INTERACTION BETWEEN EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN SOCIAL SCIENCE / Vol. 43, No. 1 (Spring 1976)
Arien Mack, Editor
Hans Jonas pays tribute to Hannah Arendt, 1906-1975.
Jacques Ellul does not intend to investigate objectively either the influence that American sociology has exercised on French sociology for the past 30 years or the influence that American sociologists have had on him. Ellul prefers to deal with two related problems, both to be found in American and French sociology: that of the scientific status of sociology, and that of verification.
Without falling into the verbal trap of fashionable Marxian phraseology which tend to relate mechanically Unterbau and Uberbau, it seems safe to maintain that an interaction between American and European social science would not make much sense or become understandable at all without taking into careful consideration the political and economic circumstances and the general historical features of the American and European setting.
American political thought has influenced European -and especially Continental- political philosophy not so much by its theoretical results as by the institutions that have sprung from it. Even in its premises, American political thinking was unconcerned with arriving at theoretical results but rather aimed at creating institutions and participating in the effort of their foundation.
More platitudes, more inadequate generalizations and ideological assessments can be found on the topic of influence of American social science in Europe than competent analysis. The author bases this judgement on the German literature and the work of German sociologists.
Care for the future of mankind is the overruling duty of collective human action in the age of the technical civilization that has become “almighty,” if not in its productive then at least in its destructive potential. This care must obviously include care for the future of all nature on this planet as a necessary condition of man’s own.
The author claims there is hardly any area of life and society where the impact of technology has been more compelling and comprehensive than in the author’s field -international politics. This age is called the nuclear age. Technology has meant that, for the first time in history, human life on earth can be wiped out in one blow. Is there a more striking example of the ethical problems raised by pervasive technology?
Max Weber was surely, but he was not solely (a) a methodologist or logician of the social sciences and sociology (b) a master theorist ever pressing forward to lay the foundations of an interpretive sociology of social action, acknowledging the possibility and the desirability of causal understanding; (c) a sociologist of religion intent on establishing and illustrating distinctions of church, sect, charisma, asceticism and mysticisms and the variants and orientations and structures in different mixes of societies in different parts of the world; (d) a political sociologist whose aim it was to establish the significance of stratum, status, party, and style of life, as well as class, in defining the patterns of legitimation, authority, conduct, identity, organization, and so on; (e) a political controversialist, whose acts and writings need to be interpreted against the background of his lifelong political participants and even partnerships.
The history of the future does not reach back very far. Human life, of course, provides always for an immediate future as well as for an immediate past. It was only the structural change from traditional to bourgeois society in the 17th and 18th centuries which dissolved this older notion and replaced it by temporal structure that contains in itself the possibility of higher complexity.
Even a casual observer of contemporary affairs cannot help but notice a form of human activity that has recently come to be articulated with new intensity -policy-making. The same observer, having previously become accustomed to the idea of foreign and domestic policies are needful for the ordinary, regular and continuous well-being of a nation will soon be compelled to arrive at the conviction that scarcely any aspect of human existence or activity seems able to exist today without a “policy” of its own.
Robert Nozick’s philosophical ancestor is not, as he claims and most reviewers of his widely noted and highly acclaimed book have accepted, John Locke; it is Robert Filmer.