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Edited by Richard R orty, J. B. Schneewind, Q u en tin Skinner, and W o l f Lepenies

T h e books in this series w ill discuss the em ergen ce o f intellectual traditions and o f related new disciplines. T h e procedures, aims, and vocabularies that w ere gen erated w ill be set in the c o n te x t o f the alternatives available within the con tem porary fram ew orks o f ideas and institutions. T h rou gh detailed studies o f the evolu tion o f such traditions, and their m od ifica tion by dif ferent audiences, it is hoped that a new picture w ill fo rm o f the d evelop m en t o f ideas in their con crete contexts. By this means, artificial distinctions am ong the history o f philosophy, o f the various sciences, o f society and politics, and o f literature may be seen to dissolve.
This series is published with the support o f the E xxon Education Foundation.

This b o o k is published as part o f the jo in t publishing agreem ent established in 1977 betw een the Fondation de la M aison des Sciences de l H o m m e and the Press Syndicate o f the U niversity o f Cam bridge. T itle s published under this arrangem ent may appear in any European language or, in the case o f volum es o f co llected essays, in several languages. N e w book s w ill appear either as individual titles or in one o f the series which the M aison des Sciences de l H o m m e and the Cam bridge U niversity Press have join tly agreed to publish. A ll books published join tly by the Maison des Sciences de 1 H o m m e and the C am bridge U niversity Press w ill be distributed by the Press throu ghou t the world. C et ouvrage est publie dans le cadre de l accord de co-ed ition passe en 1977 entre la F ondation de la M aison des Sciences de 1 H o m m e et le Press Syndi cate de l U n iversite de Cam bridge. T o u tes les langues europeennes sont admises pour les titres couverts par cet accord, et les ouvrages collectifs peuven t paraitre en plusieurs langues. Les ouvrages paraissent soit isolem ent, soit dans l une des series que la M aison des Sciences de l H o m m e et Cam bridge U niversity Press o n t convenu de publier ensem ble. La distribution dans le m onde entier des titres ainsi publies co n join tem en t par les deu x etablissem ents est assuree par C am bridge U niversity Press.



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T R A N S L A T E D B Y R. J. H O L L I N G D A L E

C a m b r id g e

Published by the Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RP 32 East 57th Street, New York, N Y 10011-4211, USA 10 Stamford Road, Oakleigh, Melbourne 3166, Australia and Editions de la Maisons des Sciences de 1 Homme 54 Boulevard Raspail, 75270 Paris Cedex 06 Originally published in German as Die Drei Kulturen by Carl Hanser Verlag 1985 and Carl Hanser Verlag Miinchen Wien First published in English by Editions de la Maison des Sciences de lHomme and Cambridge University Press 1988 as Between Literature and Science: The Rise o f Sociology English translation Maison des Sciences de l Homme and Cambridge University Press 1988 Reprinted 1992 Printed in Great Britain by The Athenaeum Press Ltd, Newcastle upon Tyne. British Library cataloguing in publication data Lepenies, W olf Between literature and science: the rise o f sociology.-(Ideas in context). 1. Sociology I. Title II. Series III. Die Drei Kulturen. English 301 HM51 Library o f Congress cataloguing in publication data Lepenies, W olf [Drei Kulturen. English] Between literature and science: the rise of sociology/Wolf Lepenies: translated by R.J. Hollingdale. p. cm.-(Ideas in context) Translation of: Die drei Kulturen. Bibliography. Includes index ISBN 0-521-32852-7. ISBN 0-521-33010-7 (paperback) 1. Literature and society. 2. Sociology. I. Title. II. Series. PN51.L3913 1988 809'.93355-dcl9 88-25663 C IP ISBN 0 521 32852 7 hardback ISBN 0 521 33810 7 paperback ISBN 2 7351 0228 9 hardback (France only)
IS B N 2 7351 0230 0 paperback (France on ly)

For Annette - and Julia, Philipp; Robert


In this b o o k I describe the contention betw een tw o groups o f intellectuals: on one hand the men o f letters, i. e. the writers and critics, on the other the social scientists, above all the sociologists. From the m iddle o f the nineteenth century onwards literature and sociology contested with one another the claim to o ffe r the key orientation for modern civilization and to constitute the guide to living appropriate to industrial society. This contention played a signifi cant role in the public life firstly o f France and England, then also o f Germany: its consequences are still visible today. This com peting discloses a dilem ma which determ ined not only how sociology originated but also how it then w ent on to develop: it has oscillated betw een a scientific orientation which has led it to ape the natural sciences and a herm eneutic attitude which has shifted the discipline towards the realm o f literature. T h e contention betw een a literary intelligentsia and an intelligentsia devoted to the social sciences was thus an aspect o f a com p lex process in the course o f which scientific modes o f procedure becam e differentiated from literary modes; and this divorce was accentuated ideologically through the confrontation o f cold rationality and the culture o f the feelings - one o f those antitheses which marked the con flict betw een the Enlightenm ent and the counter-E nlightenm ent The sciences o f the eighteenth century were rich in creation-myths. From Linnaeus, w ho was only to o glad to hear him self com pared with Adam, and M ontesquieu, who described the Esprit des lois as 'pro. tan sine matre treat am , to Buffon, W inckelm ann and Lavoisier, there i uns through every discipline a long succession o f men who asserted t hey had created entirely on their own account som ething novel that would stand the test o f time. Breach with continuity and the found ing o f new continuities belong intim ately together in this epoch o f the evolu tion of science: m ost scientific investigators saw them selves us giants standing on the shoulders o f dwarfs rather than the


