THE MONOGRAPHIC SOCIOLOGY OF DIMITRIE GUSTI
Zoltán Rostás, University of Bucharest
This paper briefly presents the method of sociological monography conducted by the Romanian professor Dimitrie Gusti – from its emergence, through its theoretical foundation and application in field research, until its prohibition. The paper explores, step by step, the development of the specific monograph methodology, followed by its introduction in university studies and in the practice of social intervention.
The Bucharest Sociological School that was formed around the monographic field research in the 1930s later began to diversify, but its extinction was due to World War II and to the establishment of the communist regime.
Keywords: Dimitrie Gusti, sociological monograph, Romanian villages, research techniques, social cadres and social manifestations, 1939 International Congress of Sociology.
Before describing the monographic method introduced by Professor Dimitrie Gusti (1880–1955) and employed by the Bucharest School of Sociology, we should start by explaining the approach taken in this article. For, in what follows, we shall not provide lexicographic information, but an alternative approach, different from the academic one imposed in the communist period after the rehabilitation of sociology. The purpose of this approach, informed by oral history, is to place the Gustian School in a concrete socio-cultural environment. It aims to write the social history of this scientific laboratory – and this is a legitimate task, given that the phenomenon initiated by Gusti was more than an academic school; it stood at the centre of a network that covered the entire scientific and cultural life of interwar Romania. The second reason for such an approach lies in the fact that interest in the Bucharest School of Sociology faded away once again in the 1980s: after its partial rehabilitation in the 1960s, which served the purposes of Ceaușescu’s regime, the rediscovery of this inheritance was gradually abandoned in the 70s and 80s. After 1989, despite the rapid “de-Marxization” of the history of Romanian sociology, the academic environment did not engage in a thorough research of this tradition, which had been brutally interrupted in 1948.
Dimitrie Gusti enters the stage
A historical parenthesis is necessary before clarifying the nature of the monographic method of the Bucharest School of Sociology, led by Professor Dimitrie Gusti. We cannot understand this scientific group without briefly discussing the antecedents of Romanian sociology before World War I. Although the history of Romanian sociology deals in general with people trained within this field, at the beginning of the 20th century we rather see the participation of intellectuals who have also shown an interest in sociology. In the two universities of the Old Kingdom of Romania, sociology was not even a separate, independent field of scientific inquiry.
The first professor, called in 1910 to teach sociology at Iași, was Dimitrie Gusti. Apparently, during his 10 years of study in Germany and France, his intellectual activity had included an interest in gaining a vast and in-depth knowledge of the social sciences. In fact, in 1909 he had already published the outline of his own sociological system, which he regarded as the foundation for the study of Romanian social reality (Gusti, 1909). This eclectic system eventually evolved into monographic sociology. Already, from the first introductory lecture delivered in 1910 at the University of Iași, Gusti had also foreshadowed a programme of social reform based on scientific research. It was not by accident that the first association he founded in March 1918 bore the name “The Association for Social Study and Reform”. A similar name would also be given to the journal The Archive for Science and Social Reform (henceforth The Archive), founded by Gusti one year later. This framework, similar to some pioneered in Western Europe, was already advancing social research as such, but it also foreshadowed Gusti’s view of how social sciences could contribute to the necessary reforms of Romanian society. In fact, the Association for Social Study and Reform, which in 1920 became the Romanian Social Institute (ISR), played a decisive role in the history of Gustian sociological monography. This institute for social and political innovation, in a general sense, also functioned as an extra-academic structure. Romanian interwar academia had largely remained unchanged from its pre-war state; despite being now flooded by students, it did not enjoy sufficient state support. For this reason, the entire research and publishing work would be carried on under the aegis of the ISR, this institution being also responsible for establishing contacts with the international academic environment. Of course, the sociology seminar system of the University was the starting point of monography, but without this extra-academic institutional background, Gusti would not have been able to further develop monographic sociology.
Monographic sociology was built gradually, using the theses of its predecessors. But for Gusti, the greatest shortfall of the social sciences was the one-sidedness of social theory and social research, as each school focused unilaterally on one aspect of social life, whether that dimension was economy, as in Marxist sociology, or biology, as in biological sociology. Consequently, he proposed a system of a monographic approach to social reality, as a method capable of grasping social life in its entirety. Thus, the sociological monography implied an unprecedented unification of the sciences involved in the study of social reality.
Beyond this starting point, Gusti’s sociology developed gradually by means of constantly updating theory with the lessons of fieldwork. Nevertheless, one cannot ignore the theoretical foundations of sociology. Gusti was interested in shaping a concept of society that could work not only as a theoretical product, but also as an instrument capable of guiding empirical research. Although the evaluation of the Gustian theoretical framework does not form the topic of this paper, it must be said that his system, later polished and refined by his followers, was one of the determining causes for the birth of this original research group. The second determining cause was, undoubtedly, Professor Gusti’s charismatic personality, which could instil enthusiasm among the young intellectuals who followed him in this scientific and cultural adventure.
The social unit can be considered the central concept of Gustian thought and the preferred locus of sociological monographic research. Gusti and his followers revisited the topic on several occasions, but for the purpose of our study, it is sufficient to state that the social unit is a collectivity of humans who have lived together for a long time. It can be a family, a village, a city, a neighbourhood, a professional association, a sports association, or a club. Gusti chose the village as a research field for two main reasons: on the one hand, villages were Romania’s most problematic social space; in addition, villages were the most appropriate environment for experimenting with direct, localized research. The initiation of this unprecedented research in the history of the country was also meant to produce sociologists and fieldwork specialists in fields related to sociological monography.
With regard to the monographic research of a social unit, Gusti divided its constitutive elements in two large groups: frames and manifestations. The frames of a social unit – in our case, of a village – referred to four dimensions: cosmic, biological, historical and mental. By the cosmic frame, Gusti understood the general geographic and geological setting; by the biological frame, the human factor; the historical frame was related to the chronological evolution of the community; while the mental frame involved the sociopsychology of the village. The life of the village, with the four manifestations that define a social unit – economic, spiritual, political and administrative-juridical – was encompassed by these four frames. Gusti believed that the four frames covered all circumstances in which social life can manifest itself. Likewise, the four manifestations would have covered all concrete and symbolic activities of the members of a social unit.
