Stanislav Andreski

Polish-British sociologist (1919-2007)

Stanisław Andrzejewski (or Stanislav Andreski) (May 8, 1919September 26, 2007) was a Polish-British sociologist. He is remembered for the 1972 book The Social Sciences as Sorcery in which he sharply criticized the academic social sciences of his era for a range of perceived shortcomings.

Quotes edit

Social Sciences as Sorcery (1972) edit

  • The most deadly agents of cultural infections are not the brazen cynics, but the sectarians prone to self-delusion and the timorous organization men anxious not to miss the band-waggon, who unquestioningly equate popularity and worldly success with intrinsic merit.
    • p. 10
  • [T]he reason why human understanding has been able to advance in the past, and may do so in the future, is that true insights are cumulative and retain their value regardless of what happens to their discoverers; while fads and stunts may bring an immediate profit to the impresarios, but lead nowhere in the long run, cancel each other out, and are dropped as soon as their promoters are no longer there (or have lost the power) to direct the show. Anyway, let us not despair.
    • p. 17
  • not be impressed by the imprint of a famous publishing house or the volumes of an author's publications. Bear in mind that Einstein needed only seventeen pages for his contribution which revolutionized physics, while there are graphomanics in asylums who use up mounds of paper every day. Remember that publishers want to keep the printing presses busy and do not object to nonsense if it can be sold.
    • p. 86
  • Every human society which has endured long enough to leave records has had elaborate customs and institutions which were effective in instilling into the young the sentiments necessary for its perpetuation. Now for the first time in recorded history Western capitalism offers us a spectacle of a system which not only has given up altogether the task of moral education, but actually employs vast resources and the means of persuasion of unprecedented power to destroy the customs, norms and ideals indispensable for its survival; and to implant fundamentally anti-social attitudes which are incompatible with any reasonable social order. It would be miraculous if a social order which permits such massive anti-socialisation could fail to destroy itself.
  • Laughter is a mental mechanism which enables us to face reality without falling into despondency or delusion. As people who have sunk in apathy seldom bother us by rushing into print, delusion (leaving aside deceit) constitutes the chief obstacle to the progress of our understanding of society, and in this context is usually assumes the form of doctrinairism couched in a mystifying jargon. A sense of humour is the most reliable external indicator of the likelihood of immunity from this folly, and of the ability to appraise social situations realistically.
    • p. 88
  • So long as authority inspires awe, confusion and absurdity enhance conservative tendencies in society. Firstly, because clear and logical thinking leads to a cumulation of knowledge (of which the progress of the natural sciences provides the best example) and the advance of knowledge sooner or later undermines the traditional order. Confused thinking, on the other hand, leads nowhere in particular and can be indulged indefinitely without producing any impact upon the world.
    • p. 90
  • Sacrifice has always been regarded as the most convincing proof of loyalty; and its most common form involves a foregoing of the use of some organic function, as in the case of celibacy or fasting. Of at least equal significance, however, is a sacrifice of the use of reason - credo quia impossibile - and the more incredible the assertion, the stronger the proof of the devotion manifested by its acceptance. The Catholic theologians are quite explicit about this, and openly say that by affirming what to the human reason appears absurd, a believer proves his love for God. Although they are never so frank about it, the secular sects make similar demands.
    • p. 92
  • The natural sciences did not advance in virtue of the universal appeal of rationality. Their theological, classicist and metaphysical opponents were not converted but displaced. All the ancient universities had to be compelled by outside pressure to make room for science; and most nations began to appreciate it only after succumbing to the weapons produced with its aid. To cut a long story short, scientific method has triumphed throughout the world because it bestowed upon those who practised it power over those who did not. Sorcery lost not because of any waning of its intrinsic appeal to the human mind, but because it failed to match the power created by science. But, though abandoned as a tool for controlling nature, incantations remain more effective for manipulating crowds than logical arguments, so that in the conduct of human affairs sorcery continues to be stronger than science.
    • p. 92
  • Instead of entertaining visions of a final victory of reason over magic and ignorance, we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that the norms and ideals which permit the advancement of knowledge have to be defended in every generation against new enemies, who reappear like the heads of the Hydra as soon as others are decapitated, and who employ ever-new labels, catchwords and slogans to play on the perennial weaknesses of mankind. Whatever happens in the instrumental exact sciences, we can be sure that in matters where intellectual and moral considerations mesh, the struggle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness will never end.
    • p. 237

Prospects of a Revolution in the U.S.A. (1974) edit

  • A reduction of the criteria of status allocation to one -- money under pure capitalism or power in a stalinist state -- embitters the game of status-seeking for another, though related, reason as well: namely because a plurality of criteria permits a segregation of the players into non-competitive groups. If one man prides himself on his descent, another on wealth, the third on knowledge, the fourth on convivial graces, they cannot directly challenge each other's claims; just as a mathematician cannot compete directly with an archaeologist in who is better at his job. Thus the sophistication of culture can contribute to social peace by multiplying the number of non-comparable goals.

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