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Stanislav Andreski (Andrzejewski) 1919-2007

Stanislav Andreski’s best-known book is Social Sciences as Sorcery which should be on your shelf alongside Barzun’s The House of Intellect and The Sociological Imagination by C Wright Mills. It was popular among sociologists who I met in the 1970s but they must have thought that the criticisms only applied to other schools of thought in the subject, not their own. A word of warning, he was far too soft on the logical positivists in the philosophy of science, and also Keynes in economics.

A few years ago there was a photo of Andreski on the net, at a conference of the Libertarian Alliance in Britain but it cannot be found now. He was a striking figure with the build of a rugy league second row forward and filmstar looks. He was very lucky to be alive because he should have died in the Katyn forest during WW2.

He was born into the family of a Polish merchant and he studied economics at Poznan University until  he was mobilised as an officer cadet and sent to the eastern front in 1939. He was captured by the Soviets but managed to escape and pass through Soviet and German occupation zones back to Poznan. Both sides would have regarded him as an enemy, ripe for capture and quite likely execution. On New Year’s eve, 1940, with a friend, he  crossed the “green border” Slovakia (controlled by the Germans) and travelled by train to Hungary. Without visas or travel documents they pretended to read German newspapers, and, taken for Germans, they were left alone.

In Britain he joined the Free Polish Forces. He studies in Britain and South Africa, lectured in Chile, Nigeria, the US, Canada and Japan, and founded the department of sociology at Reading University in 1964, where he remained there as professor and then head of department until his retirement in 1984.

No Bullshit

There is a nice story to illustrate his impatience with bullshit and bureaucracy. This comes from an excellent overview of his career in The Independent.

"Social Sciences as Sorcery was very popular with the public but infuriated those of his colleagues whose careers were based on concealing behind verbiage the fact that they had nothing to say. Andreski was equally contemptuous of bureaucracy and when he received an absurd questionnaire from the Social Science Research Council asking him what method he used, he replied “thinking”.

"His attitude again had its roots in his wartime experiences. When guarding Scotland with the Polish army, he was sent a bundle of paperwork in Polish about the provision of a canteen for the NCOs marked “most highly secret”, which he promptly threw in the waste paper basket in his lodgings. His thrifty Scottish landlady rescued the papers and sold them to the local fish-and-chip shop. Unfortunately the commander of the local Polish forces had a great weakness for fish and chips, sent out for some and was not best pleased when they arrived wrapped in Polish military documents."

His books include:

•Military organization and society (London, Routledge & Paul, 1954, 2nd edition 1968.)
•Elements of Comparative Sociology (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1964). Published in the United States as The Uses of Comparative Sociology(Berkeley, University of California Press, 1965) Theoretical perspectives grounded in concrete examples.
•The African Predicament: A Study in the Pathology of Modernization(London: M. Joseph, 1968) Tough-minded social criticism informed by the wider context of Andreski’s sociological knowledge. E.g. Andreski notes the conditions of an escalating feedback spiral of distrust which — a few years after the publication of this book — led to Idi Amin’s explusion of the East Asian ethnic community from Uganda.
•Parasitism and Subversion: the Case of Latin America(London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1966)
•Social Sciences as Sorcery(London: Andre Deutsch, 1972)
•Prospects of a Revolution in the U.S.A., (1973)
•Syphilis, Puritanism and Witch-hunts (1989, Macmillan Press, Ltd., London)

His early books, Parasitism and Subversion: the Case of Latin America (1966) and The African Predicament: a Study in Pathology of Modernisation (1968), were written with first-hand knowledge of the social and economic reality of both continents. He pointed out that he could not name any local sources in those countries and he could not expect to be allowed to visit some of them after the books appeared.

His favorite theoriest was Max Weber and his views on the two kinds of capitalism informed much of Andreski’s mordant commentary on the parasites and exploiters in South America and Africa.

"Weber differentiates capitalism into two types: predatory and productive, arguing that productive capitalism was born in medieval free cities which were strong enough to resist external domination but too weak to exploit their neighbours. Andreski generalised this observation, and stated that new forms of production and trade (that is, industrially oriented capitalism) develop only where the business class is too strong to be fettered and exploited, but not strong enough to accumulate wealth by forcibly extracting it from others, and where in consequence, production and trade offer to the members of this class the most promising road to a satisfactory livelihood."

The last book argues that the rise of syphilis at the turn of the 15th century and its spread all over the world in the following two centuries led to the social hysteria of witch-hunts, and also stimulated the rise of puritanical thrift and industry, and thus inadvertently encouraged the development of capitalism.

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