H. Stahl’s Contribution to the Sociological Monographs of the Bucharest School of Sociology (I)
„Revista română de sociologie”, 2016, serie nouă, anul XXVII, nr. 5–6, p. 403–444
This study is an attempt to shed light onto Henri H. Stahl’s contribution to the sociological monographs that were the core of the Bucharest School of Sociology’s activity. Stahl is presented as an active member of the School, bringing into it his own background and abilities, distinct or shared views, values and interests and then impacting it through his actions which, combined with other factors, distinctively change and shape its development. As such, the study is also not an attempt to summarize his theoretical developments and to compare and place them in rapport with those of other social scientists. The purpose of this study is to expose at least partially the degree to which the knowledge that Stahl generates and uses differs in shape and contents from that of Dimitrie Gusti, regarding the manner in which it is used in his course towards a certain role and status in the School, the manner in which his course in the School develops, and the manner in which his personal characteristics and options, group and organizational developments and the wider social context interact in order to shape published sociological knowledge.
Keywords: Henri H. Stahl, sociological monographs, Bucharest School of Sociology, knowledge.
THE SOCIOLOGICAL MONOGRAPH – THEORY, METHOD, SCIENTIFIC RESULT
The following study is an attempt to shed light onto Henri H. Stahl’s contribution to the sociological monographs that were the core of the Bucharest School of Sociology’s activity. We aim not to reduce Stahl’s status to that of a mere and modest contributor to the activities of an interwar School of sociology and to place a strict and engulfing label upon him – that of being just another disciple of Dimitrie Gusti. By presenting his contribution to the School’s sociological monographs, we first and foremost acknowledge the reality of the moment, his status during the interwar period as a member of a group and an organization which had a complex and distinct development. Furthermore, we acknowledge his status as an active member of the School, bringing into it his own background and abilities, distinct or shared views, values and interests and then impacting it through his actions which, combined with other factors, distinctively change and shape its development. As such, the following study is also not an attempt to summarize his theoretical developments and to compare and place them in connection with those of other social scientists. The purpose of this study is to expose at least partially the degree to which the knowledge that Stahl generates and uses differs in shape and contents from that of Dimitrie Gusti, the manner in which it is used in his course towards a certain role and status in the School, the manner in which his course in the School develops and the manner in which his personal characteristics and options, group and organizational developments and the wider social context interact in order to shape published sociological knowledge. The study is, in fact, an attempt to answer two questions: How did his presence and his activity impact the School’s sociological monographs? To what extent, in what manner and with what did he contribute to their specific characteristics and their results?
These are the central questions of the present study. But before we proceed in trying to answer our central questions, we must first and foremost answer a very important question: what is a sociological monograph?
As we shall see, this was a vital question for the School’s members as well, one for which they had a hard time finding an answer. One may think that a sociological monograph had a single, clear definition, but it is not so – as the definition has changed over the years: the field research and personal contributions and interpretations reshaped D. Gusti’s original vision and generated multiple ways of understanding, thus generating new versions of monographs. Perhaps the greatest source of divergence and diversity lies in the threefold meanings of the concept – the first layer of meaning refers to Dimitrie Gusti’s paradigmatic theoretical vision, one that is centered on the sociological monograph as a holistic framework or paradigm for sociological analysis; the second layer of meaning refers to the actual research done by the School, also defined as being a sociological monograph; thirdly, the envisioned printed result of the School’s research was also supposed to be a sociological monograph. And, as we shall see, the monograph changed over the years at all of its three levels of meaning.
Dimitrie Gusti’s theoretical framework is perhaps the most stable of the three – but it also evolved, changing as the years passed, with the School’s research experience and, most of all, School members’ contributions gently reshaping it. We can emphasize here that, apart from the “official” theoretical framework, the School members’ understanding, interpretation and acceptance of Gusti’s theory differed in various degrees. Sociological monographs as research practice greatly differed as the years went by, mostly because their methodology, derived from Gusti’s theoretical framework, suffered an ongoing development, perfected on the site and in the School’s Seminar after each research campaign. Monographs as research results varied in shape and contents, strongly influenced by a sum of factors, with some of the most influential ones being their authors’ backgrounds and views on what a sociological monograph could and should be.
Other very important aspects defining the sociological monograph should be underlined here. In time, Gusti’s original theoretical framework or paradigm was morphed by School members, invited and led by Dimitrie Gusti himself, into a research methodology and a specific type of research, that tested Gusti’s theory and its effectiveness as a tool for exploring, understanding and explaining social reality, while gathering an unprecedented, highly valuable and large body of information on Romanian rural communities. And as the volume of data gathered grew, the idea of organizing, analyzing it and making the results public became a central concern of the School. Thus began the rise of the idea of a written sociological monograph as the School’s main scientific objective, its main product. And so, from theory into practice and into written results, the sociological monograph envisioned by Dimitrie Gusti and his School took its threefold meaning and its varied shapes.
Having answered part of our question – what is a sociological monograph? – we can now see a clearer picture of our task. It becomes obvious that we must try to analyze Henri H. Stahl’s involvement with the three dimensions of the monograph – theoretical framework, methodological translation into research practice, scientific results.