The study of these contexts and manifestations meant not only the description of these segments of reality, but also the assessment of their interdependence. For example, what influence (if any) has the cosmic context on the economic manifestations, or other manifestations? In this way, Gusti was developing a law of social parallelism, emphasizing that social actions take place simultaneously within a given social context. For this reason, Gusti suggested that research should not focus on the individual, but on the collective – more precisely, on the collective of a village within a single timeframe. As a result, the law of social parallelism did not remain a theoretical ideal, but ended up having a significant impact on research methodology and techniques.
Although the limits of this paper do not allow us to further elaborate on this aspect, it should be pointed out that Gusti had accurately formulated the general principles and rules of his methodology of sociological research, but not so much its research techniques. His research area was the Romanian context, but he was well aware that his model could also be applied to any other culture.
This eclectic and open system was meant by Gusti as a starting point that could be developed by those who wanted to understand society through the monographic method. By the time that the research of village life based on his theoretical model was first debated at the beginning of the 1920s – i.e. in his sociology seminar at the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy of the University of Bucharest – it was already clear that such objectives could only be reached through group research. This needed at least as many persons as would be required by the presupposed frames and manifestations. The design of monography also required a multidisciplinary commitment, an approach that was rather unusual at that time (Stahl, 1934, 1936). Of course, for the young students belonging to Bucharest’s middle class, travelling to the countryside was an interesting idea in its own right, quite apart from any clear research objectives; the prospect of a scientific adventure was all the more captivating (Rostás, 2003). Although the first field trip was only prepared theoretically, Gusti moved forward to organize a prospective visit of a village, which was meant to be analysed in the ensuing academic year. These seminar debates contributed to the construction of a system of adequate investigation techniques. It should be mentioned that Gusti was actively involved in these field trips in the countryside, something which immediately set him apart from his academic peers at the time. Academic customs did not require that a university professor of folklore, ethnography, dialectology or sociology should leave his study.
This is the background against which the first field trip took place in the spring of 1925, during the Easter holiday, in the village of Goicea Mare (Gorj county, southern Romania). The choice of this village did not have any scientific basis; it simply followed the idea of a student whose father was the Orthodox priest of that village. Involving a team of 11 researchers, this outing was viewed more as an experimental scientific excursion, rather than a field trip. Although it did not produce any publishable results, it did play a significant role in the preparation of the next trip: the shaping of the first field questionnaire. This questionnaire did not look like those in current sociological research: it consisted of several lists of topics that students had to address during their conversations with the peasants. This instrument was used in the campaigns of the following two years.
The second campaign took place at Rușețu, in a Wallachian county on the Danube, during the summer of 1926. This time, the expedition began to resemble genuine fieldwork; the 17 members of the group had relatively precise tasks to fulfil. Here it became a norm for each researcher to draft a report and receive advice during the evening meetings led by professor Gusti. These meetings, dubbed the “glowing room”, became the workshop of monographic sociology; a constructive ritual revived each summer by the monographists. The meetings were also meant to provide students and young researchers with a better grasp of the social dimension of their research topics.
While the first two villages investigated by the monographists were chosen almost randomly from different historical regions, the choice of the Moldavian village of Nerej in the Vrancea mountains was carefully premeditated. The monographic team – now already reaching 41 members – was interested in approaching a village that belonged historically to the category of the free peasantry (răzeși). This time, the monographic team was enlarged through the inclusion of a group of doctors interested in anthropometry, as well as in the health status of the peasants (Țone, 2012). Likewise, a significant novelty consisted in the presence of female students and graduates, co-opted after Gusti realized they were more successful at investigating family life, the role of the women in the household and in child raising (Văcărescu, 2010). Although this time the entire village was studied accordance with the monographic methods, some researchers kept focusing on single families or family budgets, following Le Play’s model. During this third research trip, it also became clear that the team needed a strategy that would allow them to gain the villagers’ acceptance more quickly. The Nerej campaign was so promising that it would be followed by another 12 years of supplementary research in the village.
In the summer of 1928, the monographists travelled to Fundu Moldovei. With this choice, Gusti’s team – this time numbering 60 members – was going beyond the territory of the Old Kingdom of Romania, as the Bukovinian village had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before 1918. During this campaign, its leaders took several important steps to adapt their original methodology. Making use of techniques that had proved useful in the previous campaign, it was decided to allot research subgroups for each segment of reality envisaged by Gusti. It was also here that the musicologist Constantin Brăiloiu became affiliated with Gusti’s group. Influenced by sociologists, Brăiloiu developed a new field of study called ethnomusicology. During this campaign, the team changed its method of data gathering: they stopped taking notes in notebooks, instead introducing observation files. These files recorded a wide range of data, including the names of the informer and the researcher. Once completed, the files were placed in collective folders to which all members of the team had access.
Because Gusti not only wanted to develop the monographic methodology, but also to stimulate its institutionalization, it was in Fundul Moldovei that he founded the Association of Monographists. It is worth noting, however, that this professional group identity does not owe its existence to the association, since the researchers were already defining themselves at this point as monographists, not as sociologists.
It is generally accepted that the most successful monographic research was that carried out in Drăguș, a village located in southern Transylvania (formerly Făgăraș county, now Brașov county). It was not only the beauty of the village set at the foot of the Făgăraș Mountains that attracted a larger research team than ever before (90 participants), but also the fact that Gusti’s specialized teams had gained experience in investigating frames and manifestations. It was here that the elaboration of a textbook of monographic sociology was mooted for the first time. It was also here that the first sociological documentary film was produced (followed afterwards by two other documentaries filmed at Cornova in 1931, and Șanț in 1936). Nevertheless, the Drăguș campaign also gave rise to a significant dilemma, signalled by the professor’s most important collaborators, Traian Herseni, Henri H. Stahl and Mircea Vulcănescu. They noticed a tension between the objectives of the monographic campaign: on the one hand including as many students as possible in the practice of fieldwork, and on the other, producing high-quality, publishable monographic research. It proved difficult to convince Professor Gusti to give up on the massive recruitment of students, but it is certain that the next campaigns saw the number of participants reduced. Despite the aforementioned inconveniences, the Drăguș campaign made the strongest impression on the monographists; it attracted the greatest number of researchers for supplementary investigations in the 1930s, and it produced the largest amount of published studies.
