without being able to put that knowledge into practice?
[A] It wouldn’t really have been possible, at his age it would have been out of place to try to “play the fool” ; because you had to do that as well, to mingle with the peasants and to … to live their life. It wouldn’t have worked. He was a professor. Social research requires putting on a series of masks, which doesn’t go together with the dignified deportment of a professor.
[Q] Yet, when he was in the “bright room” he didn’t play the professor, but had a friendly, “dear colleague”-type approach.
[A] That was part of the professorial “paraphernalia”. This is how he understood it. But in the “bright room” he was still a professor. To his mind, the professor was always the “sharper” of his colleagues. This was his great professorial quality: he knew how to persuade his students that they were his colleagues and that each of them had his own task, his own personal mission for which he was responsible. He was a great pedagogue, Gusti! He was the one and only professor – and I’ve known plenty of them during my career – the only one who had this quality. His endeavor was to make you realize that you were responsible for a scientific task … But on the subject of sociology, Gusti’s attitude was surprising, for sociologists were not accustomed to going out of the library. And they weren’t used to organizing research teams for fieldwork. And no one had ever divided themselves up according to “social conditions” and “activities” (“frames” and “manifestations”). When he told you, for instance, “You will take care of the issue of the historical conditions”, then you actually felt responsible for it. It was on our head whether you succeeded or failed. But he made you take yourself seriously. He not only had you work on a particular issue, he also helped you to do it. And the most valuable help came from his priceless scholarly knowledge. He had a boundless memory and was always able to give you all the bibliographical pointers you needed; he knew who had approached the problem from the same vantage point, whom you might be interested in, where you could find things, whether in a book, a journal, or wherever.
Just as the Chicago School commenced with a written statement, the foundation of the Bucharest School of Sociology was also introduced by a series of writings, namely, the publication of several of Gusti’s essays, such as “The Social Sciences”, “Sociology, Politics and Ethics in their Unitary Interdependence. Prolegomena to a System” (1909-1910), “On the Nature of Social Life” (1910), and “Reality, Science, and Social Reform” (1919), which he had elaborated in Iasi prior to the start of the monographic research. Under the influence of Wundt and Bart, the young professor created a system of sociology, ethics, and politics. It included a theory of social life, a theory of “frames” and “manifestations”, the law of social parallelism, and the concepts of interdisciplinarity, social unity, and social relationships and processes. The basic texts of Gusti’s theory had been elaborated and published as early as his Iasi period, yet they did not enjoy much popularity at the time. The political and intellectual elites were mainly preoccupied with the future of the country, with the necessity of structural reformation, and, particularly after the 1918 victory of the Entente of which Romania had been part, in the building of the nation and the new Romanian state. Although Gusti had been planning the shift from theory to practice while still in Iasi, this could be done only after his departure, in the mid-1920s. Beforehand, external reasons-such as his involvement in the organization of higher education and the scheme for the cultural elevation of the masses-hindered the realization of his projects. When social research actually got under way, however, the foundations of Gusti’s theory had already been laid.
The leading ideas of the first pieces of monographic research were outlined in the theory of “social frames and manifestations”. According to these ideas, the team investigating a certain village split into eight sub-groups: four of them studied the four social conditions (cosmological, environmental, intellectual and historical), while the others investigated the four types of social activities (economic, spiritual, ethical-juridical and political-administrative). The one-month summer campaigns characteristic of the project (which involved some forty participants) went beyond mere efficient data collection with a view to elaborating an original system of monographic sociology in the spirit of Gusti’s intentions.
In addition to individual writings published by different participating members, the Bucharest School of Sociology also produced dozens of volumes on monographic theory, research techniques, and social intervention, and a number of either analytic or descriptive discussion papers. However, the most important constituent of monographic sociology in Romania – was, in my view, the stress placed by the elaborator of the research techniques (Henri H. Stahl) on the unparalleled importance of unmediated contact with the peasants. A fragment from an interview with Professor H. H. Stahl, talking about his field experience, is worth quoting here:
[A] At least as far as the village is concerned, it was the same old feeling for me. I managed well. I had no real difficulties, or none that I can remember.
[Q] What about the others? There must have been townfolk among you having their first contact with the countryside.
[A] Yes, they may have had a harder time getting used to it. This is also a gift, I believe, which you may or may not have. Being a social researcher goes beyond academic study; it means having particular gifts. What those gifts are is harder to say. First, I would say, it’s the ability to become ‘invisible‘ in the village: you need to know how to keep silent, how to listen, to look, to stay out of obvious involvement, how to be slightly chameleon-like . . . well, even the way you’re dressed is important, you have to wear the right kind of clothes so that the people you talk to can accept you, categorize you somehow. You cannot go to the countryside dressed the same way you dress for the suburbs. It‘s different. Then there‘s the way you talk. You have to know how to speak their language, so that they can understand you. In order to do so you must know their language well.
[Q] Still, you had to explain to them What you were looking for.