This is where our own theoretical framework comes into play, helping us in an analysis of the creation of sociological knowledge, of sociology. What makes a sociologist? What are the sources of his scientific endeavors? What are the factors that influence his work? How does he make his mark on the production of scientific knowledge and on the scientific world? In answering such questions we make use of a simple framework, built upon a paradigm that guides studies in various branches of social science, including sociological studies – the life course paradigm. (Giele & Elder, 1998; Elder et al., 2002) The life course paradigm is centered on the way in which individuals and the whole of society interact in generating individual and social change and it allows for a wide range of methods to be utilized in the research conducted. In life course studies, researchers link individuals with the groups that they belong to and also with the historical events and the developing social trends that they take part in, in trying to understand the ways in which society shapes individual lives and individual life paths or courses aggregate to generate social change. In many ways similar to Dimitrie Gusti’s own theoretical framework, the paradigm gives individuals an active role within their social environment – although they are conditioned by it, they are able to respond to it, to create, to innovate, changing their own lives and generating change within their social network and in the whole of society as well. Influences, action and change propagate from macro- to micro- level and in reverse, mediated by groups, by the social network into which individual lives are embedded. The theory also underlines the specificity in time and place of the context that is the media shaping and shaped by individuals and the need to take it into account in every analysis. Moreover, it stresses the lifelong plasticity and variability of individual life courses and the importance of the timing of events (at a micro- and macro-scale) impacting life courses. What we will try to do is to use elements of this framework to try and understand the way in which H.H. Stahl’s own life course was shaped and the way in which its specificities influenced his scientific efforts and results, his actions and interactions in the Bucharest School of Sociology, making an impact on it as an organization and on its activity and shaping its scientific products – shaping sociological knowledge.
BECOMING A MONOGRAPHER
A few words on Henri H. Stahl’s personal background are highly important in our journey towards a better and, most importantly, contextualized, knowledge and understanding of his contribution to sociological monographs. In doing this, we shall use two main sources – his memoirs, published in 1981 (Stahl, 1981) and the interviews that Zoltan Rostas recorded in the 1980’s and published in 2001 (Rostas, 2001), following the structure of his memoirs, developing and deepening Stahl’s recollections and discussing other significant subjects of his life and his experience alongside.
Stahl is born in 1901 and grows up in a social environment that is marked by pervasive nationalism and intensive questioning and exploration of the country’s possibilities for development, especially in the context of a much debated, much speculated and regarded mostly in an ideological manner – the rural problem. There is much public talk of the peasantry in Stahl’s formative years – a social stratum that represented more than 80% of the country’s population, the peasantry was seen as both a deposit of great and many national values and potential and as a backward social class, whose way of life was, paradoxically, unknown to a large degree and disregarded if not despised. (Butoi, 2012) We may say that he simply became passionate, like many others, with the central elements on the era’s public agenda – development or modernization in an age of nationalism and the role and fate of the peasantry during this process. But, to be more precise, we must underline that this passion, though surely tied to his own personal choice and character, was brought to life and mediated by his family and a few others, ones with which Stahl’s family had close ties.
The first person that should be mentioned here is the historian Nicolae Iorga. A close friend of Stahl family (Stahl, 1981; Rostas, 2001), Iorga exerted a very significant influence on Stahl, be it by the means of his published work that Stahl read and had access to it in his parents’ library or through direct interaction. Beyond the fact that Iorga was a passionate and unequaled researcher of Romanian history, he was a passionate advocate of the peasantry. Iorga was one of the leading voices of the initially literary movement of “Sămănătorism” – a term that may not be properly translated into English but whose root bares the meaning of “sowing” or “sower”. Sămănătorismul had as its foundation a socio-political view that abhorred the devastating effect of modernization and of the spread of capitalism in countries that had a very strong presence of rural life and rural communities and an age-old highly valuable and valued peasant culture. (Ornea, 1971) It glorified the latter and promoted the protection and promotion of national (folk or ethnic), peasant and communitarian values against the destructive force of the first. It gradually became somewhat more than a literary movement – its ideas spread, animating a social movement that promoted elevating peasant’s living standards by the means of scholarly culture, all the while preserving, valuing and developing their original folk culture and their rural and communitarian way of life. Stahl embraced such views from early on, at least in part, and they were part of core beliefs and values up until his 30’s – and even beyond this age. (Stahl, 1981; Golopenţia, 2014)
With a growing interest for the peasantry and its history, Stahl also found in Iorga’s work sound information and theories concerning its social history and its social organization, most importantly. He sought such information in connection to a preoccupation that was born out of the influence and consequences that another very significant relationship had in his life – the one with his brother, Şerban Voinea.
Voinea was a socialist, a social-democrat to be more precise. He was Stahl’s older brother and he introduced him to the world of Marxian theories of history and development and to the use of Marxian methodology in social science. As Stahl studied law at the University, they discussed issues that preoccupied him, such as the nature and evolution of property rights, a subject that Stahl was interested in. Voinea is also the one who facilitates Stahl’s acquaintance to members of the Romanian social-democratic movement that will have a very strong influence on his political and scientific views – people such as Ilie Moscovici, who Stahl identifies as the man who had a leading role in shaping his views. Given Stahl’s sympathies for the peasant population and his interest in their history, Voinea will also lead Stahl to socialist Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea and his theory on the development of a capitalist economy in Romania and its effects on the peasant population. Stahl considers Dobrogeanu-Gherea’s explanation for the development of Romanian capitalism viable but finds that his knowledge of the social organization of the peasantry was still insufficient. He thus felt that his understanding of Romanian villages and the process of their transformation is lacking in depth and detail and his statement that an Occidental type of feudal system had existed an error. Stahl found that Nicolae Iorga’s theory on the archaic social organization of the peasantry in its evolution in rapport to the other social classes of the country was more likely to be true.