reverse. Excessive am bition, in many cases a foolhardy exaggeration o f the goals to be achieved, and a need for a continual com m entary on one s ow n activities w ere not eccentricities but an everyday matter in the realm o f science. T h e day o f the amateur was over and the contours o f clearly circum scribed domains o f research, each bent on self-sufficiency, w ere gradually grow in g visible, even i f one can hardly speak yet o f professionalism or specialization. Th e scientist had long since ceased to be a m ere virtuoso whose objectives included the pro vision o f amusement; yet the conviction still reigned that science was a calling and confession rather than a professional occupation. Many regarded the process o f discovery as a purely individual, indeed a solitary a c t the w orld around him was as a rule only a dis turbance to the individual in his acquisition o f knowledge. Societies devoted to science increased in number, but faith in a knowledgeprom otin g scientific com m unity was as yet feeb ly developedwithin many disciplines cults founded on friendships, or even upon enmities, constituted the em otional equivalent o f com m unities instrumental to the advancem ent o f science. A t the end o f the eighteenth century a sharp division betw een the modes o f production o f literary and o f scientific works was not yet possible. T h e career o f B u ffon offers an exam ple o f how a differen tiation betw een them occurred and then accelerated In the eighteenth century B uffon s Histoire Naturelle was a best-seller: when the first volum es appeared in 1749 they w ere sold out w ithin a few weeks; further printings fo llo w ed in the same year, and in the end there w ere no few er than 250 popular editions o f the Histoire Naturelle in France. B u ffon was a grand seigneur o f science and as such typical o f the eighteenth century: an entrepreneur who knew well how to capitalize on his scientific abilities; a master o f language, even i f only o f his own; at once a man o f the w orld and a local hero who had no need to travel abroad - the age s lines o f com m unication converged upon him as though as a m atter o f course. It was as a stylist that B u ffon gained his reputation: not everyone liked what he said but alm ost everyone was impressed by the way in which he said i t This to o was how posterity rem em bered him: Flaubert noted in his Dictionnaire des idees revues what the cultivated person was expected to say when Buffon was m en tion ed Mettait des manchettes pour ecrire. T o see in this nothing but a fo ib le o f an age long past w ould be a mistake, for B uffon s attitude was m ore than the whim o f an eccen-


trie: the Count represented not a unique case but a type; he em bodied a role which the society o f his tim e did not m erely recognize but valued and rewarded very highly. W hen, after prolon ged pressure from Louis X V , B u ffon was in 175 3 elected to the Academ ie Frangaise, he spoke on the subject o f style. T h e fact surprised no one: it was considered quite natural that a scientist should also regard him self as an author, as som eone, that is, w ho paid heed not only to what he said but also to the way in which he said it, and who wished not only to instruct his public but also to entertain them as he did so. B u ffon s address was accounted one o f the finest ever delivered b efore the Academ ie - even Baudelaire was impressed by it. Towards the end o f the century, however, that which had form erly procured celebrity for B uffon had fatal consequences fo r him: he was the last scholar whose reputation was founded on his talent fo r presentation and the first to lose his reputation because he had devoted him self too much to authorship and to o little to research. During B uffon s lifetim e the concept o f the n ovel underwent a decisive re-evaluation: i f his writings had at first been read and com mended precisely on account o f their entertainm ent value they were now denounced as romans scientifiques, suitable fo r w om en and laymen but o f no interest to the professional scientist. T h e form ula I hat put an end to B uffon s career and inhibited the reception o f his works was: 'Stiloprimus, doctrina ultimus\ the developm en t therewith inaugurated, and its seem ing irreversibility, can be dem onstrated by reversing this formula. Doctrina primus, stilo ultimus w ould never be olle re d as a reproach to a scientist today. T h e course o f B uffon s career and the changes in the way his Histoire Naturelle was received enable us to see how the sciences gradually becam e alienated from literature and traditional values I hat could be described as literary were excluded from the canon o f .ictopted knowledge. This process did not proceed in a straight, undeviating line, but was characterized rather by the difference in l he pace at which it took place in the different disciplines: it did not ncompass every discipline, and those it did encompass it affected with a differin g degree o f intensity. N ation al characteristics played h i instructive role. T h e Germ ans never abandoned the suspicion ihul the French had never seriously intended to ex p el literature I mm the sciences: whereas, according to Taine, in the French academies the men o f letters long continued to treat the natural M lenlists as their servants though these servants w ere none the less I avoisiet, Lagrange and Laplace the Brandenburg Sozietat der


Wissenschaften first o f all classified every Frenchman, w hether he was a dramatist or a physicist, as a man o f letters. H o w rich in tension the relationship betw een literature and the sciences none the less rem ained is made clear by the phenom enon o f storage , by which is meant the fact, o f significance fo r the history o f science, that theoretical programmes at first rejected have frequently not simply disappeared or been forgotten but, having passed a winter in concealm ent, have returned and re-entered the stream o f scien tific discussion. These places o f concealm ent may lie w ithin the original discipline itself or in neighbouring disciplines, and one then speaks o f intra- or inter-disciplinary storage; they may, however, also lie outside the frontiers o f science altogether, and o f this the subsequent history o f B u ffon s Histoire Naturelle offers a striking example. Just a hundred years after the appearance o f the Histoire Naturelle, Balzac in 1842 com posed the preface to his Comedie Humaine: in it he appealed, am ong many others, to a poet w ho had also been a natural scientist, namely G oethe; he also appealed, and very emphatically, to a natural scientist w ho had in the end been rejected by his guild as being a man o f letters, namely Buffon. Balzac wanted to do fo r society what B uffon had done fo r zoology: he wanted to analyse the social species o f which French society con sisted and to write the true history o f morals which the historians, fixated as they w ere on the glories o f the battles and state occasions they described, usually fo rg o t to write. T h e reader o f B uffon can recognize elem ents o f the Histoire Naturelle in Balzac s novels down to the smallest details; and when one considers the exten t to which Balzac influenced Proust it becom es clear that, via the Comedie Humaine, B u ffon also found his way to Com bray and the Faubourg Saint-Germain. But what we have to do with here is m ore than a story o f survival. W e cannot confine ourselves to tracing the m igration o f theories and traditions out o f the natural sciences into literature, fo r during the first third o f the nineteenth century the social sciences came into being and by dem onstrating their disciplinary self-sufficiency sought to gain a place in the academies and universities. Balzac was an inheritor but he was also a creator. H is w ork is tied to the old natural history, but at the same tim e it is in com p etition with a new discipline: sociology. Balzac him self form ulated this claim, fo r he at first intended to call his work, not the Comedie Humaine, but Etudes Socialer, and when he described him self as a docteur es sciences societies' there lay in this designation a little self-irony


