Philosophy and Ideology. Z. A. Jordan 1963
If Alexander the Great really cut the Gordian knot, observed Felix Kaufmann, this might have been the cause of the relations between Aristotle and his former pupil becoming strained in later years. For there is nothing less congenial to the scientific way of thought than to dispose of a theoretical difficulty by an arbitrary action instead of undertaking its solution by the accepted rules of procedure.
Historical materialism in the Marxist-Leninist interpretation, which is also called ‘Marxist-Leninist sociology’, is one such attempt at cutting through the Gordian knot peculiar to sociology. The Marxist-Leninist doctrine claims the discovery of conclusively verified knowledge which forms the final basis of the social sciences in general and of sociology in particular. To raise an unconditional claim to truth for knowledge of matters of fact is to ignore elementary rules of scientific procedure. No empirical science is able to establish incontrovertible and self-evident truths, with which anybody who is not bemused by irrelevancies must concur.
There is a tendency among sociologists, stated Julian Hochfeld, to look at the Marxian doctrine as one of numerous sociological theories and to consider it on an equal footing with the others. It is maintained that one can justly speak of the Marxian and non-Marxist approach to sociological problems in the same manner as in other cases a procedure could be described as Durkheimian or nonDurkheimian. It is believed that the division of sociological theories into Marxist-Leninist and non-Marxist is not legitimate, since some non-Marxist theories are closer to the Marxian standpoint than to any non-Marxist doctrine. Hochfeld assured his readers that nothing could be further from the truth than these views. They ignored the fact that the difference between the Marxist-Leninist and the ‘bourgeois sociology’ was the same as that between truth and falsehood, between a truly scientific sociology and one given to arbitrary constructions whose purpose was to falsify social reality in the interest of the bourgeoisie.
There were several reasons why the attacks on non-Marxist sociology showed a degree of virulent belligerency which some other disciplines, for instance psychology or the philosophy of education, were spared. Deep and wide social changes of the sort that had taken place in Poland tend to stimulate the interest in social inquiry outside the narrow circle of professional social scientists and thus heighten the social significance of sociology. Social problems which emerge in the wake of extensive reforms give rise to opposing views and parties advocating different methods of solution. Even when these parties cannot expect to resolve their differences by rational arguments, such arguments are extensively used for they fortify convictions and convert them into a real social force. An inquiry concerned with problems of human conduct, either individual or collective, has some direct relevance to practical problems. It might harm the interests and offend the convictions as well as the prejudices of those in power, affect the attitudes of the people at large and thus infringe upon what the politicians claim as their exclusive preserve. The latter are not, as a rule, inclined to accept the existence of an alternative to their own views with an equal or better claim to rational justification. The subordination of matters concerned with sociological problems to political considerations is made easier by the fact that both the theoretical assumptions and the findings of social research exhibit a high degree of indeterminacy which becomes manifest when they are to serve as the basis for ‘predictions’ or projected action. A sociologist encounters considerable difficulty in establishing his scientific position in society and in the world of learning, and in being recognised as a person with an authority of his own, based on an expert knowledge, superior to that which may be acquired by men of action with wide experience of human affairs. His authority can and has been challenged over and over again by politicians, journalists, writers and fellow scholars, who all claim to possess the requisite sociological knowledge to be competent and reliable arbiters on matters of social import.
This also accounts for the fact that sociologists in Poland have exhibited perhaps a weaker power of resistance to outside pressure upon their discipline than scholars in some other subjects. Unlike a mathematician or a philosopher, a sociologist can hardly live in the seclusion of his study. His work is closely bound up with the life of the community to which he belongs and from which he cannot isolate himself without some of his essential functions being affected by this withdrawal. Thus, as Chałasiński put it, he may feel that to surrender to conformism is a high, but not an excessive price to be paid for ‘getting out of the social void’ . This attitude applied to a considerable group of Polish sociologists. They found themselves in between the convinced Marxist-Leninists and those, who, like Ossowski, rejected any compromise with truth on moral and social grounds.
The attitude of the ‘middle group’ exercised some influence on the development of events, which was partly favourable and partly unfavourable to the Marxist-Leninist plan of action. The immediate effects were of the former sort. For in order to play an effective role in social development and to bring their knowledge to bear upon its course, the sociologists of the ‘middle group’ had to become a part of the power structure in society, which in Poland meant a more or less close accommodation to or identification with the Communist Party as the constituted power. The self-adjustment required not only some kind of ideological allegiance but also the acceptance of some definite views on sociology, its subject-matter, purpose and methodology, implied by the Marxist-Leninist social theories. These theories did not favour, however, the development of sociology and subsequently turned out to be a revolt against reason and science. This was not an entirely unexpected outcome, but one that could not have been foreseen either. Thus it happened with the co-operation of some sociologists, sociology, unlike philosophy, ceased to exist for a few years.
What Marxist-Leninists call ‘bourgeois sociology’ should be identified in Poland with Znaniecki’s sociology, for his school had dominated the sociological scene in Poland before and after the war. Outside it there was no trend of importance that was in a position to offer an alternative conception of social inquiry.
The Marxist-Leninist opposition to Znaniecki’s sociology sprang from two main, closely related considerations. The first was prompted by the sharp distinction between the modern, empirical conception of sociology and that underlying the socio-philosophical and historiosophical systems of the past. Znaniecki was a champion of the former and a determined opponent of the latter. The second reason for the Marxist-Leninist hostility was some characteristic features of Znaniecki’s views.