The last two “classical” campaigns were organized in 1930 at Runcu in Mehedinți county, southern Romania (67 participants), and in 1931 at Cornova in Bessarabia, a province integrated into Romania after the collapse of Czarist Russia (55 participants). The decrease in the number of participants had its envisaged effect: the monographic teams had more experienced researchers, hence a higher number of original research papers were published in a shorter period of time. The methodological innovations have not been recorded, but Stahl continued his work on the textbook of monographic research techniques. It should be mentioned that the monographists were very surprised by the effects left by one hundred years of czarist rule on the social structure of the village, which stood apart from the other villages studied; likewise, folklore had atrophied, and traditional clothing had become extinct (Stahl, 1981).
The overall results of the campaigns
In addition to the methodological gains of these consecutive campaigns, the sociological monographies provided Gusti’s core team with valuable insights into other aspects of fieldwork – insights which would have been beyond anybody’s reach in the spring of 1925. The monographists quickly realized the challenges of organizing the transportation of a team of 50 to 80 members to villages that lacked roads, of housing them in the villages, feeding them for four to six weeks, and bringing them back to Bucharest. Nor had they developed any management model that could coordinate the research work of so many people with diverse competences and experiences.
Because Gustian monographic sociology also aspired to become an institution, and not just a method of social inquiry, a “Regulation of monographic research” was introduced. It stipulated a few rules that each monographist had to respect in the field, apart from the proposed scientific task: they had to observe a collective research schedule, and to participate in the organization of the campaign in austere living conditions. Thus, the regulation became an indirect means of selecting the participants; young women and men coming from the urban middle class were confronted with a test of endurance never experienced before. The leaders of the monographic campaign were striving to offer housing conditions and meals that met basic standards of hygiene, but comfort was not an option. The testimony of Herseni, one of the most devoted monographists, clearly illustrates this aspect:
“At Nereju, for example, there were three of us in one room with an earthen floor, we slept in beds right on the wooden boards; because they didn’t have any sort of mattress, we covered ourselves with our coats. At Fundu Moldovei it so happened that we got a very good bed and a room for two. We moved out after two nights because of the bed bugs, a feared enemy of monography. At Drăguș, we had beds with straw mattresses, hard but good, etc.” (Herseni, 1932, p. 567)
Gusti thought that accepting such living conditions was part of the research work, and that young urban men would better understand village life if they lived there for at least one month. The organization of a “cooperative of the monographists” during the research campaign in Drăguș (1929) partly relieved the team of the issues regarding food supplies, Gusti himself being a specialist in, and a promoter of this form of economic organization.
To fully describe the field experience acquired between 1925 and 1931, we must also acknowledge the work solidarity that extended beyond the summer campaigns, well into the later phases of data processing. The group identity assumed through the above-mentioned Association of Monographists thus found itself strengthened in Bucharest, after the end of the summer campaign. Apart from the processing of field material, the preparation for the next campaign was also gathering the monographists and keeping them united. Such collective work went on after the Association of Monographists became a part of the Sociology department of the Romanian Social Institute. As some of the works based on collective research were getting closer to completion, setting some rules for writing became a necessity.
“I. Since monographic research is collective work, each participant observes the decisions of the leadership: 1. By remaining on the field for the entire research period; 2. By completing the given tasks; 3. By keeping his papers up to date and by presenting the final report on the collected data by the established deadline; 4. By respecting the administrative decisions taken during the campaign. II. Since monographic research is collective work, the Sociological-Monographic department of the Romanian Social Institute, together with the Seminar of Ethical and Political Sociology of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy in Bucharest, as initiators of this work, have joint intellectual property rights over the results obtained by each monographist. Consequently: 1. Monographic data, as well as the theoretical and methodological considerations suggested by the research, cannot be published in articles, studies or in any other form without the agreement of the monographic leadership and without the reference to monographic research; 2. Any use of monographic data, even accidental, will indicate its sources” (Herseni, 1932, p. 578).
The studies published in the 1930s show that the monographists indeed followed these rules.
These seven years saw the enrichment and consolidation of the working methods of sociological monography. From 1930, sociological monography became an academic discipline, as Traian Herseni started teaching the theory of monographic sociology (based on Gusti’s sociological thought), and Henri. H. Stahl the technique of monographic sociology (drawing from their respective field experience).
Thematic differentiation within the monographic project was considered very important for the development of young researchers. Everybody had to find an individual research topic to investigate. In other words, the monographist was not a mere cog in the machine, because, quite apart from the task of observing a particular aspect of social life as assigned to the research teams, he or she also had to develop a research on their own. As a result of this approach, monographists not only contributed to the large monographic projects, but also produced valuable research papers or peasant biographies, which were published in the periodicals of the School or in other reputable journals.
In conclusion, as regards the systematization of investigation techniques used during these seven years, Stahl’s synthesis meant a decisive step forward. He took into account the general methodological instructions to be found in Gusti’s studies, but he brought nuance to the investigation of the manifestations. Stahl presents in detail the way one observes the facts, writes them down in observation files (not in notebooks), and places them in collective thematic folders accessible to the entire monographic team. After writing down the facts, he treats separately the recording of opinions. He puts emphasis on the preparation of classification rules and data systematization prior to beginning the investigation, and goes as far as to give advice on the organization of a museum. Stahl conceived his technique of sociological monography as a multidisciplinary collective research, to which he dedicated a separate chapter. This textbook was an original work rather than just a technical echo of Gustian theory; nor was it a compilation based on Western European textbooks. It was meant to be developed and completed, as it did not include investigation techniques for all the manifestations of the village. It was the first methodological writing that presented research techniques for rural sociology. Overall, juridical, economical and spiritual manifestations received noticeably fewer pages than the peasant family and household. Stahl developed a genuine microanalytic approach to the study of the peasant family and its links, which was later developed by monographist Xenia Costaforu (Costaforu, 1945). This research guide shows the importance given to the family, as a social unit, in Stahl’s sociological conception. This focus on the family offers an even more nuanced image of the village as a social unit (Stahl, 1934). Last but not least, it should be pointed out that these theoretical and technical works on sociological monography were meant to provide suggestions, rather than compulsory rules that would exclude other approaches. In fact, the journals of the School also accepted analyses based on other methodologies.
