NONTHEMATIC / Vol. 14, No. 3 (Fall 1947)
The idea of inevitable and unceasing progress is in little favor today. No one need wonder why; the vision of Hiroshima, not Utopia, stares us in the face. In truth, we may be too pessimistic, just as we were too naively optimistic in the old days. Yet, one of the greatest contemporary historians on the basis of the long-range perspective of universal history comes to the conclusion that Western civilization does indeed face a breakdown. This is the view offered by the British historian, Arnold J. Toynbee, as the result of the elaborate analysis contained in his magnificent work, A Study of History. In these volumes, Toynbee not only presents the most comprehensive and significant scheme of world history we have been afforded in many years, but also supplies a positive prescription of great force for averting the impending disaster. It is these two aspects of his study that we propose to examine here.
Oftentimes, the tangible gifts of science are gladly accepted, and lavish praise is showered upon the men who bestow them, but let the benefits of a certain type of research be less patent and suspicion will loom large that it has been pursued out of "mere intellectual curiosity," without due regard for the common good. It is even intimated that the "forbidding style" of many scientific and philosophical writings stems from an effort to protect vested interests, in the fashion of the forerunners of science--the ancient priests and magicians. Such views should not be regarded lightly; they are noticeably influencing the intellectual temper our time. It is, therefore, worthwhile to examine the assumptions and postulates underlying the reproach implied in the phrase 'ivory tower.' Whatever else a prejudice may be, it is an escape from intellectual effort.
When documentary films about the horrors of German concentration camps were shown to [non-Nazi German prisoners of war], these selected prisoners accepted the facts as true—an opinion that was shared by only 36 percent of the run-of-the-mill prisoners. But in discussions and forum debates it became clear that the prisoners considered such deeds the "dirty work" of the SS and other war criminals, and believed the ordinary German citizen was not involved.
No novelty among British institutions, the public corporation, functioning as an administrative agency with public responsibility and the flexibility of a private corporate enterprise, has long been favored by Conservatives, Liberals, and Socialists alike, as being more suitable for the management of public enterprise than a rigid bureaucratic arrangement within the usual departmental organization. In every case, these were privately owned, publicly managed, single-purpose, public service corporations. So successful were these public corporations in solving the questions of public responsibility and economic management according to sound commercial and technical principles that numerous local authorities for the operation of municipal water and electricity distribution and of canal, port, and harbor facilities were created after the same pattern.
A good deal of the discussion on the nature of small business that has occurred since the subject first came into prominence in the 1930s has been carried on in an atmosphere charged with emotion, and has been marked by much excited argument and many wild conclusions. Two diametrically opposed points of view stand out in the debate: (1) it is argued by some that the public discussion of monopoly have been characterized by loose talk and hysteria, and that small business is much better off than the public has been led to believe; (2) there are others both in and out of government who claim that small business has been declining and may be threatened with virtual extinction. It seems likely that we can gain a clearer understanding of this set of rather complex problems if we attempt to distinguish clearly between its economic and sociological aspects.
Karl Mannheim’s untimely death in January 1947 left mourning friends and students all over the world--old friends and new, Hungarian and German, French and Scandinavian, English and American, Chinese and East Indian, all of whom feel that this death is more than a personal loss. It touches our work as well as our emotions, for Karl Mannheim was a unique phenomenon in the academic world at large and in the field of sociology in particular.
I have read with great interest the letter on denazification published in the March issue of Social Research. I hope it will not be considered improper if I venture to comment on it.
Review of book by Arthur F. Burns and Wesley C. Mitchell. New York: National Bureau of Economic Research. 1946. 560 pp.
Review of book by N. J. Elsas. Zweiter Band, Teil A. Leiden: A. W. Sythoff. 1940. 649 pp.
Review of book by Edgar Salin. Third Edition. Berne: A. Francke. 1944. 244 pp.
Review of book by Veit Valentin. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1946. 730 pp.
Review of book by Henry W. Ehrmann. New York: Harcourt Brace. 1946. 329 pp.
Review of book by Henry W. Ehrmann. New York: Oxford University Press. 1947. 329 pp.
Review of book by Granville Hicks. New York: Macmillan. 1946. 276 pp.
Review of book by Laura M. Kingsbury. New York: Kings Crown Press. 1946. 177 pp.