[A] What was there to explain? No, not at all, I’ve never explained to people what I was going to do. There’s no need for that. You just sit there and talk to them in the normal way, just like in a usual conversation between people. Bringing the conversation around to what interests you is the trick. But you shouldn’t tell them, you know, ‘I want to do a study on the history of law’, or ‘I want to find out about . . The example I used to give whenever I wanted others to learn the method is the following: you don’t go and ask the peasant: “What is the rule, which one of the children should stay home, the eldest or the youngest, the girl or the boy?” No, this is not the way to raise the problem. Instead, you just say: “Nice house, is it old, did it belong to your parents? If so, and you are their son, do you have brothers? Elder brothers? Where are they now, where do they live? So it was you who remained in the house?” He will tell you these things naturally, without your having to provoke him. And without provoking him! And that is how all inquiries, all investigations should be done: you gently make idle conversation and then steer it around to the subject that interests you. And it is only after you have let the man say what he wants that you proceed with the questionnaires. Your questions will then reach the core of the matter. That’s different. According to the terminology I used in order to make people understand how a social investigation should be done, I said that there were two successive research methods. The first is the method of the ‘agent provocateur’. You provoke him to shoot his mouth off [laughs]. And after that, the method of the ‘corkscrew’: you pull out sentences, ideas, more ideas, in a systematic way. Not until then do you start—if you have devised your questionnaire—to ask questions, but you don’t ask them things, questionnaire in hand, you should know your questions by heart and, again, speak to them by way of conversation.
Like all other schools of the same kind, the Bucharest School of Sociology came into being at a university, the University of Bucharest. The Seminar for Sociology in the Department of Sociology, Ethics, and Politics, founded and led by Gusti, became a forum for scholarly discussions which welcomed young graduates interested in the novelty of the professor—student relationship, and in the way Gusti conceived of sociology as the science of social reality. The strength of the relationships that were formed in this Seminar and the Professor’s methods of instruction were shown during the great student strikes organized by nationalist students in 1924. While the strike was on, Gusti continued to hold his seminar debates in another building, at this time focusing on the shared elaboration of the research methodology applicable to student phenomena that he intended to investigate together with his students. The Seminar as an institution became increasingly important With the organization of the Summer campaigns on a regular basis, particularly with the preparation and evaluation of the research. The model of the Seminar was transferred to the village camps campaigns as well: each night the results of the day were discussed, and the plans for the next day were collectively elaborated on this basis. In an interview, Marcela Focsa, a former member of the Bucharest School of Sociology, speaks of Gusti’s role and of the atmosphere surrounding the summer investigations he led:
Gusti was an animator-type of leader. He needed people around. Words cannot describe the fascination this method of monographic sociology had for the most diverse categories of intellectuals: stage-directors, painters, and medical doctors all gathered there in the summer time, eager to know what it was all about. There were also students, naturally. The number of people who were effectively involved in the work was very small compared to the crowd who came [here to watch. I’m not talking about those who, on professional grounds, had a more or less valid reason to be there. Anyway, compared to the numbers of students who would always come and clever people mostly, it is true—those who remained were very few in number. Stahl and Herseni were the big names . . . and Neamtu, from the administrative side . . .
Schools usually commence with the delineation of a significant social space. For example, Whereas the Chicago School concentrated, from the outset, on the phenomena and problems of the American city, the Bucharest School of Sociology chose the Romanian village as its focus. The reason behind this choice Was the old agrarian question for which solutions had to be found in order to help the country’s modernization. At the same time, to a rationalist like Gusti, the reform of the village had to be preceded by scientific investigation. The choice of the rural World as research focus was also due to the belief—one found in all Central and East European countries—that a national culture and state could be built up on the basis of ‘untainted’ peasant culture.
A Workshop—school needs, as already argued, a Well-constructed, intelligible theory; yet the simultaneous drive to identify its clear mission for the development of science and the modernization of the country is of equal importance. Gusti’s group shared with its European and American counterparts this crucial sense of how such a school should function.
Gusti’s great achievements included not only his mobilization of young people to engage in field research, but also his ability to raise the funds necessary for the school’s activities. Beginning in 1925, Professor Gusti managed, year after year, to acquire adequate resources to sustain the summer monographic sociology campaigns. More and more of his students and collaborators took part in these investigations, which concentrated on one village at a time. At one point (in Dragus in 1929), one-hundred participants gathered. The raising of funds for these one-month campaigns was Gusti’s particular talent. The problem of financing the Bucharest School of Sociology was solved to a large extent once the professor became, in 1934, the director of the Prince Carol Royal Cultural Foundation. Besides the jobs it offered his young collaborators and the budget granted in support of field research, the Foundation also financed the publication of a medium-level journal in which students could publish their first essays. Thus, Romanian Sociology appeared in addition to the Archive for the Social Sciences and Reform and the other publications issued under the aegis of the Romanian Social Institute. The Foundation played an essential role in helping the Bucharest School of Sociology to publish its members’ work, even after 1939, when Gusti was replaced as director by Octavian Neamtu. Fortunately, Neamtu had been Gusti’s student and proved very skillful in administrative matters. Moreover, due to Gusti’s Europe-Wide prestige, the Archive for the Social Sciences and Reform became a semi-official journal of the International Institute for Sociology in the 1930s.