In an exploration of the factors directing his life course towards the research subjects that he then pursued his entire life and towards his particular path as a member of Dimitrie Gusti’s School, we may list a couple more important personal connections and influences. The first is that with his father, Henri Stahl, which took his son on his research walks through Bucharest, interviewing locals in trying to reconstruct the social history of the outskirts of the capital city. It was on this occasion that Stahl acknowledged the value and utility of fieldwork and some techniques for interviewing. Stahl then notes the influence upon his development that was exerted by Voica, the wife of a peasant friend and assistant of his father in the army. Voica is a remarkable personality, to whom Stahl’s sister Henriette Yvonne will later dedicate a novel. Stahl joins her on several trips by foot, from Bucharest to her native village of Falaştoaca, and spends time with her and her family there, making his first contacts with peasants and their communities, one that impresses him so much that he would recall it even many years later as his original numinous encounter with the age-old way of life of peasant communities.
Finally, we may note that he found that he did not want to pursue a career in law after he had graduated and his curiosity for other subjects lead him closer to the subject matters of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy, where he also attended courses. Moreover, as he had become a stenographer for the Parliament and, over the years, earned enough during its short period of annual activity to make a decent living, he ended up having the necessary time and resources to dedicate to his studies and to his future activity as a monographer and a central member of Gusti’s School.
All of the sources of influence in his life placed him on a particular path, determining him to hold particular views. He became interested in the social issues that were on top of the social agenda of the era-development orientated social change, imbued with nationalist ideals, and the role and fate of the peasant population of Romania. His deep preoccupation with these topics was mediated by his close social connections and gained certain particular traits – a preference for the social history of the peasantry (a social class that he saw as underprivileged and yet holding great potential) as a means of understanding present problems in the context of long term processes; a preference for knowledge that is grounded in scientific research, with Marxian historical materialism seen as a great methodological tool to be used; a preference for using in analysis data obtained through fieldwork, as a means of direct investigation of social realities that were otherwise inaccessible. It is within such a context that he heard from his brother in law, Ion Costin, of Gusti’s team going on its first research campaign in 1925 in the village of Goicea Mare, a team of which Costin had been a part of. He was very interested in such an endeavor. Later, in 1926, when Gusti’s assistant at the time, Gheorghe Vlădescu- Răcoasa (whom, we may suppose, he had probably met in the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy or in the group of Romanian social-democrats that he was close to), invited him to be a stenographer for a conference that Gusti held in Brăila, and Stahl accepted the invitation. He thus met the Professor. Gusti wanted to find a jurist to join his research – and as Stahl was interested in research and was currently preparing for a doctorate in law, he received an invitation to join Gusti’s research team. And he accepted it, thus beginning a very important period of his professional life, during which he became a central and highly influential figure within Dimitrie Gusti’s School, a period dedicated to investigating the life of the peasantry and the means by which it changed.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK, THEORETICAL CONTRIBUTIONS
To begin with, before we proceed with our analysis, we must enrich our knowledge of the sociological monograph as a theoretical development. What is the theoretical framework initially developed by Dimitrie Gusti? Exploring the first layer or dimension of the monographs – their theoretical background – will help us start up a better understanding and analysis of Stahl’s contribution.
Monographic sociology is the creation of Dimitrie Gusti, a Romanian scholar belonging to a generation of intellectuals marked by nationalist ideals and the social struggles of the peasantry, the two topics that prevailed on Romania’s public agenda at the turn of the century – the end of the XIXth and the start of the XXth century. (Ornea, 1971) Having studied for some 10 years abroad in Germany and in France, Gusti returns to his hometown Iaşi in 1910, to be granted the title of professor in the Department of History of Philosophy, Ethics and Sociology of the Faculty of Letters. (Vulcănescu, 1998; Vlădescu-Răcoasa, 1936)
By 1910, Gusti had already envisioned the outlines of his theory, linking it to his teaching activity and his belief in the necessity of reuniting the knowledge and methods of the various social sciences under sociology’s holistic approach and grounding reforms, social development and nation building on solid knowledge of the whole of social reality, knowledge that would be obtained through research. His ideas and convictions are stated in his inaugural lesson held at the University in 1910 and reiterated in his opening study for “Arhiva pentru ştiinţa şi reforma socială” in 1919. (Vulcănescu, 1998; Stahl, 1936) These are of utmost importance for his whole activity. Their origin is most likely placed in the period he had spent abroad, a period during which Gusti came into contact with a series of elements which significantly influenced him – such as the German social policies and institutions which developed as a reaction to the problems generated by industrialization and urbanization and the threat of social and political instability, amplified by the spread of socialist ideas within this space. (Momoc, 2012; Muller, 2013) We may also place in this category his contact with the German university model and his contact with theories and activity of German and French personalities – among whom the more significant would be Wilhelm Wundt, Karl Bucher and Henri de Saint-Simon. (Momoc, 2012) A. Momoc summarizes Gusti’s resulting ideas in the following manner:
“Modernizarea prin ştiinţă, în consonanţă cu idealul gustian, pare a fi proiectată în două direcţii: înspre societate, prin cercetare socială şi prin intervenţia (munca) culturală în comunităţile rurale şi mai apoi în cele urbane; înspre politică, prin profesionalizarea politicii prin ştiinţă, fie prin aducerea de specialişti în rândul politicienilor români, fie prin asistenţa tehnocrată pe care elita ştiinţifică putea să o asigure politicienilor”. (Momoc, 2012, 79–80)
The accumulation of knowledge and its transfer, through a developed network, into the Romanian rural space and in the political sphere through the recruitment of specialists or through consulting – this is the strategy that Dimitrie Gusti announces upon his return into his country of origin. It appears that, right from the beginning, Gusti aims to construct a group which could and would, through the use of knowledge, produce social change.