Monography at a crossroads
The ultimate goal of these seven years of research consisted, of course, in the publishing of several sociological monographs. Although never explicitly stated, it seems that Gusti reached the conclusion that popularizing monographic sociology and getting young people involved in the practice of field sociology should take precedence over the completion of an exemplary monograph.
A more significant prelude to the implementation of the new monographic studies in the academic sphere can be seen in the introduction, in 1929, of a new section in the Archive called the “Monographic archive”, where studies from Gusti’s recent research campaigns would be published in every issue. In 1932, it was decided to organize a “writing camp” in Făgăraș, close to Drăguș, instead of investigating a new village; and the results were remarkable. The idea of the writing camp was also related to the fact that Gusti had been invited that year to take up the position of Minister of Education, Religious Affairs and the Arts, and therefore was no longer able to coordinate a research campaign in a new village.
The joint issue 1–4 of the Archive (December 1932) comprised 25 study papers arranged for the first time in accordance with the Gustian frames and manifestations. These studies did not focus on a single village, but rather on each of the six research aspects that had been addressed during the previous campaigns. Thus, the cosmic frame was illustrated with a discussion of the geophysical aspect of Runcu, the biological context with a number of demographic phenomena observed in Cornova, and the historical context with the territory of Cornova; while several papers on mentalities and religious psychology in Fundu Moldovei, Runcu and Cornova represented the psychological frame. As expected, more papers focused on manifestations: economic manifestations were covered in papers on economic sociology, peasant budgets and industry; spiritual manifestations in studies on wail, sorcery, magic, pottery and folk dance. Political manifestations were addressed in studies on the memory of the war, while juridical manifestations were discussed in papers on the customs of traditional peasant associations (devălmășie). Apart from frames and manifestations, the monographists wrote about social units such as the peasant household, social processes such as the urbanization of the village, and social relations between different categories of peasants. These 500 pages of monographic studies, richly illustrated with photos, maps and statistical charts, were to contribute significantly to the legitimization of monography in Romania.
Despite all this, plans for a complete monographic research of a village had yet to take shape. Apparently, such a plan was delayed by the fact that in the autumn of 1933, King Carol II appointed Gusti general director of the Cultural Royal Foundation “Prince Carol” after finishing his mandate as minister, in order to advance cultural work in villages. The involvement of sociologists in this project seemed to cut down the available time for monographic research, but it offered the advantages of a solid budget for future monographic campaigns, or supplementary fieldwork for the ongoing research (Rostás, 2013).
Gusti not only radically changed “the dissemination of culture”, providing researchers with an adequate strategy for approaching Romanian villages, but he also initiated the organization of teams consisting of students and specialists from various fields that would implement the programme for village advancement. This new strategy, which resembled the American social work, had four directions of action: health culture (responding to the catastrophic health status among the peasants), labour culture (addressing the inefficiency of agricultural work), the culture of the mind (the education of adults), and the culture of the soul (aiming to extend the social role of the Church in the countryside). This strategy relied on pre-existent monographic experiences. Moreover, Gusti invited the same experienced monographists to take up leading positions in the Foundation; in turn, they structured the training of the new teams, their activity and accommodation in the countryside, along the lines of previous monographic campaigns. This activity expanded year after year within the Foundation, and would include the publication of a dedicated magazine, The Journal of the Student Teams (Curierul echipelor studențești), while coexisting with the monographic work per se. Meanwhile, the interest in monography was far from waning. In the spring of 1935, two important books were published: Traian Herseni’s The Theory of Sociological Monography, with a substantial introductory study by Gusti, and Henri H. Stahl’s The Technique of Sociological Monography. Gusti’s collected papers were published in two volumes one year later, under the title Sociologia Militans. The volumes followed the structure of a treatise, including studies, projects, conference papers, draft legislation, biographies of scholars, research reports, and summaries of cultural activities. They not only reflect Gusti’s conception of monography, but also his views on theoretical topics in sociology, social pedagogy, international relations, ethics and politics. As such, these volumes presented at last the full range of Gusti’s interests in two sequences, the first volume comprising studies on sociological knowledge, while the second collected his work on social action.
A coherent image of the mature Gustian monography had emerged during these two years. The founding texts of the Gustian system were now accessible to the public, open for debate and assessment in the light of the recent campaigns. Moreover, sociology was taught in high school with a textbook written by Gusti and Herseni – a factor that also helped to establish sociological monography as a paradigm in Romanian social sciences.
News about the Bucharest monographic project had by now reached the educated public in Western Europe. As such, when monographic research was resumed with a two-year campaign in the Transylvanian village of Șanț (Năsăud county, 1935–6), the field teams (now comprising 50 researchers in each of the two campaigns) were joined by young Western researchers, of whom the best known was the American Philip E. Mosely. Another novelty during these campaigns came with the participation of young sociologists from the Hungarian minority in Romania, led by Jozsef Venczel; Gusti’s team was also visited by a group of sociographers from Hungary. The particularity of this campaign consisted in the fact that research was conducted in parallel with the cultural work of the student teams. The parallel unfolding of these actions (later) caused confusions among commentators.
The confusion arose from the fact that the sociological monography was now paired with the action of the royal student teams. In broader terms, this was part of a Gustian strategy to introduce monography into the culture of the rural intelligentsia, who bore responsibility for cultural leadership in the villages. Sociological monography was taught during the training of the student teams as a short cut to a basic understanding of villages. It was also taught in the schools that trained librarians and the pedagogues responsible for the rural education system. Last but not least, it was also taught, in 1939, as part of the training of the youths who joined the Social Service. Moreover, since village cultural centres coordinated by the Foundation had the mission to modernize the village, a textbook for the use of these rural institutions was published in order to facilitate the villagers’ knowledge of their own community. This textbook, whose author was once again Stahl, was entitled The monography of a village. How to elaborate it for the needs of a cultural centre, and offered guidance to those who embraced the idea of writing a monography of their own village. This volume, which was published in two editions (1936 and 1939), presented the monographic methods in more accessible, less academic language, without downplaying their scientific requirements.