The Bucharest School of Sociology was also similar to the other schools of field research in its cultivation of close relationships with other academic organizations. As the concept of monographic sociology was envisaged in terms of a multi-disciplinary approach, Gusti had contacts with institutes for economics, statistics, medical science, and so on. Thus, among the members of a team working in a particular fieldwork there were economists, agronomists, ethnographers, geographers, statisticians, and medical doctors, to name only a few. At the same time, there were sociologists who became members of organizations concerned with the administration of welfare assistance, and also with the implementation of the national census of 1930. In terms of network organization, the most impressive achievement of the Bucharest School of Sociology was the coordination of hundreds of specialists to put together the very first Romanian Encyclopedia, four volumes structured in accordance with Gusti’s sociological theory of “frames” and “manifestations”. While sustaining his model of monographic sociology, and the aim of integrating the Bucharest School of Sociology on this basis in the international scientific network, Gusti also nourished relationships with sociologists from other countries. It is well known that in the 1930s Gusti and the Romanian school of monographic sociology were highly respected by contemporary Hungarian sociologists. Furthermore, it can be stated that the sociological doctrines, experiences, and techniques of social intervention became integral parts of the work of those young sociologists and writers who made their debut in the 1930s. Evidence of such an impact can be seen in the decision of the International Institute for Sociology to hold the 14th International Congress of Sociology under Gusti’s presidency in Bucharest. Among the guests expected to attend this congress were: Corrado Gine (Rome), Hans L. Stoltenberg (Giessen), Stanislaw Ossowski (Warsaw), Marc Bloch, Maurice Halbwachs, and Rene Maunier (Paris), Guillaume Iaguemyns (Brussels), Gaston Richard (Bordeaux), Roger Bastide (Sao Paolo), Florian Znanecki (Posnan), Istvan De’kany (Budapest), M. S. Filipovic and Slobodan Popovic (Belgrade), Ianaki S. Molloff and A. V. Tottef (Sofia), and Carl Zimmerman (Cambridge, Mass, USA.) In the event, history took a hand, and, instead of the congress, came the outbreak of the Second World War.
Despite the renown it already enjoyed in the 1930s, the Bucharest School of Sociology met a fate similar to that of other schools. After the intensity of its formation in the 1920s, and the peak of its maturity in the first half of the 1930s, the second half of the latter decade witnessed the loosening of the cohesion of the Bucharest School of Sociology, which came to the surface due to both professional and political dissidence. For instance, Anton Golopentia, one of the most talented and cherished of Gusti’s students, came to reject the method of preparing an exhaustive monograph on a particular social entity, and instead promoted the more flexible method of the summary monograph, which was oriented more towards the study of particular social problems. Mihai Pop recalled the gradual shaping of this new orientation in the second half of the 1930s:
Meanwhile, the method took root and gained shape, yet the focus of interest was always the traditional village; it was more or less a method seeking to establish, at a certain level, the basic elements of the economy, sociology, and culture of the traditional village, wasn’t it? Our informants tended to be chosen from the older generations, or at least, from the mature ones. When Golopentia returned from Germany, where he had studied with Professor Feyer, he proved much more interested in contemporary phenomena: in all the tension and conflicts animating the life of a contemporary village. The image sociologists had tended to come up with was that of a calm, peaceful village. It was all a matter of equilibrium, you see? And then Golopentia came and suggested another idea, that there were conflicts and tensions in the life of a village. So when we went to Dambovnic, we looked for this very conflicting state of affairs; the idea was that, when the agrarian reform had been implemented after the First World War, everyone had received their share of land, but not everyone had kept it and some had sold it to those who had more opportunities. And that’s when differences were created in the village, among the rich boyars (the future ‘kulaks’), the middling sort of peasants, and the ‘agrarian proletariat’. Those who had received and sold their share of land either moved to the town or remained agricultural workers in the village, or worked in the village only on a seasonal basis. That is what we were interested in at Dambovnic.
The decline that Gusti’s school experienced in the late 1930s was due to a decreasing interest in theoretical and methodological questions, and a simultaneously increasing preoccupation with issues of social status. The theory that in the 1920s had propelled people to enthusiastically engage in research became less and less attractive during the second half of the next decade. By the 1940, the Bucharest School of Sociology was no longer driven by the high levels of energy or the influx of ideas that had characterized its existence in the 1920’s. However, it continued to function by the force of its own inertia and because of the great respect that students and collaborators still had for the Professor. It continued in this manner until its violent disintegration in 1948, when both the discipline of sociology and its practitioners were altogether banished from the Romanian system of higher education.