However, although the outlines of his theory as a framework for social analysis and research, intended to provide the necessary knowledge for efficiently designing and implementing social reforms, are set at a very early date, contents and nuances of it evolve along the years. They are gently reshaped as monographic research unfolds, testing and challenging the theory behind it, and as significant members of the School question, evaluate, reformulate and help reorganize elements of the initial theoretical framework. Among all the School’s members, Mircea Vulcănescu and Traian Herseni had the most significant role in promoting Gusti’s theoretical views, making it the object of their studies, publishing volumes that organized and developed its principles, making it more explicit, more easily comprehensible and comparable to other sociological systems or those of other branches of science. But Mircea Vulcănescu, of the two, had a more important role in the development of D. Gusti’s theory – as H.H. Stahl explains in his memoirs, in 1928, during the monographic research campaign taking place in the village of Fundu Moldovei, Gusti asked some of his “senior” pupils – Mircea Vulcănescu, Dumitru Prejbeanu, Ion Costin and H.H. Stahl – to analyze and reorder the research plans and the questionnaires that had been used so far. (Stahl, 1981) Vulcănescu is the only one who takes up this task – and, in the end, working alongside the Professor, he manages to clarify and better define the lines of the theory behind the sociological monographs as research practice, redesigning it in part, in a manner that differed from the first variant outlined by Gusti in his “Sociologia războiului”. (Stahl, 1981) With the years that passed, further developments of the theory were accepted – in 1940, in an introduction to Stahl’s monograph of the village of Nerej, one written for a foreign audience, D. Gusti presents his theoretical views in their latest and final form, one influenced by the contributions and activity of A. Golopenţia, T. Herseni and H.H. Stahl. (Stahl, 1981, 389–390)
But what exactly was Dimitrie Gusti’s theory and what were the topics or the elements that the School’s members challenged, debated and perhaps reshaped in it? Below, we shall try to draw a picture of its main elements, as they presented themselves in the 1930’s and in their final 1940 version. We shall then discuss the School members’ understanding of it and their influence upon it, focusing on Stahl’s influence in particular.
Dimitrie Gusti’s sociological system is first and foremost one that is centered on gaining a holistic and integrated knowledge of social reality. In 1936, in his study Dimitrie Gusti, profesorul, quoted here from a later edition, Mircea Vulcănescu explains his Professor’s ideas as follows:
“Viaţa socială constituind în realitate un singur tot concret, din care ştiinţele particulare izolează numai fragmente, considerarea unui asemenea fragment, necesară analizei, nu poate duce niciodată, singură, la descoperirea raţiunilor suficiente. Pentru a le găsi, orice fapt social trebuie privit sintetic, în complexul împrejurărilor în care se produce, şi cercetat paralel cu aceste împrejurări şi cu manifestările ce-l însoţesc”. (Vulcănescu, 1998, 47)
Further along, Dimitrie Gusti identifies a particular type of relationship between individuals and the society they are a part of:
“De fapt, întreg adevărul sociologic constă în aceasta: societatea există, natural, prin individ, pentru că pe acesta nu-l putem tăgădui şi nu putem să nu-l luăm în considerare, fiindcă există; individul la rândul său, există prin societate, şi numai în societate. […] Însă şi societatea trăieşte în individ; el este creat de societate, dar în acelaşi timp este şi creatorul societăţii”. (D. Gusti in Sociologia Militans, 1934, 198, apud Vulcănescu, 1998, 61)
For the School’s sociologists, individuals are not entities that simply and passively suffer the influence of the social whole of which they are a part of. On the contrary, individuals are at the same time actors, creators of their social universe, as well as creations of it. In the words of Dimitrie Gusti, “în orice experienţă individuală se oglindeşte o experienţă socială, pentru că tot ce formează conţinutul personalităţii este un product al societăţii; dar în acelaşi timp tot ce formează conţinutul socialului este o creaţie a personalităţii”. (D. Gusti in Sociologia militans, 1934, 12 apud Vulcănescu, 1998, 57) Individuals become social entities as parts of social units. As Gusti explains it, “realitatea socială apare ca o îmbinare de nenumărate unităţi sociale, foarte variate şi împrăştiate pe tot globul. Aşa sunt familiile, satele şi oraşele, breslele şi tagmele, atelierele, şcolile, gospodăriile şi întreprinderile, care, la rândul lor, sunt îmbinate felurit în unităţile mai cuprinzătoare ale neamurilor, statelor, imperiilor”. (Gusti, 1940, 3) But social units are not simple conglomerates of individuals – the individuals that are part of them are connected by particular social relations; they are aware to be part of such a group; and they create, as they interact, a particular social structure, an organizing principle that attains an independent existence. (Gusti, 1940, 6) Social units are always more than a sum of individuals – but the additional social content is the result of synthesis and cannot exist in the absence of individuals; moreover, even though every social unit is a totality, its significance can only be found by taking into account and analyzing its components, namely its individual members. (Gusti, 1940, 6) Social units fall into three categories – communities, institutions and groups. (Gusti, Herseni & Stahl, 1999, 110–111) They are differentiated by the degree by which the social relations established within them are the subject of regulations, by the level of pressure for conformity and the freedom of members to introduce social innovations, to join and to finally eliminate them. Social relations are established not only inside social units but between them as well. Social structures thus emerge, defined as “raporturile formale şi abstracte de dependenţă sau interdependenţă a unităţilor: coordonare, subordonare, supraordonare”. (Gusti, Herseni & Stahl, 1999, 111)