The textbook written for non-specialists did not follow the Gustian scheme of frames and manifestations, but instead proposed a procedure that was easier to follow. Research itself – as recommended by Stahl – began with the census of the village population, which also included a death count. That meant that the census also included research of the village archives. The next chapter discussed the “connection” between land and village, presenting the cosmic context in which the life of the community took place. The next chapter, entitled People and their health, covered the biological context, offering a very detailed description of the methods used for recording diseases, food production, hygiene and child rearing. Traditions, the connection between yesterday’s village and today’s village offered suggestions for a social history of the village. What do people think and know about life and the world covered the psychological framework, addressing local mentalities. The chapter entitled Cultural Institutions dealt with the description of the church, the school and the village cultural centre – all of which pertained in principle to the area of spiritual manifestations, but their importance for the advancement of the village was defined in cultural terms. Artistic life in the village also touched on spiritual manifestations, including folklore, ethnography, magic and local holidays, etc. Economic manifestations were addressed in two chapters: The economic life of the village and The economic life of the villager, with the author emphasizing the fact that economic life manifests itself in and through both of these two irreducible dimensions. Norms of behaviour, forms of solidarity, and the process of the individual becoming a member of the community, were discussed in People’s rules of behaviour.
The administrative and political life of the village covered the sphere of the manifestations, assessing the relation between state power, as felt at the level of the community, and local society. The chapter Social units dealt in detail with the main social unit, the family, as this represented, according to Stahl, the key for understanding the Romanian interwar village. It is plain to see that this textbook was not written for a group of professional sociologists, but for rural intellectuals. This meant suggesting a somehow different path from that taken by collective research; one which could simultaneously grasp multiple dimensions of village life. Although it contained fewer chapters than standard monographic plans, the requirements of Gustian monography were nevertheless observed throughout the textbook.
Gusti approved of Stahl’s manual and wrote the foreword; this meant that he was open to accepting different approaches to monography. Even though the project was only meant to fit the needs of cultural centres, it still remained a product of the Gustian school. This division of activity between sociological monography and the management of cultural activity in the countryside, on the one hand, and methodological supervision for both scientific and amateur monographies, on the other, was not perceived as problematic by the members of the Gustian school. Serious criticism came neither from Romania, nor from abroad. On the contrary, the interest in Gustian monography grew steadily from the 1930 onwards. It is worth mentioning that a group of young sociologists from Transylvania’s Hungarian minority embraced sociological monography (Telegdy, 2016) and the Gustian model of cultural work in the villages (Salamon, 2014). The sociographic movement was also interested in Gustian sociological monography.
Nevertheless, we should not overlook some doubts raised with regard to the original and scientific character of some aspects of the monographic theory. These were formulated by former monographists who became associated, for a short period, with the far-right movement of the Iron Guard. Other leading monographists, such as Traian Herseni and Mircea Vulcănescu, did not become involved in the work of the Foundation, but remained faithful to sociological monography and supported Gusti in his other scientific endeavours. An important study by a noted sociologist, Petre Andrei, contested the idea of studying the village in parallel with activities of cultural development; but he did not take action against Gusti’s activities when he became a minister.
The above-mentioned attitudes had no impact whatsoever on sociological monography, nor on the cultural work of the student teams, because it was well known that they had ideological and propagandistic, rather than scientific grounds.
Much more important was the criticism of Gustian monographism from within the school itself, coming from the most convinced follower of Gusti, Anton Golopenția. This debate had multiple causes. First of all, no scientific school is everlasting; centrifugal tendencies are bound to appear after 10–15 years, though these are not necessarily destructive in character, but rather a call for diversity. In addition, Gusti’s objective of elaborating a complex monography for each village in Romania in just a few years seemed unrealistic to Golopenția. Since knowledge of more villages was nevertheless necessary, Anton Golopenția devised the idea of a simpler and less expensive version, focused above all on specific problems: a concise monography. His starting point was the idea that the state needs knowledge about the rural society for more practical purposes than those addressed by the fully developed Gustian monography. For these reasons, Golopenția coordinated several concise monographs that could be carried out by a single field team trained for this purpose. The debates among monographists convinced Gusti to accept this alternative methodology. Thus, in 1938, besides their objectives related to cultural work, the student teams received the task of gathering data for these concise monographies. In the same year, the Gustian school embarked on a grandiose project, this time concerning not fieldwork, but the elaboration of a thematic encyclopaedia. Under Gusti’s supervision, the project was coordinated by Mircea Vulcănescu. Hundreds of experts, reputable scientists and artists were invited to take part in the writing of this encyclopaedia, which was structured in accordance with the tenets of monographic sociology. Beyond its intrinsic value, this project also carried another meaning: it showed the monographists’ capacity to mobilize the intellectual elite well beyond the boundaries of their school. It was therefore proven that the school was not only capable of fieldwork and social action in the villages, but could also assume responsibilities of national relevance. Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of war, only four out of the five planned volumes of the Encyclopaedia of Romania were published.
The Bucharest School of Sociology gains international visibility
The diversification of methodological options within sociological monography was paralleled by an increasing international visibility. The strongest impulse in this direction came in 1937, with the decision of the International Institute of Sociology to appoint Dimitrie Gusti as president of the 14th International Congress of Sociology. This also meant that the upcoming congress would be held in Bucharest in August to September 1939. The decision of the international forum was rightly seen by Gusti as an extraordinary opportunity to promote his sociological monography. As such, the entire school and its larger entourage were mobilized for this project. Nevertheless, the most important decision concerned the elaboration of two exemplary monographs: one based on the research conducted in Nerej (1927), assigned to a team organized by Stahl; and the other based on the Drăguș campaign (1929) and coordinated by Traian Herseni. After two years of intensive work, Stahl managed to finish the monumental three-volume monograph entitled Nerej, un village d’une région archaïque. This work, published in French, was to remain the only monograph completed by the Gustian school in the interwar period. The work follows by and large the outline of Gustian sociological monography; in addition to its valuable descriptive sections, it also includes chapters that are still relevant today. In his description of the historical frame of Nerej, Stahl introduces new ideas concerning the development of villages; likewise, in the section dedicated to juridical and administrative manifestations, Stahl engages in harsh criticism of the juridical chaos that affected the community.