and a great deal o f self-awareness: fo r what sociologist o f the mid nineteenth century could com p ete with the analytical insight o f this novelist and his science sociale - not to speak o f com peting with his art o f description? Marx, who com pared him self to the hero o f the Chef doeuvre inconnu, and Engels posed this rhetorical question when they maintained that they had learned m ore from Balzac than they had from all the professional econom ists and historians put together - from Guizot e tutti quantf, as they m aliciously called them. As a critic and colleague, H enry James described the mediating role Balzac assumes betw een natural history and sociology: from the simple accum ulation and assembling o f the facts o f society - social botanizing , 1as James calls it - Balzac passes over to the construction o f a social system, and the Comedie Humaine finally comes to con stitute an exact counterpart to that which C om te, the founder o f the discipline, strove to achieve with his sociology. N o one had a clearer perception o f this than H ip p o ly te Taine, w hom they ca lled Balzac s son and who ranged Balzac beside Shakespeare and Saint-Simon and described his w ork as the greatest storehouse o f documents on human nature that we possess.2 It was through Balzac that Taine detected and developed a specific view o f what the social sciences could and could not do: Nous aurons depasse, d'ici a un demi-siecle, la pcriode descriptive; en biologie, elle a dure jusqua Bichat et Cuvier; en wciologie, nous y sommes encore; tachons de nous y tenir, avec application et intelligence, sans ambitions excessives, sans conclusionsprecipitees, sans theories husardees et preconques, pour entrer bientot dans la periode des classifications in/inrelies et definitives . . . 3 W ritte n in 1890, m ore than thirty years nfter C om te s death, this is an astonishing d o cu m en t it recalls Million's dictum that natural history should be regarded as being above all description exacte'-, and when Taine says, in his History o f Unglish Literature, that our first task is to discover inform ative docu ments and then know how to interpret them, this advocacy o f the modest task o f description rather than a prem ature systematization I1.is much in line with the attitude o f the sociological m onographs o f I hr nineteenth century as it is w ith that adopted by the natural hislo iy o f the eighteenth. So it was that in 1902 - the year in which
1 Whi le no source is given for a quotation its source is the same as the preceding iilrie n c e . Henry James, 'H o n o re de Balzac [18751, in Literary Criticism (French II iifn i. Other i.urupean Writers, The Prefaces to the New York Edition) (N e w York: The I 1 > nry o! America, 19H4), p. 37. 1t I llppolytc Taine, Hiilznc A Critical Study, translated, with an appreciation o f Taine, I'V I ori'ii/.o O Kourke (N e w York: Haskell House, 197)), p. 240. II I,iliie In A. Delairc, 19 April 1890; quoted Irom Carlo Mongardini, Storm e wiiti/ttXiii Hell' o/iera ill I I iuine (Miluno: (jlu llre, 1965), p. 251


Emile D urkheim arrived in Paris - Paul B ou rget could speak o f the enseignement sociologique 4 o f the Comedie Humaine as being a crowning feature o f Balzac s work. As soon as sociology had advanced its claim to be a self-sufficient discipline it saw itself confronted not only by the ill w ill o f the established disciplines but also by com p etition on the part o f litera ture; one reason fo r this last was that, in the clim ate o f b e lie f in science that characterized the nineteenth century, some branches o f literature claim ed a status equal to many scientific disciplines so far as the advancem ent o f know ledge was concerned. His great ambitions notwithstanding, Balzac s attitude towards science had som ething playful about it W ith Flaubert all is serious. T h e impassibilite he demands o f the w riter is the transference to literature o f a m axim o f scientific research: literature must becom e m ore scientific if it wants to survive. As Baudelaire dem anded in 1852: ' Le temps nestpas loin oit I on comprendra que toute litterature qui se refuse a marcherfraternellement entre la science et la philosophie est une litterature homicide et suicide.'1W h en Flaubert, who boasted o f his solitary situation in isolation from society - Bedouin; tant qui l vous plaira; Citoyen, jamais'*'- w rote to G eo rg e Sand in 1871 that if France w ere to awaken it must abandon inspiration in favour o f science, g ive up every kind o f metaphysics and begin to practise criticism, Le. investigate things themselves, he therewith form ulated a program m e which w ould even in its choice o f words - have delighted an Em ile Durkheim . A t once a critic o f the sciences and a believer in science, Flaubert was self-confident in both what he revered and what he despised- a Claude Bernard seem ed to him m ore sacrosanct than Pius IX , but he could not take seriously the pretensions o f an Auguste C om te and called fo r a m odern Aristophanes to excite general m ockery o f this theory-m anufacturer s fantasies. Flaubert undoubtedly regarded his work as a finer kind o f social science - he fe lt superior to the sociologists because he believed that as an author he could elude the constraints o f society: 'Q u i etes-vous done, 6 societe, pour me forcer a quoi que ce soit?'1
4 Paul Bourget, La Politique de Balzac ( 1902); Bourget, Socio/ogieet Literature, Etudes et Portraits, N o. 3 (Paris: Plon, 1906), p. 46. 5 Charles Baudelaire, L Ecole paienne [1852], in Oeuvres completes, texte etabli, presente et annote par Claude Pichois (Paris: Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, 1976), Vol. 2, p. 49. 6 Gustave Flaubert to Louise Colet, 23 January 1854; Flaubert, Correspondance I I {July 1851 December 1858), edition etablie, presentee et annotee par Jean Bruneau (Paris: Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, 1980), p. 515. 7 Flaubert to Mademoiselle Leroyer de Chantepie, 1"8 May 1857; Flaubert, Correspon dance II, p. 719.