In accordance with their very nature, schools of sociology are bound to be strongly influenced by the social conditions of their time. No matter how charismatic a school’s founder and leader might be, he cannot always protect the workshop from external influences. In our case, one might say that the founder of the school was responding directly to social circumstances when he envisioned collective social research. Like all young intellectuals returning to Romania from study abroad, Gusti had a tendency to evaluate everything around him in terms of Western structures and institutions, and to want to modernize by introducing Western seeds into Romanian soil. “Our ambition is to lay the basis of a seminar for sociology and ethics similar to those we have observed during our long studies in Germany”, wrote Gusti. He continued:
In Germany, professor and students engage not merely in discussions and analyses of all the questions raised by the social sciences sub specie aeternitas, but [also] . . . in an investigation of problems with immediate social import. I’m thinking of the activities at the state seminars for the sciences in Berlin and Leipzig, as Well as at the homicide discussion seminar in Berlin . . . The primary concern of these seminars was, of course, science, yet besides nourishing a ‘purely’ scientific interest, ‘they also formed a sort of ‘parliament’ for debate in order to submit the legislative material to a detailed and strictly scientific analysis, concluding with a monograph, which the Parliament eventually used in its legislative activity.
Dimitrie Gusti was animated by particular ‘missionary‘ goals which he shared with all the Romanian intellectuals of the nineteenth century who had studied in the West. He was a member of the generation which took it upon itself to attempt to construct a new Romanian nation within the context of the unification of Greater Romania after 1918. It follows that his scientific project could not be divorced from the general strategy of the country’s intellectual and political elite.
After the formation of Greater Romania in 1918, Gusti obtained the official recognition of the Association for the Social Sciences and Reform for his reform ideas, which he had planned during his period in Iasi. Conceived as a research institute, yet functioning more like a forum for debate, the creation of the Romanian Social Institute in 1920 was instrumental in raising the professional standards of state administration and in elaborating a scientific basis for government. Besides being an expression of Gusti’s belief in the as rapid as possible enlightenment of government personnel, the foundation of the Romanian Social Institute also brought about regular contacts with the major personalities of the time, and the instigation of an information network that was essential in order to achieve the director’s far-reaching plans. Therefore, the primary feature that distinguished the Bucharest School of Sociology from other schools was the fact that it was supported by an institutional structure outside the framework of academia.
To Gusti, an admirer of German professional associations from the days when he was a student there, such structures were necessary in order to involve academic research in finding solutions for real social problems. In his opinion, the Romanian Social Institute was meant to serve as a link between the social Sciences and the legislative and decision-making bodies of the state. Discussions were initiated within the Romanian Social Institute’s departments concerned with agriculture, commerce and industry, finance, the law, politics and administration, politics and public health, and sociology. Gusti would invite public personalities to air their positions on various important topics. These contributions were then gathered in book form: for example, The New Romanian Constitution and the New European Constitutions, Doctrines of the Political Parties, Foreign Affairs, and The Politics of Culture.
The village research campaigns were undoubtedly the Institute‘s most important projects, however. While it is true that the Sociology Seminar served as a forum in which young collaborators and students were trained for research campaigns and the processing of the collected materials, the Seminar could not provide financial support for this form of research. As a result, the Romanian Social Institute formally supported the village research while financial aid was provided by private donations. The Bucharest School of Sociology’s first formal appearance on the intellectual stage took place in 1928, at Fundul Moldovei, where the Monographers’ Association came into being during that year‘s research campaign. Yet the task of coordinating the monographic research was officially taken over by the sociology department of the Romanian Social Institute. This organization was mostly involved in organizing conferences and presentation sessions, and in establishing relations with similar national and international organizations. In a sense, it was a kind of NGO avant la lettre, through which Gusti managed to raise funds to aid research and the publication of books and journals. Its staff numbered only two or three persons, and it functioned as a formal Bucharest School of Sociology research unit only for a limited period, in 1959. After Gusti’s ministerial service (1932-33) and his subsequent appointment as head of the Foundation (1934), the Romanian Social Institute existed in name only. With the advent of the Communist regime and the exclusion of sociology and sociologists from the University, the Romanian Social Institute was finally shut down.
Gusti’s project of building a school Within the university while maintaining strong roots outside academia had undeniable importance. Even more significant was his endeavor, from the outset, to combine sociological research with intervention in the problems of the villages under investigation. While analyzing the life of a village in its various aspects, developing various methods to prepare a comprehensive monograph, and refining the system of monographic sociology, Gusti’s multidisciplinary team tried to identify and arrange for the treatment of frequently occurring diseases, take steps against the appearance of non-Orthodox religious sects, help run the peasant cooperatives, set up rural libraries, and so on. Research clearly took priority during the 1920s and the first half of the 1930s. After Gusti took over the directorship of the Foundation in 1934, however, intervention predominated. Some collaborators refused to embrace social intervention (Mircea Vulcanescu and Traian Herseni), however, while others became experts (Henri H. Stahl, Anton Golopentia, Octavian Neamtu). Gusti‘s position was criticized both in and outside the school, and from various ideological viewpoints.
In retrospect, the Bucharest School of Sociology-strongly influenced as it was by Gusti’s personality—oscillated between the twin poles of scholarly research and social action. The subjective dimension of its functioning was provided by Gusti’s nine-year German scientific career, ranging from data collection and the design of alternatives to taking action with a view to transformation and change. Equally, his origin in a small country neighboring the three empires of Austria—Hungary, Russia, and Turkey, was another reason for the missionary zeal felt and expressed by him and his colleagues fresh from their studies in the West. Most of them did not embrace teaching careers, but were involved in various aspects of public life.