There is not the slightest doubt that Znaniecki did reject the ‘old synthetic conception of sociology’, as he referred to it. The only future for sociology was in becoming an empirical and inductive science, which limits its units of study and tries to answer specific questions of fact. He was not alone in pursuing this aim, but he made it familiar and universally accepted in Poland. Znaniecki did not question the legitimacy of the powerful intellectual and moral interest in obtaining a view on a grand scale that would comprise and provide some understanding of all the civilisations, interpret their development, and discover some possible direction of the whole historical evolution of mankind. He compared this justifiable interest with that in metaphysical systems which aim at interpreting the natural world as an intelligible whole. But metaphysics neither can nor does replace physics. In the same manner the philosophy of history and socio-philosophical systems do not make history and sociology otiose. Znaniecki advocated the establishment of a sociology which does not misjudge its possibilities and instead of entertaining grandiose ambitions pursues limited objectives, restricts its inquiries to units of study capable of being empirically investigated, and to specific social structures, amenable to rational analysis. As he conceived it, sociology should be concerned with four major subjects, constituting a coherent whole, which he described as the theory of social actions, of social relations, of social roles, and of social groups. Znaniecki emphasised that this conception of sociology as an independent discipline with a distinct field of data of its own and distinct research techniques has been approached from different points of view by numerous sociological writers, Ch. H. Cooley, Georg Simmel, Alfred Vierkandt, Leopold von Wiese, Max Weber, R. M. MacIver, R. E. Park, E. W. Burgess, and many others. It needed only systematisation and consolidation.
This conception of sociology was called ‘little sociology’ in the Stalinist period. The tag had clearly a malicious meaning and was a term of dismissive abuse. It was said that its social and class purpose was to keep problems of social progress out of sight or within the limits that would be harmless to the capitalist system, and thus, in the ‘objective sense’, to protect the latter. Viewed from a different standpoint, ‘little sociology’ favoured an extreme and sterile form of empiricism or pseudo-empiricism, which has been the characteristic, above all, of many American social research studies. The objection that ‘little sociology’, with the assistance of elaborate research techniques, was producing a chaotic jumble of unrelated facts, an accumulation of discrete small-scale discoveries without rhyme or reason, of banal findings and trivial conclusions, lacking any global significance and theoretical orientation, alternated with another, to be later considered, namely, that far from being empirical and hostile to speculations it was actually itself a product of idealist speculations. The pseudo-empiricism peculiar to ‘little sociology’ was contrasted with the sociology of Marxist-Leninist with its balanced combination of theory and facts, theoretical studies and empirical research.
The objection of narrow empiricism was aimed at ‘bourgeois sociology’ in general and was meant to exemplify the alleged disintegration of science in decrepit capitalist society rather than to discredit Znaniecki and his school. For Znaniecki’s thinking was dominated by the conception that combines a searching interest in empirical data with the ideal of a rational science. Znaniecki deplored the ‘absorption in concrete data as such, apart from their significance for scientific generalisation, which he viewed as perhaps the greatest check on the progress of sociology. He dissociated himself from the tendency of making enormous surveys, of an indiscriminate use of questionnaires, of an appalling waste of resources and energy spent on collecting various materials and on interviewing thousands of people, without being guided by a clearly conceived theoretical purpose and a verifiable hypothesis. He refused to dignify this procedure by ascribing it to scientific circumspection. Without delving any deeper, for instance, to examine from this viewpoint Znaniecki’s opinions on the role of statistical methods in sociology or his ideas about ‘analytical induction’, Marxist-Leninists could have extracted from his writings a comprehensive compendium of observations on the harm inflicted upon sociology by the presumption that nothing but facts matter. Moreover, no wide reading in recent American sociological literature was necessary to ascertain that the neglect of theory has been more and more realised in the United States since the late ‘thirties and that the radical empiricist camp in sociology has not been alone in the field there any longer. So far as the situation in American sociology is concerned, Marxist-Leninists and their supporters seem to have been behind the times.
The platitude that sociology needs both empirical research and theoretical studies does not settle the dispute between the Marxist-Leninist and the ‘bourgeois sociology’. For when they speak of the desirability of theory, they use the same term in a different meaning. As Marxist-Leninists understand it, a sociological theory is an all-embracing philosophical system that would apply and account for vast ranges of social behaviour and include universal laws of social change in all its multifarious aspects. A theory of this type is not what a modern sociologist understands by it.
A modern, scientifically minded sociologist is aware of the fact that the search for such a theory is an unrealisable goal at the present state of knowledge and that it would have to run far ahead of the means available for its construction.
It would have to move by bold leaps and to start from scanty evidence to arrive by short-cuts to vast generalisations which turn out to be beliefs held before the investigations commenced. Being of a high degree of abstraction, with few if any partial hypotheses and special theories to relate the facts encountered in empirical research with the general theory, all-embracing systems would provide no guide in research and in the solution of general problems. This means that they would have no heuristic and cognitive value, if thereby is understood empirical verifiability, the consolidation of knowledge already acquired and the guidance in the acquisition of new knowledge. This point was strongly emphasised by Znaniecki and, later, by R. K. Merton and Talcott Parsons.
Theories the need of which is recognised by modern sociology, are what Merton calls ‘theories of the middle range’. They are intended to be ‘logically interconnected conceptions which are limited and modest in scope, rather than all-embracing and grandiose’. Their name is to indicate that they are intermediate to working hypotheses of routine research and general theories from which a great number of empirically confirmed uniformities of social behaviour could be deduced. Theories of the middle range would provide the basis for making sociological research in any particular field cumulative, help to remedy the present dispersion of effort and to remove the confusion resulting from the steadily growing mass of empirical generalisations which nobody notices and considers in his own research in a similar or closely related domain of social inquiry.
Without going beyond the methodological level, there is a sense in which Znaniecki’s sociology may be declared to be incompatible with Marxist-Leninist sociology. The central point of disagreement is the difference of opinion concerning the empirical content of a sociological theory. Znaniecki refused to accept mere ‘juggling with concepts’ as a theoretical construction with a valid claim to empirical relevance, because it can refer to some empirical data, some favourable instances, supposedly providing its verification. ‘Outside of the lunatic asylum’, he wrote, ‘there are no theories unsupported by facts’. An appeal to facts to illustrate the meaning of some abstract assertions does not transform their status of pseudo-empirical theories into genuinely empirical ones.
Long before Popper discovered and made precise the logical ground on which a scientific and a non-scientific theory, that appeals to observation and experience, can be clearly differentiated, non-scientific and pseudo-empirical theories were considered with an instinctive distrust by working scientists. Znaniecki rightly observed that the latter do not differ from the former by a complete absence of confirmation or verification. It is the nature of this confirmation or verification. that matters and helps to solve what Popper called the ‘problem of demarcation’ .