Flaubert s claim to be able to see through society and at the same tim e elude its ties and duties contains a great deal o f presumption. In Z ola this attitude is, where possible, enhanced. His theory o f the experim ental n ovel - which had, to be sure, little connection with his practice as a w rite r - becam e the foundation o f the claim to scien tific a lly advanced by a certain type o f literature which understood itself as a finer kind o f sociology: when Z ola spoke o f the sociologie pratique* that characteri2 ed his novels he im plied that in the last resort it was he who practised true sociology. S ociology was thus faced with grow in g and dangerous rivals, and the social sciences w ere w ell aware o f this com petition, which threatened their disciplinary identity at its core: for, unlike the his torical disciplines - whose idiographic orien tation furnishes them, especially in Germ any, with a m eth od ological counterw eight to the nom othetic claims o f the exact scien ces- the social sciences, above all in France and England, fo rtifie d their struggle fo r an academic icputation by im itating the natural sciences. T h e proxim ity o f and com p etition from literature served to intensify this strategy. Thus there was soon set in train an inner-disciplinary process o f l>urification: disciplines such as sociology, which at first lacked i ( cogn ition within the system o f know ledge and had to acquire it, ought to do so by distancing them selves from the early literary lot ms o f their ow n discipline, whose purpose was rather to describe uni classify than to analyse and reduce to a system. From this process I lin e arose a com p etition betw een a literary intelligentsia comI h iscd o f authors and critics and a social-scientific intelligentsia. T h e problem o f sociology is that, although it may im itate the natural i Irnces, it can never becom e a true natural science o f society: but i f I I abandons its scientific orien tation it draws perilously close to III culture. S ociology s precarious situation as a kind o f third culture betw een tin natural sciences on the one hand and literature and the Immunities on the other was exacerbated by the fact that the intellectual traditions o f the Enlightenm ent and the counterUnllghtenment struggled with one another over its destiny. I m m the founding o f the French and English academies in the m ventcenth century onwards, the natural sciences had achieved the lilgh prestige they enjoyed and the possibility o f acquiring state subv< 111 lou not least through the absence o f passion or self-interest that
I nilli /*(!, ' l.e R o m a n e x p e r i m e n t a l 11H8()|, in Oeuvres critiques I: Notices et notes de I L hu Mitteruini (Purls: Cercle (In livie prccicux, 1968), p. 1 Ihh.


supposedly characterized them. Initially the social sciences fo llo w ed this pattern; it was no accident that Condorcet, w ho em bodied as no one else did the Enlightenm ent s faith in science, should have been the decisive cham pion o f a social mathematics. O nce the correct em ploym ent o f the faculty o f reason had been mastered there were no grounds fo r thinking that morality, politics and political science w ould not pursue a course o f developm en t as sound and purposeful as those disciplines making hectic progress in the investigation o f nature. It was not least because they were academ ic latecom ers that the social sciences exhibited in the nineteenth century a degree o f optim ism as to the possibilities o f know ledge which was exceeded by no other discipline: that nature had set no lim its to what w e m ight hope for, and that human reason would eventually lead mankind to Elysium, are among its original dogmas. Already by the end o f the eighteenth century, h ow ever - and not least as a consequence o f a general sobering up engendered by the abuses fostered by the French R e v o lu tio n - the practice o f the social sciences in im itating the natural sciences was com in g to seem m ore and m ore problem atical: the insight grew that the aim o f the moral sciences was to reduce to the form ulae o f science domains o f life which w ere in principle oth er than natural objects. T h e natural sciences had achieved their successes through experim en tation - all too soon it was to becom e apparent that in the realm o f society experim en t could not sim ply be substituted fo r experience. It also becam e increasingly questionable w hether the sciences o f man ought to be pursued in a dispassionate and disinterested manner, whether the heart ought to be sacrificed to the head and religion to reason. It was the champions o f the Enlightenm ent them selves who first form ulated, not a distrust o f reason in principle, but a recog nition o f the harmful effe ct o f its over-estim ation, as, fo r example, did Lessing in the lines:
D ie griib eln d e V ern u n ft dringt sich in alles ein, U nd will, w o sie nicht herrscht, doch nicht en tbeh ret sein . . . G eb ieterisch schreibt sie vor, was unsern Sinnen tauge, M acht sich zum O h r des Ohrs, und wird des Auges Auge. (B ro o d in g reason forces its way in to everything,/ and w here it does n ot rule it nonetheless demands to be indispensable . . ./It im periously decrees the worth o f our senses,/ makes o f itself the ear o f our ear and b ecom es the eye o f our e y e .)9

H ow ever w idely they m ight differ in other respects, the cham* G otthold Ephraim Lessing, Arnica Hi-rrn Marpurg uhcrtlic lU^t ln Jcr VCincusiba/tcn zum
1'1rfniiti'n, L e s s in g , VC'erie, B a n d I ( M iin c h e n : M a n s e r, 1 9 7 0 ), | !(> ' 1 >