Regardless of Gusti’s individual position, the very atmosphere of the period following the First World War induced an activism which was nourished by the nationalist revolution underlying the formation of Greater Romania after 1918. The post-war ideology embraced the unification in the ‘soul’ of the country by means of a ‘Romanianization’ of the newly unified provinces. The belief was that a political and military unification was insufficient without spiritual unification. This project, coordinated by the liberal Minister of National Education Constantin Anghelescu, conceived of ‘Romanianization’ as part of the larger project of the country’s emancipation and modernization.
The populations of the regions of Greater Romania were to be homogenized through culture. As Romanian urban culture was thought to have a foreign origin, the unification strategy viewed the culture of the Romanian village as the only truly authentic one, so providing the right model to follow. The ‘rediscovery’ of peasant culture was an instrument of the deliberate strategy of nation and state-building, one also employed by a number of other national states of the period. This conjunction of nation-building and modernization was shared by most of the Romanian elite; the differences, although important, were not fundamental. Gusti’s school did not reject the general strategy of cultural homogenization; on the contrary, in the first period of its activities, the school supported the priority of gaining knowledge of the village over practical intervention in it. The strategy of nation-building was able to confer the undeniable power of legitimation which no intellectual enterprise could overlook. Although Gusti had brought the plans for remaking intellectual work from Germany, there was no need for him to try to adapt them to the new intellectual trend in his home country, since it fitted him like a glove. At the same time, there was an apparent difference between Gusti and the liberal politicians of the time in terms of modes of national construction, its priorities, and its rhythm. Gusti advocated the in-depth study of the country, the development of particular modernizing methods, and their implementation with peasant involvement. Compared to this long-term strategy, the politicians, with an eye to equalizing the populations of the different regions, tended to try to accelerate the research process in pursuit of outwardly impressive—and consequently superficial—results.
Another characteristic of the Bucharest School of Sociology was that its leader was not only the head of the subunits related to the school, such as the Sociology, Ethics, and Politics Department or the Romanian Social Institute; most of the time, he was also a public dignitary. Gusti was President of the Cooperative Association, President of the Autonomous Chamber of State Monopolies, President of the Broadcasting Corporation, Minister of Public Education, Religion, and Arts, General Director of the Prince Carol Royal Cultural Foundation, President of Social Services, and, after Romania ceased to be at War, President of the Romanian Academy.
Gusti‘s period of office in the latter position had three major consequences. First, it enabled him, as leader of the Bucharest School of Sociology, to play an active part in state administration, with the result that national interests naturally became part of the school’s ethos. Secondly, he had increasing access to financial resources: the financing of research, the publishing of sociological books and journals, and the granting of scholarships for study abroad would not have been possible had Gusti remained only a university professor. Thirdly, the division of labor within the school was conceived at a very early stage so that responsibility for major tasks could be taken by his immediate collaborators, such as Mircea Vulcanescu, Henri H. Stahl, Xenia Costaforu, Traian Herseni, and Anton Golopentia. Gusti organized research, guided discussions, drew up action plans, and controlled the observation of the conceptual framework of the school, yet he involved himself directly neither in guiding the work of young scholars nor in the technical details of research or organization. As a result, his ‘lieutenants’ had a relatively free hand with their own work and greater responsibility in terms of guiding young scholars’ first attempts at research and the writing of papers.
The school was also involved in the cultural politics of King Carol II whose non-conformist attitude made him popular, at least for a while. When he was enthroned in 1930, he planned a relaunching of the modernization and spiritual unification of the Romanians, a process that had made a sweeping start after 1918, yet with results that had not met the expectations of the cultural authorities. Gusti had valued the King’s ambitions regarding cultural reform since the time when Carol II was crown prince and General Director of the Foundation. Now (in the 1930s) he elaborated a cultural strategy for the village based on the joint activity of young intellectuals (organized in multidisciplinary teams) and local peasants. The strategy covered four domains: the culture of labor, the culture of the ‘soul’, the culture of health, and the culture of the mind. From 1934 onwards, more and more teams went into Romanian villages during the summer in order to take part in ‘rural self—development, as Gusti conceived it, with royal moral support. At the same time, the monographic work was not forgotten, although it was limited to a small number of monographs and data gathered in the villages by the teams concerned with the culture of labor. Particular attention began to be paid to the more professional cultural Work of the teams in the villages. Every year there Were more teams Working in the Romanian villages and more and more time and energy were dedicated to royal propaganda. When Carol II suspended the Constitution and imposed his personal dictatorship in 1938, the students” formerly voluntary cultural work became a patriotic Obligation. According to the Act on Social Service—which was elaborated under Gusti’s guidance— every graduate of a university or college was required to participate in the cultural work of one of the teams in the countryside. The actual content of the activities did not change, but the paramilitary manner of organization and the amount of funds allocated to social service introduced significant nuances into the original idea.