Znaniecki also came very close to Popper’s solution of the demarcation problem for he insisted that a method that avoids ‘conclusions which might be challenged and thus lead to the formulation of new problems’ is unproductive. A sociologist strives for universal uniformities, but he is not afraid of counter-instances. The latter raise new problem, invalidate former generalisations and stimulate the search for a more efficient theory. ‘The exception is thus an essential instrument of scientific progress’, which should not be accepted meekly, as a necessary limitation resulting from the discrepancy between the world of facts and rational theories, but as the very source of creative science that constantly ‘supplements or supplants the theory that has met with the exception by a new theory . . . and thus turns defeat into victory, strengthening and widening the sway of reason’. Znaniecki referred to physics, chemistry, and biology, as the sciences which invariably accept counter-instances. He wished sociology to emulate this particular method of natural science, called by him ‘analytical induction’ or ‘logic of scientific research’ and sharply differentiated from ‘enumerative induction’ which he thought to be unproductive or even obstructive to the ‘dynamic ideal of knowledge’ .
Znaniecki’s methodological approach clearly implied that Marxist-Leninist sociology was not a sociological theory in the proper sense of this term, but a speculation, marked by the disparity between rare and meagre data on the one hand, and the extent of the conclusions on the other. The conclusions greatly overstep their supporting evidence and the data are barely sufficient to illustrate the argument. Znaniecki’s point of view also implied that Marxist-Leninist sociology was deprived of empirical and cognitive significance, though this did not mean that it lacked any significance whatsoever or that it should not be studied as a social fact of the highest importance. This was the attitude taken by Durkheim to socialism. Durkhem refused to examine socialism as a theory of social facts but instead considered it as a social fact and object of sociological inquiry. In his numerous writings published in the immediate post-war years, Chałasińki, Znaniecki’s most prominent pupil, adopted the same attitude with respect to Marxism-Leninism.
It should be clear that Znaniecki’s views could not be tolerated by Marxist-Leninists as soon as they elevated their own theories to the position of an incontrovertible truth. Znaniecki’s name alone personified for some time every possible error of ‘bourgeois sociology’ and epitomised the essence of opinions to be found in the works of its most prominent representatives.
This brings us to the second main reason for which Marxist-Leninists repudiated Znaniecki’s sociology altogether, namely, to its philosophical presuppositions, general orientation and theoretical content. To discover in what respect the Marxist-Leninist doctrine is incompatible with Znaniecki’s sociology it is best to begin with the Marxist-Leninist criticism of the latter.
The Marxist-Leninist refutation of Znaniecki’s sociology was accomplished in a simple manner. It was argued that the humanistic coefficient is identical with the Berkeleyan principle ‘esse is percipi’. Znaniecki denied the objective existence of any object, either in Nature or in social reality, and he reduced it to the content of individual consciousness. Znaniecki dematerialised mountains and rivers, society and its classes, made the world of dreams and imagination indistinguishable from the world of stubborn facts and hard realities. Whatever stability is revealed in the fluid world, created by the consciousness, it owes it to the objective and immaterial values which, in Znaniecki’s opinion, determine the attitudes of men, make man a definite human person, bind human persons into social groups and ultimately account for the whole of social and cultural reality, conceived as a web of interacting persons, groups and their mutual relationships. Values function in Znaniecki’s system in the same capacity as God does in Berkeley’s Universe. They represent the element of objective idealism, interwoven into the fabric of subjective idealism, which provides the guiding principle of Znaniecki’s conceptions and the foundation for the whole theoretical structure. The social significance of the latter is clear once their philosophical principles are laid bare. It hardly needs repeating that Znaniecki’s sociology, being an elaborate idealist construction, is a bourgeois reaction to dialectical materialism and the proletarian movement. Znaniecki formed an alliance with all the forces whose chief purpose in life was to stem and counteract the expansion of the revolution by spreading confusion in the minds and blurring the differences dividing materialism and idealism in the social sciences.
In the inter-war period Znaniecki’s sociology was criticised, by Kotarbiński in particular, for its ontological and methodological dualism, namely, for its distinction between natural and cultural reality, methods of natural and cultural sciences, which were considered by Znaniecki as irreducible to each other. After the war Szcpański, Znaniecki’s pupil, tried to revise the theoretical assumptions on which Znaniecki’s ontological and methodological dualism is based in order to reduce, if not eliminate altogether, the irreducible cleavage of natural and cultural reality. The method of personal documents was subject to severe criticism, both in Poland and in America, and the criticism was recognised as pertinent and irrefutable. Consequently, other more critical and reliable techniques were devised which reduced Znaniecki’s favourite method to a subsidiary or auxiliary status. Znaniecki’s sociological system includes restrictive provisions which, if accepted, would relegate some important sociological issues, such as the problems of class structure, outside the realm of sociology. They also formally forbid the use of any data which are not social in Znaniecki’s sense, that is, are not determined by the humanistic coefficient. These limitations prompted by circumspection or by the requirement of theoretical coherence, could be justly criticised from the Marxian or any other viewpoint. But it cannot be said that Znaniecki incarnated Berkeleyan idealism in sociology or that the humanistic coefficient is equivalent to the idealist principle ‘esse is percipi’ without grossly misconstruing what he put down in writing in an unequivocal manner.
While introducing the humanistic coefficient, Znaniecki explicitly stated that he was not interested in the dispute between idealism and realism in the theory of knowledge. ‘The attitude of the positive scientist, the specialist in any field’, he wrote, ‘is uniformly realistic’, and he emphatically and repeatedly identified himself with this attitude. The world studied by the natural sciences is a ‘world of things connected into systems by natural forces’ and independent of man. On this point there is not the slightest ambiguity either in Znaniecki’s mind or in his writings.
The humanistic coefficient is a means of differentiating two main types of order or reality discovered in human experience: the natural and the cultural. The objects of the latter – a poem, a ceremony, a factory, a painting – cannot be studied in the same manner as a stone or a tree or any object supposed to exist independently of any human being. For if anybody tried to do so, he would fail entirely to understand the cultural objects and the role they play within their respective systems. They would disappear, as it were, and the investigator would be confronted by a disjointed heap of natural things, entirely dissimilar from the reality which he tried to comprehend. The nature and role of cultural objects are ‘determined not merely by the characters these elements possess as natural things but also (and chiefly) by characters which they have acquired in the experience of people during their existence as cultural objects’. These acquired characteristics constitute their meaning. To differentiate natural objects from cultural objects Znaniecki called the former ‘things’ and the latter ‘values’. Things neither are nor become values by themselves, independently of any conscious human agent. To be or to become values, objects must belong to somebody’s active experience. This active experience gives them a meaning and makes them what they are, always relative to a conscious agent. This principle of relativity of cultural objects was called ‘humanistic coefficient’ by Znaniecki.