After intense preparations for an unprecedented programme and international participation, with all the papers published in advance of the event, the congress was postponed in August 1939 until April 1940 due to the imminence of war between Nazi Germany and Poland. European sociologists had no way of knowing that this conflict would escalate into a world war, nor that this congress would never be held in Bucharest. However, it was not only the congress, but the whole institutional system built or controlled by Gusti that was put on hold in 1939, as the financial means of the Romanian state were redirected towards military expenditures.
Despite this event, regarded by some as the destruction of monographic sociology, the bibliography of monographic literature kept growing in the following years, even after Romania entered the war. A methodological volume edited by Dimitrie Gusti and Traian Herseni, entitled Guidelines for Sociological Monographs (1940), played an important role at this point. This volume, which gathered contributions from 30 monographists belonging to different generations, came to extend and deepen Stahl’s methodological textbooks mentioned earlier. Furthermore, the book showed that Gusti’s monographic team had reached maturity. It is true that new monographic fieldwork was not carried out in this period, but some of Gusti’s collaborators were integrated in the Central Institute of Statistics, while others remained in Gusti’s teaching positions; in other words, most of the important members of the school remained in the scientific environment, conducting social research. More importantly, the Romanian papers prepared for the adjourned congress were published from 1940 onwards. This was paralleled by publication of the conference proceedings, comprising the majority of the papers sent by foreign participants. Besides the papers meant to complement the monography of Drăguș, the important research entitled 60 Romanian Villages, coordinated by Golopenția and D. C. Georgescu, was also published at this time: this work gathered the concise monographs elaborated by the royal student teams in the summer of 1938.
Survival and decline
Although in the autumn of 1940 many believed that all the activities of the Bucharest School of Sociology were being washed away by the wave of local dictatorships that preceded the war, important works were actually published in this period, as shown above. In addition to this, new fieldwork was initiated for very different reasons than those prior to 1939. In 1943, Anton Golopenția and his team of young sociologists from the Central Institute of Statistics – most of them trained as monographists – were ordered to investigate villages outside Romania. Entering the Soviet Union, the German and Romanian armies found, to the east of the river Bug in the occupied territory of Ukraine, villages inhabited by a Romanian population that was completely unknown. They were the descendants of Romanian-speaking colonists that the Russian authorities had introduced in the 18th century, to populate territories reconquered from the Tatars. This investigation, conducted at the order of the government under wartime conditions, cannot be considered a sociological monograph, but rather a statistical investigation developed into a concise monograph. This research produced a valuable study of a population that for two centuries had not maintained any contacts with the Romanian population around the Carpathians.
On 23 August 1944, the dictatorship of Marshal Antonescu was overthrown, and the Romanian Army turned against Nazi Germany. These events saw Gusti made acting president of the Romanian Academy; the elected president had died, and Gusti, as vice-president, had to assume leadership of the institution. As expected, after the regime change, Gusti did not attempt to resume monographic research, seeking instead to establish normal relations between the Romanian Academy, the new Romanian civil authorities, and the Soviet military. Although the country was still at war, he revived the older idea of a National Council for Scientific Research, placed under the authority of the Romanian Academy. This new umbrella organization – which benefitted from the moral support of the following Romanian governments – also covered sociological monographic research. Because the international contacts of the School of Sociology had been disrupted by the war, Gusti also sought to revive them in the new political context. He accepted an invitation to visit Moscow and Leningrad on the anniversary of the Academy of the USSR; while he also visited France and the United States in 1946, with the official support of the Romanian Academy. In New York, apart from visiting several universities and research centres, he called for the establishment of an International Social Institute affiliated to the UN, based on the model of the Romanian Social Institute. However, due to the slow pace of the procedures and his homesickness, Gusti returned to Romania without being able to further influence the development of this project.
Back in Bucharest, although the purges targeting academics accused of supporting Fascism did not affect him, he was forced into retirement without any explanation in 1947. One year later, after the Romanian Communist Party gained total and absolute power, he was excluded from the Romanian Academy, his chair at the University was abolished, he was evicted from his home and his pension was suspended. His disciples were not spared either. Most of them were relegated to positions below their level of competence, many were arrested, and three of them died in prison after being denied medical assistance. As a result, it seemed that sociology and its monographic lineage had disappeared for good from Romania’s scientific arsenal. Despite this situation, after Stalin’s death, without any mention of the word “sociology”, Gusti’s former disciples from the Central Institute of Statistics “invented” the method of economic monography, which brought back a form of sociological research through the back door.
After 1956 – Gusti having died in 1955 – the Institute for Economic Research of the Academy carried on this type of research on an even larger scale, in rural areas as well as in industrial environments. This was the context in which the mentioning of Gusti’s name was once again permitted, thanks to his objective methodology; although he was categorized as a “representative of bourgeois sociology, indebted to idealism and voluntarism”. Although in the USSR and other communist countries steps were taken to revive sociology, in 1958 the ideological journal of the Romanian communists, The Class Struggle, was firmly condemning the attempt by the Institute for Economic Research to reintroduce sociology and partially rehabilitate Gusti. Another four years passed until new, timid attempts to revive sociological research were made in 1962 – this time at the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy – without any mention of monographic research or Gusti’s name.
Only in 1964 did the gradual official rehabilitation of Gusti and sociology altogether commence. After the first efforts to set up sociological teaching and research were made in 1965, the next logical step was to debate which aspects of the Gustian monographic tradition deserved to be revived. However, those who took up the mission to revive sociology undoubtedly lacked a clear knowledge of the virtues of the Gustian school (for example, multidisciplinary research), nor were they up to date with the developments in Western sociology (Rostás, 2018). Moreover, they neglected the huge fieldwork experience of the interwar sociologists who were still active, instead filling University chairs and institutes with trustworthy men who lacked the necessary training (Rostás, 2000). Under such circumstances, the rehabilitation of Dimitrie Gusti and his school could only remain incomplete, and it was only meant to legitimate the new directions decided by the Communist Party. In fact, the interest in sociology decreased constantly in the following decades, and the historical study of the Gustian monographic school in the 1980s was almost completely marginalized.