pions o f the counter-Enlightenm ent were united in their critique o f the over-estim ation o f reason, and in their determ ination to protect society from abstract political and social experim ents o f which the criminal experim ent o f the French Revolution was the prime example. N o n e o f these thinkers who espoused the counter-Enlightenm ent stood closer to sociology than did Count Louis de Bonald, whom Robert Spaemann was right to regard as one o f the founding fathers o f the discipline, which he called a discipline duf a i t '1 that anticipated 0 positivism. D e Bonald, who was accounted a scholastic and was any thing but a bel esprit, at the beginning o f the nineteenth century set down in a num ber o f b rie f and exceedingly clear-sighted sketches the dilem ma facing the social sciences as they oscillated back and lorth betw een an orientation towards science and an inclination lor literature. De Bonald saw in the widening divorce betw een science and literai ure a sign o f m odernity and thus a sym ptom o f decadence. Even in in age as recent as that o f Louis X IV no distinction had been made I id ween sciences and lettres, and the dictionary o f the A cadem ie I i angaise was consistent when under the rubric science it referred the leader to litterature and defined lettres in the plural as ' toute sorte de u truce et de d o c t r i n e 'D e Bonald m ourned fo r an age in which the I iences w ere related to literature as content is to form: to him Massillon was a representative o f a theological, M ontesquieu o f a political, Bossuet o f a historical and La Bruyere o f a moral literatureI Iicy spoke on beh a lf o f disciplines the ou tcom e o f whose researches i cmid in no way be separated from the form in which it was presented Uni Ion s Histoire Naturelle dem onstrated the exten t to which even llie natural sciences could be at one w ith literature. I lie divorce betw een literature and the sciences was the responsi bility not least o f a new class produced by the Enlightenm ent: if i lii'ii' liad in the early phase been scholars who lacked feeling fo r li ii in, 'savants sans litterature',1 am ong m odern intellectuals an over2 <ml i nut ion o f form concealed a lack o f co n te n t they w e r e 1 litterateurs \itm rentable science'. Under the dom inating influence o f these men o f lit ii'is, who were devoid o f all knowledge, the natural sciences, with ..... li< uiatics at their head, had com e to represent the leading disci111 <s o l the m odern age; the* sciences exactes' w ere now accounted the 111 h im ! ('i nicnces. This change in prestige am ong the scientific disciI'lim . was producing harmful effects not least in the w orld o f edu-

IimiI llournct, 'L e Rcalisme de Bonald [ 19<>4|, in Sociologie et Litterature, p. 43. " I null dr Donald, 'lie * Sciences, des lettres et des arts 11807), in Oeuvres, Melanges lilh him i, /lolihi/uei et />/ji/oiophiques (Paris: Librairie dAdrien I.e Clerc, 1H52), | JM > M 1 Ihiil,, p. 290. 1



cation. Literary decadence and scientific decadence w ere only two sides o f the same coin: as the tragedy o f the An cien R egim e becam e the bourgeois drama, so the title o f honour hautes sciences' passed from the sciences morales to the sciences physiques'. It was precisely their exactitude, however, that precluded the natural sciences from being placed at the head o f the scientific disci plines: it was precisely because, as Pascal and Leibniz had shown, they could also be pursued by machines that these sciences w ere o f the second rank as com pared with th eology or ethics, jurisprudence, politics or history, which required the use o f language and would therefore always remain human. In de Bonald s eyes the superiority o f the m oral sciences to the natural sciences was manifest: the anthropocentricism o f the latter if nothing else, their unavoidable reliance on the concepts o f character', fam ily , intention , affect, dem onstrated their inability to survive w ithout borrow in g from the sciences o f man. T h e id eology o f pro gress propagated by the natural sciences was a chimera: fundamen tally they fo llo w ed the identical principles they had fo llow ed since prim eval times and as a rule their learned men p roffered nothing but elucidations o f popular practices which w orked just as w ell w ithout them. From reading the Journal de Physique de Bonald gained the impression that the age o f great discoveries was past in the natural sciences; they w ere now dom inated by 7e petit esprit"3 and were engaged less in discovering than in im proving on what was already known and further refining what was already p e rfe c t W h a tever airs the mathematicians m ight give themselves, mankind w ould still build houses and spin w o o l even i f there w ere no such thing as geom etry. It was not the self-overestim ation o f the natural sciences that con stituted fo r de Bonald the decisive problem: o f greater consequence was the possibility that the state w ould appropriate this self overestim ation and derive from it the fundamental principles o f its educational policy. That in the mechanical sciences, where machines w ere gradually replacing man, there should appear m ore and m ore men who resem bled machines was a regrettable fact but one whose consequences could be lived with; what was incom parably m ore detrim ental was that m odern society s ideas o f truth and utility, exactitude and solidity, w ere associated almost exclusively with the natural sciences. It was not only the social sciences that suffered harm: the core o f society itself was affected by i t T h e natural sciences required fo r their legitim ation the b e lie f in
1 de Bonald, Des Progres ou de la decadence des lettres [1810], in Oeuvres, 1



progress: if this b e lie f was unmasked as superstition the claim to pre dom inance advanced by the exact disciplines would be undermined. W ith the m oral sciences it was different: non nova, sednove1 was their 4 imperishable m otto, and all they w ere concerned with was the dis covery o f new, contem porary form s fo r the old and timeless truths. This function was all the m ore vital in that, in an age in which as a consequence o f the Enlightenm ent the authority o f the revealed religions was being increasingly called into question, the m oral orientation o f mankind had to be provided by the moral sciences. ( '.hristianity in scientific form , the m oral sciences had fo r their ob jective the preservation o f society through m oral direction o f the Individual and stabilization o f the legitim ate political regime: fo r this reason to o the moral sciences - the sciences m o ra le s '- were in a n.11 rower sense both the sciences o f society - the sciences de la societe and fo r society. W hat was required was the undoing o f the new hierarchy o f the disciplines created by the Enlightenm ent: the natural sciences w ere only ancillary to the first o f all sciences, th &science de la societe. Studies in the natural sciences m ight assist the reputation o f a sch ola r- they would do nothing to advance the fam e o f a nation. I f m odern society were to abandon the natural sciences no noticeable disorder w ould ensue; if the propagation o f the principles o f Christian m orality w ith die aid o f the social sciences w ere to cease, however, society w ould lie plunged into m oral and political chaos. Cou n t Louis de Bonald was no unprejudiced observer o f the con tentions arising betw een literature and the sciences in the wake o f i I h E nlightenm ent he was a partisan o f the A n cien Regim e, a stead Il it >yalist and a m em ber o f the Catholic Church. But as the royalist uni ( 'atholic Balzac, who frequently cited de Bonald, was capable o f ilefu l ibing the society o f his tim e with an uncom prom ising realism dial evoked the adm iration o f M arx and Engels, so de Bonald, the lilt i logist o f the Restoration, could just as clearly foresee the future ill ,tiny o f the social sciences as, carried along by the Enlighten ment's enthusiasm fo r science, they began to im itate the natural
m i