Gusti’s vision further emphasizes the active and creative role of these social units. At the core of each social world, he finds, we may find its motor, its driving power – for Gusti, this creative force bears the name of social volition. Personality and society are born out of the exercise of individual and social volition, by both individual initiative and action and affiliation to social volition, in the context of established social relations. The concept of social volition is a key element in Gusti’s system. It is more than the sum of individual’s volitions and it spawns from the socialization of individual volitions, as they are subordinated to a common goal. Social volition is both action and intention, it is both creative vision and action, the means by which society creates and transforms itself. And once social volition appears within a social unit – and this almost always happens to a larger or smaller extent – totul se petrece ca şi cum societatea ar fi suportul unei voinţe autonome, având, cu alte cuvinte, o personalitate proprie. (Vulcănescu, 1998, 52) Volition, as a one of humanity’s defining features, makes it independent of “determinismul cosmic”, as Gusti puts it. (Gusti, 1940, 7) Volition guarantees the active and creative role of human individuals. Its exercise is at the origin of social units as well – without it, we find, social units “ar rămâne simple deziderate şi simple proiecte, dacă voinţa nu le-ar traduce în fapt prin acţiune” (Gusti, 1940, 7). Endowed with social volition, any social unit seeks “a se realiza pe ea însăşi prin creaţii de valori sociale, prin acte de producere de bunuri materiale şi spirituale şi care se petrec în făgaşele bine determinate ale unor reglementări şi instituţii”. (Gusti, 1940, 7–8)
However, any creative act in the social realm that has social volition as its vehicle is a conditioned one – though not a caused one, in a deterministic manner. It is conditioned by the existence of a series of cadre (settings), which are preconditions of any social existence. Gusti’s system identifies four types of such settings – a cosmological setting, along with a biological one, a psychological one and a historic setting. The first two condition social existence as exterior forces, and are therefore assigned the tag asocial. The last two “reprezintă influenţa faptelor sociale asupra societăţii” (Vulcănescu, 1998, 51) and are given the tag of social settings. In the process of social creation, social volition interacts with all of these settings simultaneously – and as it does so, it creates certain manifestations. Some of these are considered to be constitutive for social reality – this is the case for two categories of manifestations, cultural and economic ones. The other two types of manifestations are moral-juridical and political-administrative ones, also called regulative manifestations, which regulate social life. (Vulcănescu, 1998, 51) Manifestations, as we have underlined earlier, are not the result of a deterministic influence of settings. They are generated by an active reaction to the conditioning of the settings. As Mircea Vulcănescu explains it:
“Caracterul esenţial al vieţii sociale stă în faptul că formele de manifestare, deşi nu pot fi înţelese decât în cadrul factorilor cari le condiţionează, nu suferă totuşi niciodată pasiv influenţa cauzalităţii lor. Căci (…) cadrele nu determină societatea în mod mecanic. Societăţile reacţionează asupra cadrelor, cu ajutorul propriilor manifestări, putându-se sustrage influenţei lor, prin interferenţa acestor reacţii. Aşa că manifestările oricărei societăţi sunt, în acelaşi timp, elemente determinate şi determinante ale devenirii ei. […] Cadrele apar mai curând ca nişte motive ale unei voinţe colective decât ca nişte cauze propriu zise”. (Vulcănescu, 1998, 52–53)
Gusti’s system then includes a theory of social processes – these are processes that affect social units and are linked with the agency of social volition and the social relations established within and between social units. In his view, social change results not only from the active force associated with social volition but also from something Gusti coins as being a “lege a paralelismului sociologic”. This law or principle may be understood as follows – no single or unique factor can be the sole or primary determinant of social existence or change; social units and their manifestations transform “din cauza determinismului comun pe care îl suferă din partea societăţii, din partea întregului”. (Gusti, Herseni & Stahl, 1999, 113) Changes may appear at the level of any type of manifestation, with manifestations having partial autonomy as a characteristic. But what causes significant or structural change at the level of the whole lies not in the determinant role of one change or another but in the tendency of the whole to harmonize its components so that it becomes, once more, a homogeneous unit. In Gusti’s own words, “părţile totului social se desvoltă în acelaşi timp, nu succesiv, având între ele raporturi de interdependenţă, nu de subordonare”. A synchronous transformation ensures an inner equilibrium for social units, one without which they would “pierde cu uşurinţă unitatea şi armonia interioară”, while “dezechilibrul […] i-ar determina un grabnic proces de disoluţie”. (Gusti, 1940, 14)
Having sketched these essential elements of the paradigm, we may now try to shed light on the ways in which he imagined sociology and the process by which sociological knowledge should be obtained – the epistemic roots of sociological monographs. As sociology should be, in Gusti’s view, a holistic science, analyzing social wholes and the social processes and relations established within them, it does not allow for “partial sociologies”, namely specialized branches of sociology. Sociology should be one, a single whole, and a “monographic” one – it must gather and analyze data of a diverse nature, in a comprehensive and organized manner, treating them as parts of a social whole, using the skills of specialists but the methods of sociology, to be more specific the monograph. This was Gusti’s original view, the one with which he set out the School’s research. This particular view changed a bit in the late years of the School, as we shall see below, in agreement with H.H. Stahl’s own views and perhaps under his influence. The sociological monograph, turned into a particular research practice, had a distinctive