One can understand neither the King’s nor Gusti’s new orientation without taking into account, beyond the state strategy of nation-building, the political context of the 1930s. In common with almost everywhere else in continental Europe, Romanian liberal democracy gave way to the aggressive assaults of nationalist extremism. Nationalist extremism appeared in Romania in the form of the Iron Guard, and gained strength in the 1920s, indirectly encouraged by the state strategy of nation-building. Once it had put down solid roots, at the beginning of the 1930s the Iron Guard stepped up its attacks on national minorities and the political elite, which it deemed corrupt and eager to betray the national interest. Although King Carol II was a champion of national rebirth, he resisted the Iron Guard and energetically repressed its political coups. But the Iron Guard‘s devious efforts to galvanize a youth movement and to pose as protector of the poor and the unfortunate forced Carol II to take counter measures. Although I have been unable to find any overt expression of the fact in any of the documents or interviews, in my opinion, the forceful development of the Foundation teams under the guidance of Gusti’s collaborators was meant to attract as many young people as possible to a royal institution, so preventing them from joining the Iron Guard. This manifested itself in the organization of the everyday life of the social-service teams in terms of particular ceremonies, rituals, gestures, and rules similar to those of the Iron Guard. It was obvious that one element of the strategy used by Carol II and his followers (Gusti among them) in order to fight the Iron Guard was to offer the young the same atmosphere of paramilitary discipline. Irina Pop Sturza, a graduate of agronomy at the time, remembers the atmosphere in one camp where the leaders of the team providing social services were trained:
Everything was so strict, starting with the time we had to get up and attendance at the raising of the flag. After that we did some gymnastics. Classes followed, then a walk through the city, all in columns and singing patriotic songs. In the afternoon we had an hour’s rest and then some free time. Classes were sometimes taught in the afternoon as well . . . When the [course] was over, we took our exams and those who got the highest marks were appointed team leaders. I wasn’t trained to become a team leader: it happened on the basis of the marks I got for the graduation exam. It was quite difficult, the exam. They taught us all manner of things, since they were sociologists, whereas we had no notion of what sociology was. I can’t remember what we did on Sundays. We would go on a trip or something. We once joined the boys‘ team and went to Vidraru, where the dam stands today; we stayed there a whole day. The boys lived in another building. One of my colleagues was engaged to a boy there. But they weren’t allowed to see each other. They were both of age, yet visits or dates were forbidden. There was this Nazi-like rigidity, of the kind they had in the Iron Guard. It came as a shock to everyone.
Meanwhile, although the work of the teams was the main concern, significant attention was paid to sociological undertakings. Some research from the 1920s was pursued further; monographs were put together during two summers in the village of Sant (Bistrita-Nasaud district); and a summary monograph was prepared in Dambovnic. Besides the publication opportunities offered by the Foundation, an important event in this regard was the organization of the 14th International Congress of Sociology in Bucharest. The congress was conceived in such a way as to present the Bucharest School of Sociology’s monographic method to the international community of sociologists. The event had been carefully prepared in all its details: numerous volumes authored by the foreign and Romanian guests were published, free travel permits were issued. Yet the congress had to be postponed indefinitely because of the outbreak of the Second World War. Although this disappointment left its mark on the fate of the Bucharest School of Sociology, it remains a fact that if Gusti and his collaborators had not ‘joined’ Carol II’s ‘army’, the school would not have reached maturity, nor would it have had such an influence on the social sciences of the interwar period. And if ‘enrollment’ was the price to be paid for the pursuit and development of sociology, it was an infinitely more honest and rational choice to adhere to the King’s party than to stay neutral or to join the pro-Hitler Iron Guard.
Finally, among the factors which distinguish the Bucharest School of Sociology from other schools, one must underline the fact that its dissolution was mainly due to external political causes. It is true that Golopentia’s suggestion, made in 1938, to replace Gusti’s exhaustive monographs with summary monographs focusing on particular social issues indicated the decline of Gusti’s method, but the events of the autumn of 1939 – the interruption of the International Congress of Sociology, the abrogation of the Act on Social Service, the removal of Gusti and his collaborators from the Foundation, the evaporation of the funds necessary for rural research – were significant blows to the Bucharest School of Sociology. It is true that the Romanian Social Institute was not suspended and that sociology books and journals continued to be published, but the central concept of Gusti’s system, the monograph, was no longer an attraction. This remained the case even after the war, when sociology regained its rights and Gusti became President of the Romanian Academy, the highest scientific forum in Romania. Two more summer monograph campaigns were then organized, with an obvious lack of enthusiasm or significant results. Under the pressure of Stalinist intolerance, the Bucharest School of Sociology continued in 1946 and 1947, but only as a forum for debate. In 1948, when the School Reform Act was passed, sociology and sociologists were banished from all forms of higher education. Gusti‘s membership of the Romanian Academy was taken away, he was denied his pension, and even thrown out of his own home. Mircea Vulcanescu, Anton Golopentia, Traian Herseni, and Octavian Neamtu were imprisoned (and Vulcanescu and Golopentia died there). Subsequent generations have felt that the Bucharest School of Sociology did not fade away like other schools, but crumbled as a result of Romanian Stalinist pressure.
