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NONTHEMATIC / Vol. 38, No. 1 (Spring 1971)

Arien Mack, Editor

As the 1970s open before us, we are again becoming accustomed to hear falling stock market, rising unemployment, and revolutionary discontents. They are still faint echoes of what the United States went through four decades ago. Nevertheless, the 1930s seem to be coming closer and closer to our present concerns, despite the vast differences in virtually every aspect of our national life. Publishers have suddenly found a market for books on the great depression. After a long period of virtual oblivion, the 1930s are apparently staging a comeback in public interest, though serious scholarly study has barely begun.

The early meetings of the German Sociological Association, which began their sessions in 1910 at Frankfurt, were the occasion of the extraordinarily wide-ranging discussions and debates among the leading scholars of Germany. Indeed, as Fritz Ringer has amply documented in his recent study, Decline of the German Mandarins, the years from 1890 to 1920 were marked by acute political and social as well as cultural tensions. One of the most “agonizing” features of this interim was the heightening of polemical self-consciousness among leading representatives of humanistic and natural-scientific disciplines, the so-called Geisteswissenschaften and Naturwissenschaften. The resulting clashes were particularly intense among those engaged in the development of sociology and the uses of the evolving discipline in the formation of public policy.

[reprinted in 51:2 50th Anniversary Issue Pt. 2]

In this discussion, the author states the relation between custom and law is basically one of contradiction, not continuity. Custom is seen as social morality--the morality of primitive society. Law is the instrument of political society sanctioned by organized force and buttressing a set of social interests. Law and custom both involve regulation but are distinct as no evolutionary balance has been struck between developing law and custom. Specific examples are discussed, and the writings of Plato, Maine, Rattray, Taylor, Marx, and Nadel are considered, as they relate to this problem.

To inquire into “the nature and function of anthropological traditions” is to admit, in the first place, that such traditions exist, that anthropological research is to some extent determined by them and that anthropologists are therefore not passive observers. Next, it is to ask whether anthropologists are not biased observers whose descriptions and analyses are oriented, if not falsified, by their cultural affiliations. Finally, it is to hint, it seems to me, at an optimistic answer: the anthropologist does not, as he would like to believe, escape his ethnocentrism, but he can make good use of it.

My theme is the Psychologist’s Fallacy. This was long ago described by William James as the Psychologist’s “confusion of his own standpoint with that of the mental fact about which he is making his report.” Indeed, one of the contexts in which James illustrates this fallacy is close to that in which it will be considered here: “We have the inveterate habit, whenever we try introspectively to describe one of our thoughts of dropping the thought as it is in itself and talking of something else.”

The relationship between even the most self-consciously social and political fiction and other modes of inquiry into human behavior is, one must grant, a matter of only passing interest to contemporary political science. But if we are to judge from some recent anthologies, some critical interpretations of individual authors, and occasional articles in social science journals, fiction is not wholly neglected; it exists one could say at the margins of political science. But is this where it should be?

The nature of the individual’s place in history is a problem which arises not only in speculative and historical literature on the subject but also in popular discussions. It is noteworthy that the popular presentations of the problem frequently reflect two extreme positions between which its systematic treatment vacilitates. As a leading representative of one position, we may take Thomas Carlyle; the other position -especially in the perspective of present-day intellectual currents- may be illustrated by Marxian theory as expounded by Georgi Plekhanov.

Review of book by Charles L. Fontenay. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. 202 pp.

Review of book by Alvin Z. Rubinstein. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970. 353 pp.

Review of book by Ted Robert Gurr. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970. 421 pp.

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