The humanistic coefficient does not imply that cultural objects are entirely dependent on the conscious agent, for they have an objective order of their own and are constituents of an independent reality. The distinction between things and values has nothing to do with differentiating between what is objective and what is subjective in human experience. It should be remembered that Znaniecki uses the term ‘value’ in an unusual manner to denote certain categories of objects such as social individuals, their collectivities or social groups, and institutions, as well as what common speech calls ‘valuable’. Anything that is the object of certain activities, is referred to as desirable or undesirable, useful or harmful, in general, that has an axiological significance or a meaning pointing to its structural dependence in the system of which it forms a component part, is a value in Znaniecki’s sense. A sacred vessel has a meaning within a cultural system, in this case, in a particular religion, since it is linked with certain words, representations and behaviour of the worshippers. Similarly, the buildings and machines of a factory have a meaning apprehended by those who man them and by anyone prepared to understand their use. The inner order of a cultural system raises it above the arbitrariness of individual experiences and endows it with an objective validity recognised and complied with by all who participate in it. There is, therefore, nothing subjective about values, they are intersubjectively established, experienced by any number of people, whose experiences can be tested. Furthermore, values take genetic precedence over things; we learn first about values in life, and only later, if ever, we take cognisance of things.
The question arises whether Znaniecki’s sociology, having been cleared of the objection of subjective idealism, is not found guilty on the second count, that of objective idealism. It appears that provided a suitable meaning is given to the term ‘objective idealism’ the Marxist-Leninist objection should be recognised as valid.
Although cultural reality seems at first to be superimposed on that of natural objects, the order of priority should be in fact reversed. This was done by Znaniecki in his last work Cultural Sciences in which he argued that cultural reality should be considered as primary and natural reality as secondary, abstracted from the former in the course of the development of natural sciences. While cultural reality is primary, its knowledge expressed in terms of a comprehensive theory has evolved, for various reasons, only after that of natural reality (the natural sciences) has reached an advanced stage of maturity. On this account natural reality has overshadowed and assumed priority over that of cultural objects. This leaves the existence of the natural sciences and of the activities of the scientists unaccounted for. For science itself is not a part of the natural order, investigated by the scientist, and requires, therefore, the cultural sciences, and, in particular, sociology conceived as a general theory of human actions as its foundation. Scientists who specialise in investigating natural phenomena and develop theories that have no direct reference to men take themselves for granted as conscious active thinkers, and thus fail to notice that their own activity presupposes the existence of cultural reality and of its specific order, which is unaccountable in terms of the natural sciences.
If this viewpoint is accepted, it becomes clear that whatever ontological status is assigned to values by reflective analysis of social behaviour, much of cultural reality is non-material. Even material cultural objects, let us say, a mine or an architectural monument, have meaning and are values, which are not material and which make them what they are. It was evident to Znaniecki that the objective form of an activity – what has later been called ‘pattern’ -oriented to non-material aspects of culture cannot be described in terms of actions dealing with material objects alone, and thus he saw no chance of reducing sociology to a naturalistic discipline. The proper subject-matter of sociology is non-material objects and their systems which, as Znaniecki emphasised, though non-material are ‘as real as material ones, if not more so’. For instance, we cannot seriously deny reality to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil experienced and identified in imagination and thought by innumerable generations in the course of centuries. In the indicated sense the Tree of Knowledge is an empirical datum more real than any of the trees in the Amazon basin or in the Siberian Taiga, which never was or will be observed by any human individual.
Znaniecki thought that the peculiar nature of cultural objects becomes incomprehensible if the validity of causation with respect to the actions of human agents, considered as elements of cultural reality, is not restricted and replaced by the principle of spontaneity. For granted the primacy of cultural reality, the problem whether a certain activity is free or determined is insoluble. Any naturalistic explanation of why the human agents act as they do is barred by the very assumption of cultural reality being primary. An action is entirely defined by the system of values within which it occurs and which it constructs or maintains in being. This does not mean that any stimuli provided by noncultural objects can simply be ignored or denied; they are, however, relative to pre-existing spontaneous tendencies.
It is clear, therefore, that the world as unreflectively experienced and reflectively known consists of material and non-material entities. There are objects which being real are neither sensuous nor material, and whose structural organisation is not causally determined (nor, for that matter, logically or teleologically). The order intrinsic to cultural systems is irreducible to the natural one and lies outside the range of natural phenomena. Acquaintance with the latter presupposes the familiarity with the cultural order, and, on the theoretical level, the knowledge of natural reality cannot do without categories of the cultural sciences. For knowledge of the world of Nature is itself a social and cultural activity, comprehensible and to be accounted for in terms of the social and cultural sciences.
Although Znaniecki’s theories do not appeal either to spirit or to ideal essences as the ultimate constituents of the world, they can be called ‘idealist’. This qualification would differentiate them from those to be described as materialistic and naturalistic. Thinkers who try to avoid metaphysics, stated Znaniecki, cannot accept the ‘existence of a spiritual world outside and above the material one’. Znaniecki would refuse to define the ‘true essence’ of cultural objects as no concern of his and as essentially an extra-scientific question. Cultural reality was for him an empirical datum in a world by no means timeless and spaceless. He wished its investigations to be restricted to the study of factual relationships among cultural objects and to the discovery of the order in these relationships, without asking questions which a student of culture could not and should not answer.
It is not quite clear whether Marxist-Leninists had exactly this in mind when they described Znaniecki’s theories as objective idealism. For in their own social theories they make use of concepts referring to entities hard to accommodate within a system of purely material objects and whose reduction to purely material constituents is by no means certain. Still, from the viewpoint of a naturalistically oriented sociology, Znaniecki’s theories can be rightly described as idealist in the sense indicated above, to be ranged against the Marxist-Leninist standpoint.