The monographic sociology of Prof. Dimitrie Gusti represented an original trend within the wider context of the dissemination of sociological teaching after World War I. It was a key component of Gusti’s sociological, ethical and political system. In turn, this system informed the creation of the Association for Science and Social Reform in 1918, transformed in 1920 into the Romanian Social Institute: an institution whose purpose was the reform and modernization of the state apparatus, with the assistance of the social sciences. Through this extra-academic institution, the public and the academic world came to learn about monographic sociology, as it was first developed as a scientific project within the Sociology Seminar of the University of Bucharest. The originality of the field research campaigns initiated in 1925 resided in their direct, collective and multidisciplinary character. This process included the development of group research techniques (which also presupposed the assignment of individual responsibilities) and the training of hundreds of students from the University of Bucharest. The theory of monographic sociology was further developed by H. H. Stahl, who complemented it with an original monographic methodology. Within the intellectual environment of interwar Bucharest, this continuous process of yearly research also gave birth to a distinct intellectual and professional group identity. This resulted in the crystallization of the Bucharest School of Sociology around Dimitrie Gusti and the sociological monography of the village. Beginning in 1934, this school extended its competences and embraced social action in the countryside, using the rural experience acquired in the monographic campaigns. Because the initial concept of an exhaustive rural monography could not easily inform the modernization of the countryside, a more concise monography was introduced at Anton Golopenția’s initiative. In the end, it was not a paradigm change or the exhaustion of its potential that put an end to sociological monography, but World War II and, in its aftermath, the dogmatic vision of the communist regime with regard to the social sciences. One can therefore argue that Gusti’s sociological monography has opened the way for two uncontested tenets of sociology: the emphasis put on the direct knowledge of reality, and multidisciplinary research.
Butoi, I. 2012. “Există un curent monografist în cadrul tinerei generaţii interbelice”, Sociologie Românească 2 (2012)
Butoi, I. 2015. Mircea Vulcănescu. O microistorie a interbelicului romanesc, București: Editura Eikon.
Costa Foru, X. 1945. Cercetarea monografică a familiei, București: Fundația Regală “Mihai I”.
Gusti, D. 1909. “Sozialwissenschaften, Soziologie, Politik und Ethik. Prolegomena zu einer System ihrer Einheitlichen Zusammenhanf”, in Zeitschrift für Politik III (1909)
Gusti, D. 1968. Opere, vol. I, eds. Ovidiu Bădina & Octavian Neamțu, București: Editura Academiei RSR.
Gusti, D. 1971 Opere, vol. V: Fragmente autobiografice, eds. Ovidiu Bădina & Octavian Neamțu, București: Editura Academiei RSR.
Golopenția, A. 2002. Opere Complete, vol. 1: Sociologie, ed. Sanda Golopenția, București: Editura Enciclopedică.
Golopenția, A. 2006. Românii de la est de Bug, vols. I-II, ed. Sanda Golopenția, București: Editura Enciclopedică.
Golopenția, A. et al. 1941. 60 de sate românești cercetate de echipe studențești în vara anului 1938, vol. I-III, București: Institutul de Științe Sociale ale României.
Herseni, T. 1932. “Șapte ani de cercetări monografice”, in Arhiva pentru Știință și Reformă Socială X.1-4: pp.573-587.
Herseni, T. 1934. Teoria monografiei sociologice, București: Institutul Social Roman.
Németh, L. 1935. “Magyarok Romániában”, in Tanú
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Vulcănescu, M. 1936. “Dimitrie Gusti, profesorul”, in Omagiu profesorului D. Gusti, XXV ani de învățământ universitar (1910-1935), vol. II, București: Editura Institutului Social Român.
 The publication about D. Gustie and his school, “Dimitrie Gusti and His School” by Z. T. Wierzbicki, can be found in the EEC, published in 1996 (http://www.home.umk.pl/~eec/wp-content/uploads/1996_14_Wierzbicki .pdf). Z. T. Wierzbicki is also the author of the monograph “Dimtrie Gusti: Sociologist of Independent Romania”, published in Polish by Adam Marszałek, 1991.
 We are referring here to the German “Verein fur Sozialpolitik” and the French “École libre des sciences politique”.
 For more details, see Z. Rostás, “Formarea și prima criză a Școlil Sociologice de la București” in I. Năstase-Matei & Z. Rostás (eds.), 2016, Alma Mater in derivă, Cluj-Napoca: Școala Ardeleană, pp. 139-163.
 In post-1918 Greater Romania, two new universities (in Cluj and Cernăuți) complemented the two pre-existent universities of the Old Kingdom (in Bucharest and Iași). However, given the impressive growth in the number of high schools, there was permanent pressure on the universities. In the context of harsh living conditions that students had to endure (few campuses, high taxes, insufficient infrastructure), universities became breeding grounds for far-right movements. Nor did the professors themselves receive the necessary support for research; for that reason, some of them sought a solution in the creation of such extra-academic institutions.
 Over 80% of the Romanian population lived in rural areas, in ca. 16,000 villages. Due to the perpetuation of a traditional property system, their living standard, health status, education and economic efficiency remained precarious, especially in the Eastern and Southern parts of Romania.
 Butoi (2015, 110-117) has shown that Gusti began his research, first focused on student problems, then on rural monography, with a team provided by an association of young Christian students from the Faculty of Letters.
 Constatin Brăiloiu (1893–1958), professor of musicology at the Conservatory of Bucharest and President of the Composers’ Union. In the latter position, he set up a Folklore Archive that gathered the sound recordings from the monographic campaigns. He died in exile.
 The monographists took part in the grand debates of the “young generation” of intellectuals, seeking to position themselves between the right and the left. At a certain point, they tried to create their own journal. See for example I. Butoi, “Există un curent monografist în cadrul tinerei generaţii interbelice”, Sociologie Românească 2 (2012).