/ 1 i n n in r i morales, qui ont longtemps regne sur les sciences et sur les lettres, quoique ,inii, i Jo hi paix, ne peuvent rien pour la maintenir, depuis que lapbilosophie a envabi ou i ii . / i f /run p in i beauxdomaines, lepolitique et la tbeologie, et quellefa it journellement A i itmni f mcmv sur la morale. Repoussees par les sciences exactes, dedaignees par les h u u i / riiiiihi, dies writ hors d'etat defaire respecter leur mediation ou leur neutrality, et

" ilr lloiiultl, ' De* Sciences, p. }16. " ill Itimuld, 'Slit In (iucrre den sciences et des lettres' in Oeuvres, p. JH 7.



subiront la loi du vainqueur. Mais cornme elles ont tout a craindre des sciences, dures et orgueilleuses, leurs vueux secrets seront pour les lettres, plus humaines et plus genereuses, et qui nont pas perdu tout souvenir de leur ancienne et etroite alliance avec les sciences morales.

D e Bonald w rote in an age which he saw threatened by the dom ination o f the'petit esprit and the loss o f those serious and manly virtues that had characterized the Ancien Regim e. In the spirit o f the Ancien R egim e he generally took refuge in m ilitary metaphors to describe the fluctuations o f the spiritual contentions in which he him self to o k part. T h e intellectual debates scholars conducted with one another in earlier times were like contentions betw een regular soldiers com m anded by generals o f equal com petence: disci pline and chivalry reigned; victory brought honour but defeat was in no way dishonourable. A n aspect o f the A g e o f Enlightenm ent was that this honourable war betw een combatants o f equal rank had ceased to exist: ill-armed scribblers fought guerrilla engagem ents with one another in feuilletons and pamphlets, and in this petite guerre contre tout ce qui est bon et juste'1 reason was ob liged to accom m odate 6 itself to form s o f warfare essentially alien to it. W e must bear this con text in mind i f we are to understand the meaning o f the title de Bonald gave to his little treatise on the future destiny o f the social sciences caught betw een literature on one side and the natural sciences on the o th e r Sur la guerre des sciences et des lettres'. T o de Bonald, what was reflected in the disunion o f the social sciences was the contention betw een the Ancien R egim e and the m odern age, R estoration and R evolution, Enlightenm ent and counter-Enlightenm ent. It is o f this battleground that my b o ok is a report. In his Lectures on Aesthetics H e g e l described the novel as the art-form which recovers the order and prose o f reality . 1 Th e novel, the modern 7 bourgeois epopee, presupposes a reality already ordered as prose. . . O ne o f the m ost com m on and, to the novel, appropriate conflicts is therefore that betw een the poetry o f the heart and the prose o f everyday circumstances and the accidents o f the external w orld that oppose it . . H e g e l s description makes it clear why from the m om ent o f its inception sociology becam e both a co m p etito r and a counterpart o f literature. O n the one hand, when sociology desired
1 de Bonald, Avertissement , in Oeuvres, p. 2. 6 1 G eorg W ilhelm Friedrich H egel, Vortesuiigen uber die Asthetik I-1 I1 (IH1H 1829), 7 Werkausgabe, ed. Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel, Band 15 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1970), pp. 392-3.



to be sociography it came into con flict above all with the realistic novel over the claim to o ffe r an adequate reproduction o f the prose o f everyday circumstances ; when, on the other, it claimed to be social theory it incurred the suspicion o f degenerating into a closet science , 1 that is o f belonging to that group o f disciplines which, 8 according to N ietzsch e s malicious definition, are unable to dem onstrate that any kind o f grand cultural goal lies within their horizon : this arid closet science was then contrasted with literature In its capacity to express the poetry o f the heart . In this com p etition over the claim to be the rule o f life appropriate 10 industrial society sociology cannot, however, simply be equated with rationality and literature with feeling. Occasionally there are coalitions: Dickens, fo r instance, acted as an advocate o f the culture >> feeling when in Hard Times he scourged the dehumanizing effects 1 ol (he utilitarianism o f a James Mill; Flaubert, on the other hand, 11 ildly determ ined to dissect the m odern w orld like an anatomist, i ensured the exaggerated poetizin g that marked the nineteenth cenItiry, and felt entitled to make merry over the speculations o f an Auguste C om te not least because he to o k the metier o f literature leilously and pursued it with scientific pretensions. In essence, however, the battle lines are drawn as follows: sociology i i discipline characterized by cold rationality, which seeks to com|>it'hend the structures and laws o f m otion o f m odern industrial k lety by means o f measurement and com putation and in doing so iily serves to alienate man m ore effectively from him self and from I lie world around him; on the opposite side there stands a litera tim whose intuition can see farther than the analyses o f the mu lologists and whose ability to address the heart o f man is to be (H rlci red to the products o f a discipline that misunderstands itself as I n.ilural science o f society. This is the argum ent advanced by I n^,llsh poetry and literary criticism from M atthew A rn old to T. S. I lii 11, and by the French literary intelligentsia from Charles Peguy unwinds. ( Ierm any constitutes a special case: here, on the one hand, i In iocial sciences, taking up and developing impulses from the Iiliill >:,ophy o f life, have neither form ed a sharply defined discipline, i ft the case in France, nor becom e a recognized constituent o f ....m I 'com m on sense , as they have in England; on the other, the uniIIlicnis ol literature and poetry has been maintained in all its
" I i lei 1 It It N ie tz s c h e to P a u l D e u s s e n , O c t o b e r 1H68; N ie tz s c h e , tir itje . Septem ber 1