Whatever else might be said about Marxist-Leninist theories on man, Nature, and culture, their ultimate purpose is clear and unequivocal and based on convictions diametrically opposed to those of Znaniecki. For Marxist-Leninists man is a natural being, like all other animal species, who exerts himself to make his life secure. He is also a social being who only by collective actions can make his life enduring. By self-adjustment, inventions and discoveries he can assert himself against Nature and gain an increasing control over his environment. Culture is nothing but a collective name for the instruments and means discovered by man to transform the natural environment and bend it to his needs. These exertions bring in their wake knowledge of Nature, the natural sciences, the social sciences, and philosophy, whose content and functions are determined by technical means primarily invented for the practical purpose of life. In the natural and social sciences there is laid up the sum total of knowledge about the world which is ultimately the knowledge about man himself, about his origin and progressive development to the stage reached, at the present time. Philosophy is the final synthesis by means of which man traces back his natural history in relation to the world, recognised as the independent factor that determines his being but that is also transformed by man’s action in his struggle for existence. Philosophy helps to discover the principles by means of which man’s behaviour may be controlled and his efforts rationally directed in the further struggle for the improvement of his conditions.
From this standpoint Znaniecki’s belief about the primacy and priority of cultural reality over natural reality is fundamentally wrong and turns upside down the actual recorded natural history of man. Its non-naturalistic conception of man is bound to assign an undue importance and effectiveness to man’s will, wishes, and aspirations, as if man’s past and future depended solely on himself. Such a suggestion amounts to substituting an arbitrary principle for a patent fact that man is a natural being, Nature is prior to man, and the laws of Nature are indifferent to man’s hopes and strivings. These critical observations were not used against Znaniecki, though they could have been applied, since they are all contained in the Marxian tradition.
Simultaneously with the condemnatory verdict on Znaniecki and his school, the Marxian tradition of social thought in Poland was re-evaluated from the Marxist-Leninist viewpoint. Separate studies on its representatives, Krusiński, KellesKrauz, Abramowski, Brzozowski, and Krzywicki, revealed that there was little in their life work from which Marxism-Leninism could learn and benefit. Their main common errors were the identification of the Marxian thought with sociology and economics, its separation from dialectical materialism and a patent ‘anti-revolutionary’ attitude of mind. Only Krusiński, least known of them all, passed muster and was accepted without undue reservations and also without enthusiasm, since he was not an important writer. Krzywicki’s merits as a populariser of Marxian thought were not ignored, but he was declared to be a confirmed revisionist in his interpretation of historical materialism, thus unacceptable as a forerunner of Marxism-Leninism. There was not a single good point in the remaining representatives of the Marxian tradition. They were responsible for the delay and obstructions to the development of revolutionary, i.e. Marxist-Leninist thought in Poland. They were individualists, anarchists, and disguised enemies of the proletariat, who only by mistake could have been ranked among the precursors of the Marxist-Leninist tradition.
Finally, Czarnowski was found only partially acceptable. He owed the rescue of his name and writings to the political activities in which he participated towards the end of his life. His sociological contributions did not satisfy the Marxist-Leninist requirements for they are Durkheimian in spirit and method. Durkheim was supposedly committed to an ahistorical standpoint, ignored the class structure and class conflicts, preached social solidarity, and represented objective idealism in sociology and social philosophy. Czarnowski’s contributions to the history of culture and of social thought were considered to be a remarkable achievement but they too displayed serious theoretical errors. They failed to comply with the standpoint of Marxist-Lininist historiography, of which more will be said later. Czanowski was, however, exceptionally treated; the first and complete edition of his works, a valuable and, on the whole, scholarly publication, was published even before greater tolerance and respect for thought had again prevailed.
Thus a clean sweep was made of everything past and present and Marxist-Leninists were left alone in the field to begin again from scratch. The work of destruction confronted them with formidable problem of organising research and teaching on entirely new lines. It can be said at once that they failed in both these spheres of activity.
The dispute between Marxism-Leninism and sociology was essentially a clash between the nineteenth century’s and the modern conception of the social sciences. There was little doubt that there was no Marxist-Leninist sociology in the sense of the latter and no doubt whatever that Polish sociology represented the empirical and modern trend in the social sciences. Three out of the four leading Polish sociologists in the post-war period, Chałasiński, Szczepański and Szczurkiewicz, were not only Znaniecki’s pupils, but also shared his views on sociology, and applied his conceptual framework, his theories and methods in their own work. After the war Chałasiński and Szczepański re-established Znaniecki’s school of thought and made it dominant in the universities. The fourth leading sociologist, Stanisław Ossowski, followed a path of his own, but he also cultivated ‘little sociology’. At the time when freedom of discussion still prevailed, he gained prominence for his learned and effective defence of modern sociology against Marxist-Leninist criticism.
Ossowski was a particularly formidable opponent. He combined wide and thorough sociological knowledge with a mind trained in the Warsaw school.
His attachment to reason, to the requirements of logic and to the respect for facts is unyielding and uncompromising. These qualities have assured him considerable intellectual stature, made him an influential teacher and an authority in his subject, widely recognised in intellectual circles. It was Ossowski who from the defence of ‘little sociology’ passed on to the criticism of Marxist-Leninist and made numerous suggestions as to how its various parts should be revised to be adjusted to the state of contemporary knowledge and to satisfy the accepted standards of validity. While Chałasiński’s initial critical attitude to Marxism-Leninism concerned mainly its socio-philosophical content and its social message, Ossowski was interested in the Marxian social theories, in their incorporation and application, in a revised form, to sociological inquiry.
Stanisław Ossowski and Maria Ossowska have associated themselves with this development of modern sociological thought which instead of ignoring the existence of Marx has been deeply concerned with the issues raised by him. Émile Durkheim and Max Weber were the most prominent figures of this trend in the past and Ossowski and Ossowska have continued it in Poland. They are not Marxian, if by this qualification is to be understood the acceptance of the whole body of the Marxian doctrine in its original form. They believe, however, that Marxian ideas hold an important place in modern sociology and provide a fruitful point of departure for the formulation and investigation of many sociological problems. In particular, this concerns the Marxian theory of economic and social classes and of class conflicts. Interest in Marxian thought inspired Ossowski’s inquiry into the concepts of class and social structure, resulting in 1957 in a remarkable book Class Structure in Social Consciousness, and in Ossowska’s investigations on the plurality of morals, which coexist in the same community and are found to be related to its class stratification.