 Traian Heseni (1907–1980), lecturer in sociology and research assistant of Prof. Gusti, and later professor at the universities of Cluj and Sibiu; he was marginalized both by the Antonescu regime and during the post-war period for his participation in the short-lived Legionary Government. After the war, he was excluded from academia. He was granted permission to conduct research in the 1960s, without being allowed to resume his teaching. He was the most prolific disseminator of the Gustian theory and a leading field researcher. From the 1960s onwards, he focused on general overviews of sociology, social psychology and cultural anthropology.
 Henri H. Stahl (1901–1991), Prof. Gusti’s main collaborator and research assistant. He was marginalized after 1948 and worked on social history until 1966, when he took part in the reinstatement of sociology as an academic discipline. As a professor of sociology, a pioneer of social history in Romania and a member of the Romanian Academy, he made significant contributions to the history of Romanian villages and the definition of local feudalism, becoming the best-known Romanian sociologist in the West.
 Mircea Vulcănescu (1904–1952); sociologist, philosopher, original economist and high-rank civil servant. As a close collaborator of Gusti, he conducted important research in various aspects of sociological monography. After the war he was marginalized and then arrested; he died in prison. His works were published after 1989.
 Because the monography of Drăguș was never published, we are currently collecting (together with Marin Diaconu) the relevant published papers, as well as the unpublished manuscripts, research documents and commentaries. The resulting volume will be published this year, on the 140th anniversary of Dimitrie Gusti’s birth.
 This monographic campaign was visited by a group of German students in sociology, led by research assistant Helmuth Klocke, who wanted to obtain first-hand information about the research methods employed by Professor Gusti’s students and collaborators.
 This summer campaign was joined by the Polish student Witold Truszkowski who was interested in peasant nourishment. In the same year, a supplementary research focused on the winter traditions of Cornova’s inhabitants was participated in by Gábor Lükő, a student from Hungary.
 Apart from being an important promoter of cooperatives, Gusti was the president of the National Bureau for Cooperatives between 1929 and 1933, so he had both the interest and the means to implement this economic practice. After supporting the monographists’ cooperative in Drăguș, Gusti also lent his support to a student cooperative that eased their life in the context of the 1929–1934 economic crisis.
 These biographies were very similar to the autobiographies of Polish peasants, Pamiętniki chłopów, edited by Ludwik Krzywicki in 1935, and reviewed by monographist Mihai Pop in Sociologie Românească 2-3 (1937).
 Xenia Costaforu (1902–1983), a sociologist who studied in Bucharest and in the USA. From 1927 she collaborated with Prof. Gusti and became the leader of the women monographists. She specialized in sociology of the family, and taught at the Higher School of Social Assistance until its disbandment in 1952.
 Compared to the majority of Romanian university professors, who preferred to communicate only within their own group of specialists, Gusti believed from the very beginning that social sciences must enter public life. For this reason, he encouraged his younger collaborators to publish articles that were accessible to a broader audience. Moreover, he kept close relations with the cultural and daily press, which often reported on the campaigns, conferences and scientific publications of the monographists.
 Because many have endorsed the idea that Gusti owed his accomplishments to royal support, it should be clarified here that the Crown’s support only played a role in the development of sociology through foundations after 1934. The first 15 years of the ISR were defined by a permanent struggle to secure funding for monographic research through donations, private foundations and banks.
 For the first time in Romania, Gusti envisaged a strategy that would involve the state in the cultural self-development of the village, rather than a unilateral, external intervention in the villages.
 It was published as a magazine from 1934 to 1939, only during the summer and autumn, when student teams were in the field. It was renamed The Journal of the Social Service in 1939.
 It was only in 1938 that the team members received research tasks in a concise scheme, which will be discussed later in this paper.
 Venczel József (1913–1972), a Hungarian sociologist from Transylvania who adopted Gusti’s method of sociological monography and used it to investigate Hungarian villages in Romania (Szeklerland). From 1940, he worked at the Hungarian University of Cluj. He was arrested in 1948 and imprisoned for 13 years. Venczel was allowed to return to the University of Cluj in 1968, focusing afterwards on field research in the village of Gârbou (Salaj).
 In 1938, during the first year of royal dictatorship, the Social Services Act was promulgated at Gusti’s proposal. The law stipulated that all university graduates were supposed to carry out compulsory cultural work in rural areas, following the model of the student teams. Carol II and Gusti intended to keep young people away from the influence of the Iron Guard by means of a noble cultural mission. After the outbreak of World War II in the autumn of 1939, the law was suspended.
 The dissemination of these methods had a long-term effect. A series of monographic works clearly showed the influence of this textbook.
 In the summer of 1935, a group of young writers and sociographers from Budapest led by the well-known writer and essayist László Németh visited Bucharest, where they met Gusti and his collaborators. Afterwards, they travelled to the village of Șanț (Năsăud county) in order to witness the fieldwork of the monographists and the student teams.
 Petre Andrei (1891–1940), professor of sociology at the University of Iași and former student of Gusti. He engaged in theoretical sociology and politics as a member of the National Peasants’ Party, and was minister of education between 1938 and 1940.
 Anton Golopenția (1909–1951); sociologist, statistician and demographist, a close collaborator of Prof. Gusti from 1931 onwards. He obtained his PhD in Leipzig (1936). Editor of the journal Sociologie Românească, director of the Social Service and, after the war, director of the Central Institute of Statistics. He was arrested in 1950 and died in prison. His works were published after 1989 by his daughter, Prof. Sanda Golopenția.
 This congress took place during the Paris World’s Fair of 1937. Gusti was general commissar of the fair, in charge of the Romanian Pavilion, where he made use of the material gathered in the monographic campaigns.
 The royal dictatorship of Carol II, the national-legionary dictatorship and the military dictatorship of Ion Antonescu.
 The data collected by the group led by Anton Golopenița in Ukraine was sent to the Central Institute of Statistics from Bucharest; it was identified and recovered by Prof. Sanda Golopenția (Brown University) only after the 1989 regime change. From the preserved documents (some of them having been seized by the Soviet Army after 1944), the sociologist’s daughter was able to reconstruct the Ukraine expedition, resulting in the publication of two extensive volumes of Românii de la est de Bug (2006).