INiri April INh't, Brlelwcchsel, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, ed. G iorg io Colli and Mu Inn Mtintlnri, I iste Abtellung, Band 2 (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter,
I ' J M ) , p, U 9 .



severity only in Germany, where it has been exacerbated through an asociality o f poetical production in principle, that even sees its ch ief task as being the refutation o f the social (H u g o von H ofm annsth al).1 9 T h e conflict betw een cold reason and the culture o f feeling, typical o f the com p etition betw een the social sciences and literature, is not confined to the realm o f scientific and literary publications: it also sets its stamp on the lives, private and public, o f the writers and scholars we are to consider. A nd this is consistent with the fact that in this contention, which I see as a kind of* secret history o f the modern social sciences, so significant a role is played by wom en: C lotild e de Vaux, H arriet Taylor, Beatrice W ebb. T h e assault on so ciology by literature and the men o f letters - in many instances an assault inspired by the spirit o f the counterEnlightenm ent - has always been successful w herever sociological thinking, overpow ered and transported by the desire to im itate the natural sciences, has claim ed the ability w h olly to replace meta physics and religion and becom e a substitute fo r faith and the heart The expulsion o f the feelings from the social sciences and other disciplines has taken place in the name o f an arrogant rationality which desires to be not only the means to kn ow ledge but at the same tim e a philosophy o f life and a substitute religion. In attem pting this, however, rationality attem pts to o much and prom ises m ore than it can perform ; and when the self-doubt thus engendered does not suffice fo r self-healing the feelings do not m erely regain their righ tsthey are enhanced to a cult o f irrationality such as finds expression in the totalitarian ideologies. In the long run, therefore, there occurs a build-up o f the longing fo r real objects o f b e lie f which appeal to the feeling and not only to the mind; and when the way back to such objects is barred new ones are sought and calamitous alternatives found, as the French literary men o f the political right found proto-Fascism and such English socialists as Sidney and Beatrice W eb b found Soviet Com m unism during its m ost degenerate period. In this regard, an attem pt to turn the sociological intelligentsia towards literature, or the playing o f f o f poetry and social science against one another, is the first sign o f a drift into a totalitarian ideology: it is instructive that the official dis bandm ent o f G erm an so ciology in N ation al Socialist G erm any is associated with the name o f Hans Freyer, the author o f t h e Revolution
1 H ugo von Hofmannsthal, Das Schrifttum als geistiger Raum dcr Nation (1927], in 9 Natur unit Erkanntnis: Essays (Berlin and Darmstadt: Deutsc he Hucli-Gemeinschaft, 1957), p. 173.



o f the Right, w ho has been called the Expressionist am ong G erm an sociologists, and that H elm u t Schelsky, who at the end o f his life styled him self an anti-sociologist, united his apostasy from his disci pline with a despairing appeal to H einrich B o ll to overcom e the traditional Germ an schism and bring G erm anys literary and sociological intelligentsia togeth er again.



that to o was why to many o f his contem poraries he seem ed to be .1 sociologist, and a fanatical one m oreover. T h e S ociological Society which W ells helped to found in 1903 wan one o f the first professional organizations o f sociologists. W ith th< ex cep tio n o f the newly created U niversity o f London, all endeavour to institutionalize so ciology in the English universities came t< nothing; it was only after the Second W o r ld W a r that it was gradually introduced in them, and not until the late 1960s did it entei Cambridge, where a visit from the A m erican sociologist Talcoti Parsons, far from facilitating its introduction, had only retarcleil it. Paradoxically the late institutionalization o f so ciology in Englaml was due to the early readiness o f statisticians, officials and reform M politicians to apply sociological statistics to the solution o f sochil problem s: this infiltration o f sociological know ledge into tlin adm inistration made the security o f so ciolog y through an organi/i < 1 structure seem far less pressing a m atter than it was on tli*1 Continent. This fact also makes it com prehensible why the debate on ilir relationship betw een so ciology and literature was conducted far lend dramatically in England than it was, fo r exam ple, in Fram A lth ou gh D urkheim s endeavour to secure a hom e fo r sociology III the universities was also only half successful, the introduction sociology into the N e w Sorbonne none the less changed iIim curricula: the influence o f sociology on the training o f teat In n seem ed to threaten the hegem ony o f France s literary culture. In England, on the contrary, literary m en and sociologists w ere riot III com p etition fo r academic positions; and the intellectual different >* betw een the tw o were, m oreover, not so strongly marked as tin v w ere in Germ any or France. But what especially blunted IIt*controversy in England and thus always lent it som ething o f the air (If a gam e was the fact that the contestants usually came from the N.nm m ilieu and had passed through a similar course o f education. It w f l linen 1 only in the debate over the two cultures that new and sharper I1 division appeared.


Concealed sociology: English literary criticism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