The importance attached to the teaching of Marx leads to the conclusion that a further development and application of Marxian ideas require their reformulation in terms of the conceptual framework of modern sociology. Ossowski and Ossowska did draw this conclusion and by doing it they greatly jeopardised their position. To transgress the line dividing the sacred and the profane is dangerous in any society, but in some more than in others. Revisionism, of which Ossowski was accused, was presented not only as a sacrilegious deed, but also as a political crime.
At the time when Marxist-Leninists decided to establish the supremacy of their doctrines in sociology to the exclusion of any other, academic sociology – as represented by Chałasiński, Ossowski, and Szczepański – was entangled from their viewpoint in the ‘old theoretical and methodological errors’, retained the conceptual framework of the past, and was engaged in criticising and revising the foundations of Marxism-Leninism. Each of the non-Marxist sociologists was subjected to severe public censure, Chałasiński and Szczepański for being continuators of Znaniecki’s theories, Ossowski for the incompatibility of his views with Marxism-Leninism.
The hardest blows fell on Ossowski in view of his stubborn adherence to his scientific standpoint which he refused to abandon either in speech and writing or in his teaching activities. His articles were banned from publication and he was removed from his university chair by being sent on enforced leave of absence. Ossowska shared the same fate.
The fortunes of Chałasiński and Szczepański were different. They were not removed from their university chairs, but instead of teaching sociology, which ceased to exist as an undergraduate study – it was replaced by historical materialism and the teaching of this subject was reserved, naturally enough, for Marxist-Leninists alone – they taught the history of social thought. This proscriptive measure was not relaxed even for Chałasiński, who was accorded an official bill of intellectual health. For about the same time Chałasiński made a public, oral and written, self-criticism of his former views, supported the Marxist-Leninist criticism of Znaniecki’s sociology, and professed himself basically in agreement with the assumptions of Marxist-Leninist sociological theories. He justified his conversion to Marxism-Leninism by a comparison of the conscience of the intellectual, which is divorced from the course of history, to the magnetic needle of a compass that is out of order. The course of history showed that there is no middle road between socialist revolution and crimes of capitalism. An intellectual cannot avoid making a choice between them in the great social and political conflict that divides the world in the era marked by the struggle between imperialism and socialism. Chałasiński’s self-criticism, held up as example to others, helped Marxist-Leninists in proclaiming that the victory over ‘bourgeois sociology’ was achieved in open discussion.
On the other hand, Chałasiński’s conversion, nullified a few years later, provided a protective screen for the teaching centres in Warsaw and Łód", where under the guise of studying the history of social thought students were learning sociology and followed its development in the outside world. When sociology was rehabilitated in 1956, it emerged from its hiding places with a large group of trained young sociologists prepared to undertake teaching and research. They have at present made of sociology one of the most thriving academic disciplines in Poland. Chałasiński was also one of the leading spirits during what, in the period 1954-1956, was called the ‘thaw’. From the position of authority, which his conversion enabled him to retain, he launched a very effective campaign against the distortions of the intellectual life and the decline of science under the system of the ‘monopoly of a single school’. His rediscovery of some simple but long forgotten truths pushed the Marxist-Leninist doctrine on its downwards course and to its final destruction, as a dogma, in the fire of the ensuing free discussion.
The decision to reject altogether every sociological achievement accomplished by ‘bourgeois science’, was announced towards the end of 1951. There was nothing in existing sociology, either in Poland or abroad, of which Marxist-Leninists wished to take advantage, whether in the field of theory and methodology or research findings and techniques. The whole conceptual framework was to be reformulated, theories recast, new methods and techniques devised. This was to be accomplished by taking dialectical and historical materialism as the only guiding principles. Social research was to be remodelled on the pattern of Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England and Lenin’s The Development of Capitalism in Russia, since these two works showed that the adequacy and validity of a method was determined by the fact whether it yielded significant contributions to our knowledge of the ‘objective social development’ .
Marxist-Leninists seem to think that the nature of social facts determines in a unique fashion the conceptual scheme to be adopted in their investigations. Furthermore, since concepts necessarily correspond to the things they designate, there exists an objective adequacy between the conceptual framework in terms of which social facts are described and these facts themselves. Therefore, it is the social theory that determines which method is right and appropriate, and what kind of results it should yield. This view on the relation between theory and method puts the cart before the horse.
For there is no a priori reason to suppose that there is one and only one method which is appropriate to a given subject matter, and the history of science seems to suggest that, on the whole, methodological pluralism is preferable to methodological monism. No theory can, in principle, exclude a particular method. Methods are rules of procedure, adopted either by a conventional decision or on the ground of observations of what scientists do to arrive at warranted conclusions. A method is the product of a resolution stipulating which is the best way of dealing with a particular class of scientific statements. Finally, to say that a theory determines its own method is to run a considerable risk. For if a method is recognised as adequate, if it yields results in agreement with what the theory lays down, the question arises what useful purpose a method, adequate in this sense, would serve apart from illustrating the justice of the preconceived ideas.
There seems to be concealed in Marxist-Leninist thinking a misconception not only of what is a method, but also of what is a theory, and what is their relation. A theory is not for them an instrument of thought, one of the means of discovering truth, but something that, in the sense of the Aristotelian realism, necessarily corresponds to and reproduces, as it were, the realm of reality described by this theory. The thesis of methodological monism, the view that there is a unique method, appropriate and absolutely valid, in each field of inquiry, follows from the Aristotelian realistic presuppositions. But to consider the relation between the subject matter, theory, and method in any empirical discipline in that manner (described on the preceding pages as ‘methodological essentialism’), is to turn back the clock many centuries. In particular, the relation between theory and method in an empirical discipline is exactly the opposite of what Marxist-Lininists conceive it to be. Whatever general considerations we have in mind in advance, which may suggest a certain procedure and technique, an empirical theory is defined in terms of a method, that is, in terms of rules of procedure to which the scientist is pledged and which state the conditions for the acceptance and rejection of propositions.