note in its use of observation as a tool used by sociologists as well as specialists of different social fields, with fieldwork, as a means of direct contact with reality, being an essential part of sociological investigations. Apart from this, the monograph as an ideal body of sociological knowledge is focused mainly on the present situation of a social unit. Although it takes history into account as a specific type of setting conditioning the present social realities and sees social units as dynamic entities that change through social processes, Gusti did not design the monograph as a tool focusing on long term processes starting in some distant past. Which takes us to another important and final aspect of Gusti’s projected ideal quest for sociological knowledge, which is its purpose – to shed light on the central force of social reality, social volition. Uncovering, understanding and describing social volition should have been the purpose of sociological monographs – and this should have been done by analyzing the rapport established between settings and manifestations, drawing conclusions on the active and the intended transformations that social units had made within their environment. Due to social volition’s double nature – as action and as intention, ideal and realization – sociological monographs should then be able to shed light on social units’ ideals and prospective evolution, so they are actually future and development orientated. All of this extended introduction describing Dimitrie Gusti’s sociological system is meant to hugely simplify an analysis of Henri Stahl’s influence on it and the manner in which, having earned a central role in developing the School’s methodology, he used and transformed it.
Stahl had a rather minor influence in shaping Dimitrie Gusti’s own, official, published theoretical model of society and the means by which it may be known – the sociological monograph. What he had, though, was a significant amount of agreement with the general lines of the theory and several points of disagreement and the ability to contribute significantly to its transformation into a working research methodology, though shaping the resulting methodology so that it should be more in the lines of his own theoretical background and views. As we have underlined before, it was Traian Herseni and especially Mircea Vulcănescu, who were in the largest measure in agreement with his theory.
Vulcănescu had, at one point, a significant role in clarifying and reorganizing its elements, especially its (now) centerpiece – namely social volition. And the both of them had an important role in emphasizing a particular quality Gusti’s sociology had – the fact that its view and envisioned method differed from those of natural science and that it had to take into account not only forces that acted by the virtues of some determinism but human consciousness, intentions, actions and reactions; they stressed the fact that sociology may not simply explain the mechanisms by which social units function – that it had to comprehend individuals as they were creative agents whose actions had meanings. As Stahl puts it in his memoirs, they emphasized Gusti’s “phenomenological” views. Stahl, on the other hand, with his Marxist training and views, had a rather different view on things. He gives little value to the idea of social volition and evades it in his research and in his studies. He found it to be, at least in the manner it was initially defined, a much too abstract notion, with little relevance for actual research – social volition, he writes in his memoirs, was “o abstracţie îndoielnică, în niciun caz concretizabilă în ceva tangibil, de constatat la teren, prin obiecte, acţiuni sau opinii”. (Stahl, 1981, 101) This sort of thinking is quite typical of Stahl and his theoretical perspective – his formative years with Romanian social-democrats – had a deep influence in his theoretical thinking, his views on social reality. As a Marxist, Stahl finds social reality to be a stack of layers at the basis of which lie technical and economical (productive) developments. As they constitute the basis of society, these developments decisively influence the structuring of the other layers that are part of society. Moreover, and very importantly, these factors that have a decisive conditioning influence are material ones – this is the essence of the historical materialism that Stahl embraced as a most useful methodological tool. He found it to be very useful for conducting research and analyzing reality – and just that, not really embracing it as an ideological axiom. As he puts it: “Am fost convins că materialismul istoric este o admirabilă unealtă de cercetare ştiinţifică, însă atâta”. (Rostas, 2001, 14)
Historical materialism is also the basis upon which Stahl developed his own unique tool for the analysis of social history – social archeology. He found that there is a correspondence between the physical traces of economic activity on the surface of the earth and socio-economical organization of the community inhabiting the humanized space – and that by analyzing the first, one can access, understand and explain the latter. Stahl also noticed that there exists a certain delay in the change of physical space in relation to the social life of the communities – so that the analysis of the inhabited space helps discover previous forms of social organization. Stahl’s social archeology is the tool that he used to build the foundation for all of his theoretical developments. And as we follow the development of Gusti’s theoretical views we find that, in 1940, in the preface to Stahl’s monograph of Nerej, D. Gusti mentions the use of his social archeology as a highlight of this published work which should have served as a model monograph – so Stahl’s contribution, disregarding social volition and derived from historical materialism, was finally well received into the theoretical body of the School. This happened with a very indulgent disregard of the fact that Stahl’s research had ventured far from Gusti’s framework that gave little importance to the past, dealing with it only as a setting for the current state of a social unit. In fact, in his pervasive preoccupation with the long term social history of Romanian villages he had another important point of disagreement with Gusti’s view.