In the course of pointing out the Bucharest School of Sociology‘s similarities to and differences from other workshop-schools in the West, I have sought to show that sociology did exist in Eastern Europe, and that, during a particular period, the Romanian context offered favorable circumstances to the birth of a full-fledged school of sociology. The merit of Gusti and the Bucharest School of Sociology does not lie primarily in the originality of the paradigm they proposed, but in the institutionalization of the discipline of sociology in Romania. While the other Romanian universities, such as those in Cluj, Iasi, and Cernovit, were advocating a purely theoretical sociology in the spirit of the humanities (as was the case in other East European universities), Bucharest University, together with the external institutional system created by Gusti, favored a type of sociology based on empirical investigation, multi-disciplinarity, and applied social research. We cannot estimate what it would have meant for European sociology if the 14th International Congress had actually taken place in Bucharest. Nor can we say what rating Edward Tiryakian, the illustrious exegete of the Bucharest School of Sociology, would have granted it – whether he would have considered it a minor or a major school. The unrealized effects do not allow us to guess. Nonetheless, it is certain that – despite (ultimately understandable) ideological lapses – Gusti and the School in Bucharest gave birth to a wealth of sociological documentation, and, above all, laid the basis of sociology in Romania, so that we do not now have to invent or borrow it from others.
Dimitrie Gusti conceived of his School and shaped its policies to fit the needs of the inter-war period, inextricably involving politics in the discipline of sociology. The question that we can hardly avoid raising under current conditions is as follows: What are the options of Romanian sociologists today, faced as Gusti once was with the current period of transition in Romanian society?
Outstanding Publications of the Bucharest School of Sociology
Apolzan, L. 1944. Portul și industria casnica textila in Munții Apuseni [The national costume and the homemade textile industry in the ApuseniMountains]. 255 pages.
Barbat, A1. 1944. Structura economica a satului [The economic structure of the village]. 188 pages.
Costa-Foru-Andreescu, Xenia. 1945. Cercetarea monografica a familiei. Contributie metodologica [Monographic research on the family. A methodological contribution]. VII+323 pages.
Dima, Al. 1945. Impodobirea portilor, interioarele caselor, opinii despre frumos [The adornment of the entrance gate, the interior of the house, opinions on beauty]. 43 pages.
Gusti, D. 1934. Sociologia militans. Introducere in sociologia politica [Militant sociology. Introduction to political sociology]. XII+614 pages.
Georgescu, D. C. 1945. Demografia si igiena satului [The demography and hygiene of the village]. 125 pages.
Golopentia, S. C. 1944. Credinte si mituri magice [Religious beliefs and magic rituals]. 116 pages.
Herseni, T. 1954. Teoria monografiei sociologice [The theory of the sociological monograph], with an introductory study ‘Sociologia monografica, stiinta a realitatii sociale’ [Monographic sociology, a science of social reality] by D. Gusti. 166 pages.
— 1935. Realitatca sociala, Incercare de ontologie regionala [Social reality: An essay in regional ontology]. 174 pages.
— 1940. Sociologia romaneasca. Incercare istorica [Romanian sociology: A historical essay]. 168 pages.
— 1941a. Probleme de sociologie pastorala [Problems of pastoral sociology]. 224 pages.
— 1941b. Sociologia rurala [Rural sociology]. 32 pages.
— 1944. Unitati sociale [Social units]. 158 pages.
Ionica, I.I. 1944. Reprezentarea cerului [The ircbrcscntation of the sky]. 83 pages
Pavelescu, Gh. 1945. Cercetari asupra magiei la romanii din Muntii Apuseni [Research on the magic practices of the Romanians in the ApuseniMountains]. 197 pages.
Rainer, Fr. 1945. Tipul antropologic [The anthropological type]. 33 pages.
Stahl, H. H. 1934. Tehnica monografiei sociologice [ The technique of the sociological monograph].184 pages.
— Sociologia satului devalmas romanesc [The Sociology of the Romanian Sharer village]. Vol. I: ‘Economic and Juridical Organization of the Estate’.
— (dir). 1939. Nerej, un village d’une région archaique. Monographic sociologique, avec un préface par G. Gusti. XXIII+406+322+402 pages.
Vol. I: Les cadres cosmologique, biologique et psychique.
Vol. II: Les manifestations spirituelles.
Vol. III: manifestations économiques, juridiques et administratives. Unités, procés et tendances sociales.
Dragus, un sat din Tara Oltului—Fagaras. Monografie sociologica [Dragus, a village from OltCounty—Fagaras. A sociological monograph].
Clopotiva, un sat din Hateg. Monografic sociologica [Clopotiva, a village from Hateg. A sociological monograph]. 1940. XX+VII+574 pages. Vol. I: Staff; Vol. II: Manifestations.