Marxist-Leninists are confronted by a considerable, if not insoluble, difficulty when it comes to the question what method is appropriate to the subject matter of a materialistically conceived sociology. While rejecting the personal documents, public opinion and attitude research, the method of representative sampling as applied so far in Poland and elsewhere, Marxist-Leninists emphatically stated that it was not their intention to abolish social research altogether. They only wished to dissociate themselves, in the manner indicated by Lenin in his polemics against Russian ‘empirio-monists’, from such methods which abandon ‘objective facts’ and ‘objective situations’, independent of the social consciousness of men, and investigate ‘facts constituted in the subjective consciousness’ or ‘subjective views of individuals’ . They did not explain what were the objective facts’ which they had in mind and which they contrasted with the “subjective’ ones, or in what way they wished to establish them. A clue to their ideas was provided when a research project was in preparation and its technique was discussed. The rules of procedure were devised in such a manner that the conclusions to be reached were known beforehand and could not fail to confirm the investigator’s presuppositions. The distinction between the ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’, ‘true’ and ‘false’ social facts was determined on the grounds of Marxist-Lininist theory and empirical research was not intended to test and to modify, possibly to falsify and eliminate, any of its assumptions. If empirical research could not do any of these things, it could only show that the theory agreed with appropriately selected or interpreted evidence. The fallacy inherent in this procedure escaped the notice of the Marxist-Leninist social scientists.
Their understanding of objectivity seems to suggest that an ‘objective’ social fact is a ‘true’ one in some metaphysical sense of this term. What Max Weber said on this matter may help to elucidate this point. Sociology was for Weber a science which aims at the interpretative understanding of social actions, i.e., of ‘all human behaviour when and in so far as the acting individual attaches a subjective meaning to it’. Action is social if the acting individual takes account of the behaviour of others. The ‘meaning’ of which this definition makes use, either denotes what in the given case a particular agent or a plurality of agents take it to be or a pure type of meaning attributed to a hypothetical agent or agents in some kind of action. Over and above it, there is no other ‘objective’ or ‘correct’ meaning which can be empirically ascertained and it is this which distinguishes an empirical sociology from dogmatic disciplines. The latter seek to establish the ‘true’ and ‘valid’ meaning which is independent of any agent and associated with the object itself.
A social inquiry based on the assumption that there is an ‘objective meaning’ attributable to social actions, distinguishable from the ‘subjective’ one, irrespective of whether it is ascertainable in the consciousness of any single individual, has to assume the existence of the former axiomatically and to become a deductive theory. Moreover, since ‘objective meanings’ are determined, according to Marxist-Leninists, by economic factors, which are the decisive constituents of social reality, the latter should be regarded as independent variables in social inquiry. A materialist social theory consists of statements that are either somehow inferred from the economic ones or provide a sociological interpretation of economic statements. This is a Marxian idea, for in Marx’s investigations economics and sociology are complementary, they dovetail and present the same argument on two different planes.
The Marxian idea gave to Marxist-Leninist sociology its sense of direction and the guiding principles of its procedure. The fundamental principle of the materialist deductive sociology was Marx’s famous assertion that it is the social existence of men that determines their consciousness. It was an absolute principle, neither in need of elucidation and verification, nor amenable to correction or to justification on further grounds. It provided the basis for the general rule that what is found in the social consciousness of men should always be related to the conditions of material life, by which should be understood the productive forces and the relations of production.
Marxist-Leninists supplemented this fundamental principle by a number of rules to be followed in any social inquiry. Three of these rules deserve attention, for they had disastrous effects on the further fortunes of sociology.
The first rule stated that the sociologist should take economic conditions as his point of departure and consider them in their dynamic aspect, that is, to examine the class conflict arising from the prevailing class structure. For social facts unrelated to their economic causes are left precariously in the air and inspire false and reactionary sociological conceptions.
The second rule concerned the determination of the social context, defined in terms of its mode of production, with respect to the scale of social progress. This means that the type of socio-economic formation, to which the given context belongs, should be established and thus the dynamic possibilities of social change be included in the description and interpretation of the investigated phenomena.
The third rule supplemented the second by the demand that the investigations of social facts in their dynamic aspect should lead to the discovery of new regularities – material, socio-psychological, and ideological – maturing in the womb of the community in which the investigated phenomena take place. The importance of the third rule was enhanced by the demand that sociology should play an active role in the construction of socialism and accelerate its advent.
It was the second and the third rule which made havoc of social inquiry and put an end to sociological thinking for a few years. For the requirements of relating social data and conclusions drawn therefrom to a unilinear scale of social progress reduced sociology to little more than a thinly disguised propaganda activity. The role which sociology was assigned to play in adjusting the social conditions to the stage of development prescribed by the universal laws of history, endowed sociology with a direct political significance and made of it one of the chief instruments for moulding minds. Marxist-Leninist sociology was expected to substantiate the claim that what ought to happen was actually taking place.
It should be borne in mind that the assumed unilinear scale of social progress provided a very poor standard of measurement. Only a few points were marked on it and in such a manner that it was never clear how they applied in any definite set of circumstances. Each of the Marxian stages of the universal evolution covered many centuries of history which have remained unexplored and unmarked on the scale. The considerable difficulties in the evaluation of past events in terms of social progress, by which a historian of social, economic or philosophic thought was confronted, were nothing compared with those encountered by the sociologist concerned not with the past but with contemporary events. His task was not to use the universal laws of progress as guiding principles in ordering and interpreting past events, but to show how they worked here and now in the process of transforming the capitalist economic basis into the socialist mode of production and thereby changed entirely the whole social consciousness of men.