Returning to our initial subject, the simple truth about Stahl’s rapport to social volition during the days of the monographs is that he found little or no way to make it operational and measure it in the field and, sharing at least in part the Marxist view that individual and collective consciousness and action are only peripheral and mostly determined, not determinant, in the shaping of social systems, he gave it little or no explanatory power and importance in his research. Stahl admitted though that individuals and groups had active, reactive and self- organizing powers – but they weighed so much less in explaining social change than they did in Dimitrie Gusti’s system. Social volition received very little consideration in the School’s fieldwork as Stahl gradually became the bearer of the label of “the School’s methodologist”. Consequently of this and of other factors, in most of the School members’ works this concept is seldom mentioned. Stahl himself ignores it almost totally in all of his works. In his memoirs, written in the late part of the communist era in Romania, he speaks of it in a critical manner, in many ways identifying it as a very weak point in Gusti’s system – but perhaps this is due, as well, to the ideological pressures of the moment and the threat of censorship. In a more positive note, at one point he mentions that, at last, in the 1940’s, Gusti redefined his concept of social volition in a more acceptable way, by describing it as a psychological quality of social units that are more or less endowed with the power of creative initiative. In reality, in his later years he had had a change of heart and thought. A few years later, in the private interviews he gave Zoltan Rostas, Stahl makes the following statement about the issue of social volition:
“A fost greşit înţeleasă […] nu se ştie ce-a vrut Gusti exact cu voinţa socială. Se crede că este o atitudine idealistă a lui. Câtuşi de puţin. El credea că în viaţa socială are o importanţă foarte mare acţiunea politică. C-o fi avut dreptate, n-o fi avut dreptate să pună accentul pe politică, nu ştiu. Dar că este o acţiune, este clar. Că partidul comunist este forţa conducătoare, păi, dă-mi voie, este acţiune, o voinţă socială din plin. Doar nu ne jucăm cu cuvinte. E voinţă socială. Eu nu-s de acord cu faptul că partidul este factorul hotărâtor. Cred că sunt multe alte împrejurări care-l determină pe partid să facă ceea ce face. Dar, că există voinţă socială, asta este clar. Adică, o acţiune socială. Omul acţionează, nu este numai un pion, societatea ca atare nu suferă numai injoncţiuni ale împrejurărilor externe care există, fără îndoială, te descurci faţă de ele, dar te descurci prin acţiune. Deci, voinţa socială există, nu se poate nega”. (Rostas, 2000, 44–45)
He thus accepts it as a form of social action that is linked mainly to political action – to the power to intentionally produce social change and social order. Stahl’s partial agreement and partial disagreement with Gusti’s theory go even further – and the influences, again, show up more in his translation of Gusti’s paradigm into a research method and its appropriate instruments. When it comes to the problem of settings and manifestations, Stahl accepts them as a valuable list of factors and dimensions that one must take into account when analyzing a certain problem. He is attracted to Gusti’s work and theory as he sees it through the lens of Marxism and historical materialism – Gusti’s system as well as that of Marx emphasized the need to take into account and correlate the multiple dimensions of social reality while studying it. But Stahl went further in his disagreement with the Gusti framework. In an article published in 1936 in “Arhiva pentru ştiinţa şi Reforma Socială” (Stahl, 1936) he challenges Gusti’s law of social parallelism and its statement that no particular factor has the role of independent variable in the process of social change, that the various manifestations change synchronously in relationship to their settings as a result of a tendency to re-establish harmony inside the whole of the social unit. He does so in a subtle but clear manner – he speaks of an experimental approach in analysis and in formulating theory and of Gusti’s law only as a starting point in which all variables are taken into consideration. Stahl underlines, “se poate foarte bine întâmpla ca răspunsul pe care-l primim din partea realităţii să ne ducă la stabilirea unei anumite ierarhii între factorii sociali, de pildă, dând unuia dintre ei o valoare funcţională deosebită, de variabilă independentă, a cărei schimbare atrage după sine o serie de alte variaţii concomitente”. (Stahl, 1936, 1133) Stahl mentions that Gusti’s view is most appropriate for the stage of field research – but also that, for later data analysis and theory building, a more experimental-explanatory line of thought rather than a comprehensive-phenomenological one would be more appropriate. Moreover, in the same article, he states that the categories which are defined as settings and manifestations in Gusti’s theory have only un rol mnemotehnic (Stahl, 1936, 1133) and that they help the researcher go through all the necessary questions as she investigates a certain research problem. This is a pretty bold, heretical and important affirmation as well, as Stahl diverts from the idea of analyzing the whole of a social unit to the idea of choosing a particular problem and analyzing it in the context of the whole. Even more so, the whole that Stahl envisions, although multidimensional, is, as historical materialism might suggest and as we have seen above, of a different nature than that of Gusti’s theory and functions in a rather different manner, as we have explained above.