60 sate romanesti [6O Romanian Villages]. 1941—1942. Research carried out by student teams during the summer of 1938. With a study on the present state of the Romanian village by
D. Gusti si Scoala Sociologica de la Bucuresti [D. Gusti and the Bucharest School of Sociology]. 1937. 332 pages.
Monographic Campaigns of the Romanian Social Institute
1. Goicea Mare, Dolj District, 20—24 April 1925, 11 participants
2. Ruset, Braila District, 12—26 july 1926, 17 participants
3. Nerej, Putna District, 15-16 August 1927, 41 participants
4. Fundul-Moldovei, Campulung District, 10 july- 10 August 1928, 60 participants
5. Fagaras, District, 13 July-16 August 1929, 89 participants
6. Runcu, Gorj District, 29 July-1 August 1930, 67 participants
7. Cornova, Orhei District, 25 July-13 August, 1931, 55 participants
8. Dragus, follow-up campaign during the summer of 1932
9. Fagaras, drawing-up campaign for Dragus during the summer of 1933
10. Sant, Nasaud District, summer of 1955, 46 participants; second part: 1936, 50 participants.
11. Nerej, Putna District, 15 July-15 August 1938, collective return.
12. Tara Oltului, Fagaras District, 1939
13. Plasa Darnbovnic, Arges District, 15 July-6 September and 15 September-13 October 1939, 23 participants.
Selected Writings on the Bucharest School of Sociology
Lucia, A. 1945. Sate, orase si regiuni cercetate de Institul Social Roman (1925—1945) [Villages, towns, and regions researched by the Romanian Social Institute (1925—1945)] (Bucharest: Editura Institutului Social Roman, Institutul de Cercetari Sociale al Romaniei).
Lucia, A. 1936. ‘Omagiu profesorului D. Gusti’ [Homage to Professor D. Gusti], Arhiva pentru Stiinta si Reforma Sociala, an XIV.
Larionescu, M., (ed). 1996. Scoala Sociologica de la Bucuresti [The Bucharest School of Sociology] (Bucharest: Editura Metropol, 1996).
Rostas, Z. 1998. ‘An Experiment of Oral History: Interviews With Members of the School of Sociology’, Martor, No. 3.
Stahl, H. H. 1980. Amintiri si ginduri [Memories and thoughts] (Bucharest: Editura Minerva).
Tiryakian, E. A. 1979. ‘The Significance of Schools in the Development of Sociology’, in Contemporary Issues in Theory and Research: A Metasociological Perspective, ed. W. E. Snizek et al. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press).
 E. A. Tiryakian, “The significance of Schools in the Development of Sociology”, in Contemporary Issues in Theory and Research: A Metasociological Perspective, ed. W. E. Snizek et al. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979).
 M. Vajda, “Fedoneve: Futo” [Code Name: “Stoker”], interview by E. Argejo, Kritika (May 1999)
 In the parlance of Gusti’s research team, this room represented the “evening meeting place.”
 The fundamental categories according to Gusti’s system were labeled “cadre” and “manifestări”, or “frames” and “manifestations”. More accurately, however, “cadre” can be interpreted as “social conditions” and “manifestări” as “social activities”
R.E.Park and E.W. Burgess, Introduction to the Sciences of Sociology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1921).
 See “Sozialwissenschaften, Soziologie, Politik und Ethik, in ihrem einheitlichen Zusammenhang. Prolegomena zu einem System”, Zeitschrift fur Politik, Band 3 (1909/10); “Despre natura vieții sociale” [On the Nature of Social Life], Cultura Română IV, No. 1-2 (1910); and “Realitate, știință și reformă socială” [Reality, Science and the Social Reform], Arhivă pentru Știință și Reformă Socială, An. I, No. 1 (1919).
 “Monographic research”, “monographic sociology”, “monographic method”, and “monographic theory” are different denominations of Dimitrie Gusti’s sociological system. Gusti’s goal, in contrast to other branches of sociology, was to create an exhaustive, multidisciplinary study of a particular social unit (a village, for example). The results of this approach, as applied in rural areas, were embodied in a monograph on a village. For use of the varying denominations of “monographic sociology” in English-language literature, see P. Nixon, “Why revisit the inter-war Romanian social science of Dimitrie Gusti? Some preliminary thoughts”, Slovo 7, No. 2 (1994); and also H. H. Stahl, Traditional Romanian Village Communities (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980)
 Among the most important are: M. Vulcănescu, “Teoria și sociologia vieții economice” [Economic theory and sociology], Arhivă pentru Știință și Reformă Socială, an X. (1932); T. Herseni, Teoria monografiei sociologice [Theory of the sociological monograph] (Bucharest: Editura Institutului Social Român, 1934); and H. H. Stahl, Tehnica monografiei sociologice [Technique of the sociological monograph] (Bucharest: Editura Institutului Social Român, 1934). For further details, see also Appendix.
 D.Gusti, Sociologia militans. Introducere in sociologia politica [Militant sociology.
 See: Noua Constitupie a Romfiniei si noile constitupii europcne [The New Romanian Constitution and the New European Constitutions], (Bucharest: Editura Institutului Social 1925); Doctrinelc partidelor politics [Doctrines of the Political Parties], (Bucharest: Editura Institutului Social Roman, 1924); Politica external 21 Roméuiei [Foreign Affairs of Romania], (Bucharest: Editura Institutului Social Roman, 1925); Politica culturii [The Politics of Culture], (Bucharest: Editura Institutului Social Roman, 1930).
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