In the case of the sociologist the paradoxical features of the situation were pronounced and inescapable. On the one hand, there were the postulated historical laws, which made progress inevitable. On the other, the same laws allowed considerable latitude to men in deciding in each particular case what path and form progress should take. Thus, while the sociologist was obliged by his methodological rule to trace the path of social progress in the course of its realisation, the path described by him was in fact determined by the decision of the policy makers. These decisions had to be taken, however, not for what they were, that is, for the resolutions made according to a plan and directed towards the goal which the policy makers assigned to themselves. They were presented as the work of the ineluctable laws of history and progress, of which the policy makers were the chosen instrument. The sociologist did not describe, therefore, how things were actually happening, but how they should have occurred, if countless external forces did not incessantly interfere with the will of the policy makers who were the sole determinant of social processes, acting with a perfect knowledge of all the effects, intended and unintended, of their decisions. Moreover, the sociologist was expected to help in the creation of facts, and this function he could perform only ‘dialectically’. This meant that instead of finding out what were the facts, he tried to conjure them up, to induce certain social attitudes and patterns of behaviour, which in due course would bring about their own verification. He acted on the assumption of William James, that some facts cannot come to pass at all unless they are preceded by the desire for their existence. To encourage faith in a fact was to help to create this fact, for anticipation and forecast precede observation. Thus, however, the actual social conditions and their image were increasingly diverging and social knowledge was more and more replaced by figments of imagination and social myths.
The sociologist could not discharge his function of providing confirmation that the policy makers were successful in administering the universal laws of progress unless he accepted the policy makers’ criteria of significance and valuation and subordinated his work to political control and expediency. He did not concentrate on what the facts were, what the problems arising from them were, and what the correct solution of the latter were, but on what it was appropriate to say. This meant that he remained a social scientist only by name and instead of his proper social role he performed that of a propagandist. A number of sociologists did assume this role, this having been concealed from their sight by their ideological identification with the constituted power, but only sometimes and to certain extent. This was not always the case. Some sociological political scholars of the extreme sort enunciated the subordination of sociology to politics as a binding and methodologically fruitful principle of their discipline. Social inquiry would be doomed to failure if it did not take the achievements of the revolutionary practice, the policy and directions of the Communist Party as its point of departure, its guiding principle of research and criterion of validity of its conclusions. The leaders of the Party are by the same token the leading theorists of social life; they enrich sociological theory by new ideas and generalisations. The resolutions and directives of the Communist Party provide the framework for social research, which can thus achieve results theoretically important and significant from the viewpoint of practice.
This was not a self-fulfilling prophecy but a ‘tombstone on the grave of sociology’ . The five years that followed the adverse verdict on modern ‘bourgeois sociology’ were barren and nothing was done to substantiate the claim that there was an alternative to it, based on the Marxist-Leninist principles of dialectical and historical materialism. Marxist-Leninists did not develop a single branch of social research, whether it be the sociology of primary groups, of social stratification or of criminal behaviour, urban or rural sociology, industrial sociology, sociology of education or that of knowledge and science. Theoretical sociology has fared no better. The Marxian theory has been reduced by Marxist-Leninists to aphorism, versicles, and mottos. Lack of terminological precision and of well-defined concepts, abuse of reified expressions and metaphors were conducive to slovenly misuse of reasoning. Marxist-Leninists evolved a peculiar style of their own which placed the reader in a strange position. He read phrase upon phrase which did not appear to have any definite meaning and he was at a loss to follow the writer’s sequence of thought. He was baffled by a host of terms with a scientific sound but used with an offensive intention. Notwithstanding these peculiarities, Marxist-Leninists adopted a contemptuous attitude to any genuine scholarship and knowledge, if it denied, disagreed or did not confirm their assumptions. Finally, they professed their adherence to empiricism in theory, but in practice repudiated it and showed an unconcealed hostility to empirical methods.
This was widely and full-heartedly recognised about the middle of 1956, and the consensus of opinion included Marxist-Leninists. What began as the criticism of Znaniecki’s sociology, stated one of the numerous critics of the, Stalinist period, ended in the complete destruction of empirical sociology, in a legacy of ignorance in practically every branch of social inquiry, and in an intellectual standstill, unrelieved by a single original work. The cause of these developments was diagnosed and reduced to the absorption of science by ideology, to the production of reified historical forces superior to human volition, of myths and evaluations based on extra-scientific considerations and serving a political purpose. In the absence of freedom of thought and speech, all these distorting influences could not have been rationally and effectively challenged. The ‘monopoly of a single school’ established and enforced by various administrative measures, destroyed creative thought and, like Cronus, in fear of being dethroned, devoured its children as soon as they were born.
The final upshot of the five years during which Marxist-Leninist sociology dominated the Polish scene was not only the collapse of its monopoly but an almost general denial that a distinctly Marxist-Leninist sociology existed at all. Marxist-Leninist sociology was established by a ‘notorious and egregious breach of the elementary rules of methodological rationalism’, committed by men who were ‘surely not Marxists’ . A sociological statement is either valid or invalid, true or false, and this is established by methodological rules and procedures of universal application. From the methodological viewpoint there are no distinguishing characteristics in Marxist-Leninist sociology. On the other hand, since Marx published his discoveries sociology has made considerable progress and accumulated a mass of findings, hypotheses, and theories, which to qualify as Marxian or non-Marxian does not make sense. Specifically Marxian ideas have been either incorporated into the body of accepted knowledge, or restricted and more precisely formulated, or, finally, discarded by the advance of science. When the ideas of a scholar become a constituent part of accepted knowledge, he achieves his greatest possible triumph. The disappearance of a separate Marxian school should not be regarded therefore as a signal defeat but as a signal victory.
There remain two orientations in sociology, struggling with each other, the idealist and the materialist, but this difference of opinion concerns the philosophical foundations of sociology and does not affect the practice of working social scientists. They may differ in their interpretations, or, more generally, in their intellectual attitudes, but their methods, techniques, data, and results of empirical research are essentially the same. Marxism-Leninism as a distinct, compact and all-inclusive school of thought, whether in economics, sociology or philosophy, is an untenable conception. Its existence can be asserted if it refers to a political and religious phenomenon (in Durkheim’s sense), but in the realm of science, though not yet defunct, it is doomed to extinction.
Since the revolution against reason and science broke down, symbolically speaking, in October 1956, Polish sociologists have been busy making up for lost time and their return to the scientific ways of thinking is amply apparent in numerous publications. This does not mean that all, or even an appreciable proportion of them, have abandoned a materialistic outlook on history, society, and man. They have remained committed, as a rule, to the Marxian philosophical ideas in a loose sense of this expression, to the stimulus imparted and to the perspectives opened by Marx’s genius, who, in Kołakowski’s words, is ‘a vibrant philosophical inspiration affecting our whole way of looking at the world’ .