Finally, there is the question of the nature of sociology and the means of acquiring sociological knowledge – as time passed, the initial formulation of Dimitrie Gusti, that sociology must be a holistic science, gathering data and theorizing about the whole of society within the framework of the monograph, received some new and clarifying details. By 1940, influenced by the fieldwork accomplished and the methods developed, Gusti clarifies the nature of his sociology – it is still a separate and holistic science but it is better defined when it comes to its rapport to other social sciences and their methods. While sociology remains a synthesis of knowledge specific to various fields of social science, Gusti makes clear that building this knowledge is possible only by gathering data with the specific methods of the separate sciences, using the skills of various specialists and not only of those that are labeled sociologists. (Gusti in Stahl, 1939; Stahl, 1981) This idea is one that Stahl agrees with and is the result of the years of research practice and methodological development during which Stahl’s contributions had a strong and distinctive impact.
To end this chapter of our analysis we may say this – as far as Stahl’s relation to Dimitrie Gusti’s theory of the sociological monograph goes, he may be seen as a moderate heretic who had some impact on the later developments of Gusti’s framework. His Marxian views were a reason to find Gusti’s theory attractive and, at the same time, full of points of more or less explicit disagreement. His propensity for solid methodological tools to be used in fieldwork and for building theory based on the concrete findings of this fieldwork further set him apart from Gusti’s initial theory, as he found that it was lacking in various points as a framework for investigating and explaining social reality. As we shall see, this lead him further into his “heresies” as he transformed Gusti’s framework into a working research methodology that strayed to various degrees from the School leader’s initial vision on the nature of society, the means of acquiring and the ideal formula of sociological knowledge.
 Transl.: “The Archive for Social Science and Reform”.
 Transl.: “Modernization realized through science, in concordance with Gusti’s ideals, appears to be projected in two directions: one of them is towards society, realized through research and cultural interventions (work) in rural and then urban communities; the second is politics, realized by professionalizing it through science, either by recruiting specialists amongst Romanian politicians, either by the technocratic assistance that a scientific elite could provide for politicians”.
 Transl.: “The sociology of war”.
 Transl.: “Dimitrie Gusti, the Professor”.
 Transl.: “As social life is, in reality, a single and objective whole, fragments of which specialized social sciences isolate, to consider only one such fragment, as a part of analysis, can never lead on its own to finding its sufficient reason. In order to find its causes, any social fact must be dealt with in a synthetic manner, in the complexity of circumstances in which it appears, analyzed in parallel with these circumstances and the manifestations that accompany it.”
 Transl.: “In fact, sociology’s holistic truth is the following: society exists, naturally, through
the individual, so we cannot deny individual existence and we cannot ignore it, because it exists; the individual, in his turn, exists through society and only exists in it. […] But society as well lives only because of the individual; individuals are created by society and are at the same time its creators.”
 Transl.: “In every individual experience one may find a mirror of a social experience, because everything that forms the contents of personality is a product of society; but at the same time, everything that forms the contents of society is a creation of personality.”
 Transl.: “Social reality is a combination of countless social units, varied and spread out all
across the globe. Such units are families, villages and cities, guilds and brotherhoods, workshops, schools, households and companies, units that, in their turn, blend in various manners, forming larger units, such as nations, states, empires.”
 Transl.: “Formal and abstract relations of dependency or interdependence between units: coordination, subordination, superordination.”
 Transl.: “Everything takes place as though society is the vehicle of an autonomous volition, as if it had, in other words, its own personality.”
 Transl.: “Cosmic determinism”.
 Transl.: “They would remain simple desiderata and projects if it was not for volition to translate them into reality through action”.
 Transl.: “To realize itself by creating social values, by producing material and spiritual goods, in a specific context, shaped by regulations and institutions.”
 Transl.: “Represent the influence that social facts have over society.”
 Transl.: “The essential quality of social life lies in the fact that manifestations, even though they cannot be understood without the factors that condition them, are never passively caused by them. This is due to the fact that the settings of society do not produce effects in a mechanical manner. Societies react to their settings, in the form of their own manifestations, being able to reject their influence by the means of these reactions. So each society’s manifestations are, at the same time, determined and determinant elements of its becoming. Settings are more like the motives of a collective volition rather than its proper causes.”
 Transl.: “A law of sociological parallelism”.
 Transl.: “Due to the determining force exerted by society, by the whole.”
 Transl.: “The various parts of the social whole develop synchronously, not successively, as they are interdependent and not subordinate to each other.”
 Transl.: “Easily lose their inner unity and harmony.”
 Transl.: “Disequilibrium would determine a quick process of dissolution.”
 Transl: “A questionable abstraction, impossible to be materialized in something tangible, to be found during fieldwork, as objects, actions or opinions.”
 Transl.: “It was misunderstood […] one does not know exactly what Gusti meant with social volition. One often thinks it was the result of an idealistic attitude of his. Not at all. He believed that in social life political action is of great importance. Was he right, was he wrong to emphasize politics. < I don’t know. But it is clear that social action exists. It is obvious that the communist party is a leading force < and that is, let me say, action, active social volition. We are not making word games. It is social volition. I don’t agree with the fact that the party is the determinant factor. I believe that there are many other factors which determine the party to do what it does. But, there is clearly social volition. That means social action. Man act, he is not only a pawn, society does not only suffer the injunction of external factors. Those do exist, without doubt, and you have to handle them, but you handle them through action. So social volition exists, one cannot deny it.
 Transl.: “The Archive for Social Science and Reform”.
 Transl.: “It may well happen that the answer we receive from reality should lead us to establish a certain hierarchy between social factors so that, for example, one of them is discovered to have a special functional value, that of an independent variable, one whose change triggers after it the covariance of other factors”.
 Transl.: “A mnemonic role”.
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