T h e tw o cultures t > 6 O ctob er 1956 C. P. Snow published in the New Statesman, the u weekly journal founded by Sidney and Beatrice W ebb, an article 1 ntitled Th e T w o Cultures . W hen, three years later, he was invited In deliver the Rede Lecture in Cam bridge, he expanded his article M spoke on the tw o cultures and the scientific re v o lu tio n - thereby lul Inaugurating a controversy whose slogans are still current and a |ih us o f dispute today. I'he tw o cultures which Snow confronted w ith one another w ere ilii: culture o f the literary m en and the culture o f the scientists. H e It l ined especially w ell qualified fo r the treatm ent o f this theme: jfiirn in 1905, he was not only a trained physicist with considerable I perience in scientific m anagem ent and scientific policy-m aking, (ml also a w riter w ho had in a series o f novels treated the problem s I inning in connection with the exercise o f scientific pow er and the fillies o f science. Snow spoke o f the cultures o f the scientist and o f |lit literary man as an anthropologist m ight speak o f two hostile (lilies: they w ere groupings w hose differin g values and norms o f In li.iviour made com m unication betw een them virtually im possible Iml made every contact sooner or later degenerate into hostilities. I | I his division betw een the tw o cultures Snow saw the ro o t problem n nl 1 lie W estern world; and it had produced especially drastic coni*i|uences in England, where the tendency fo r social form s to crys: lulllze was m ore pronounced than it was in Europe or the U nited | 'it ties: in England there was apparently not a single area in which Bln 1 two intellectual camps - almost indistinguishable from one knm her with respect to their social class, their intelligen ce and their A in u 1 ial situations - were not still to be found. I Although Snow, who regarded science as his profession and writing B it li< calling, reproached the scientists fo r their literary philistinism *



as much as he did the humanists and artists fo r their dreadful ignorance o f the science and tech n ology o f the civilization in which they lived, he left no doubt as to where his sympathies lay: it was on the side o f the scientists, w ho fo r him w ere the em bodim ent ol the future. His ch ief reproach against the men o f letters, however, was noi that they w ere scientifically ignorant but that they w ere morally defective. A lm ost all the writers who, in his view, had set their stamp on the literature o f the tw entieth century - writers such as Yeats, Pound and W yndham Lewis - w ere politically not m erely idiots bm villains: the view o f life they em bodied had accelerated an evolution that had finally resulted in Auschwitz. A nti-dem ocratic attitude* were in the early twentieth century nowhere m ore com m on than in literature and the arts. Science, on the other hand, was at heart pro foundly m oral - and every scientist was at b o tto m an ethicist From this it fo llow ed that the vital issue fo r W estern civilization was that i t should do away with the traditional predom inance o f literary cultu 11 and finally accord pre-em inence to the culture o f science. Snow was replied to by the literary critic F. R Leavis in his Richmond Lecture o f 1962. A n academic outsider all his life, w ho achieved security only late on through a lectureship at Cambridge, Leavis was a merciless polem icist through need as w ell as by inclination, and when he attacked Snow he attacked not only the arrogance o f tin scientist but the English literary establishment as welL In Leavis' eyes Snow was devoid o f all intellectual discipline; the vulgarity ol his style was a reflection o f the nullity o f his arguments, and thU spiritual son o f H . G. W ells 1could quite sim ply have been ignored i f he had not, like an evil omen, indicated the consequent cn threatening from the contem porary decay o f culture. T o check this cultural decay the tim e demanded an assembling ol all spiritual forces, the concentration o f an experienced and creative intelligentsia into a vital English School o f which a fundamentally reformed university should be the centre: for to understand Western civilization, and the Industrial R evolu tion that had produced It, there existed no better instrument than literature. This was precisely what Snow had denied: the literary intellect nalu who stood alienated from the scientific culture o f their tim e were In no position adequately to assess the origins and consequences ol t ho Industrial R evolution, let alone to understand them. Such writer;. .< n
1 F. R. Leavis, Two Cultures? The Significance of C. P. Snow. Being tie Richmonti l.i t ht>e, 1962. W ith a N ew Preface for the Am erican Reader (N e w York: Pantheon Hoult h , 1963), p. 40.

Concealed sociology


Ruskin, Morris, Thoreau, Emerson and D. H. Lawrence had consist ently closed their eyes to social reality: they w ere Luddites, out o f ignorance, who refused to understand that unhindered industrializ ation alone held out any hope for the world s poor. Snow the scientist pronounced Leavis the literary critic incapable o f understanding the Industrial R evolu tion or contem porary society, and Leavis asserted the same o f Snow: thus they contended fo r an interpretative privilege to which, since the m iddle o f the nineteenth century, sociology had laid claim. In the contention betw een the two cultures a third, that o f the sociological intelligentsia, stood, a huge presence, in the back ground. Filled w ith anger, though not with surprise, Leavis saw the sociologists weighing in on the side o f Snow, while the latter observed with pleasure that historians and sociologists w ere ever m ore firm ly refusing to be regarded as cam p-followers o f traditional literary culture:
I'hey argue that, though they are n ot scientists themselves, they w ou ld share ii g o o d deal o f the scientific feeling. T h e y w ould have as little u s e - perhaps, nice they knew m ore about it, even less u s e - fo r the recent literary culture is the scientists themselves. J. H. Plum b, Alan B u llock and som e o f my Am erican sociologica l friends have said that they vigorou sly refuse to be corralled in a cultural b o x w ith p eo p le they w ouldn t be seen dead with, or to lir regarded as h elping to produce a clim ate which w ou ld n ot p erm it o f Modal h op e.2

Ihough the them es which Snow and Leavis had struck up may have ounded universal, and the social panorama which they spread out before their readers may have extended far into past and future, this dispute was also and not least a contention on a local level: fo r l.cavis, Snow em bodied the old, encrusted Cam bridge whose ensconced academics he regarded as his enemies, w hile he himself, In claimed, represented a new and the true Cambridge. A t the end o f In , Richm ond Lectu re he expressed the hope that the C am bridge o f i lie future m ight becom e a place in which that culture propagated by i lie Sunday papers w ould no lon ger be regarded as an exam ple o f the I'< st that is known and thought in the w orld .3 As everyone with a literary education w ould have at once understood, with this quotation, which he did n ot designate as such, I i ii vis had conjured up the historical con text within which he wanted in set his debate with Snow. Leavis had quoted M atthew Arnold, w ho
1 I I* Snow, The Two Cultures und the Scientific Revolution [T h e Rede Lecture, 1959] (N r w York: Cambridge University Press, 1959), p. 9. I It , Leavis, Two Cultures?, p. 50.



had already in the last quarter o f the nineteenth century conducted a dispute over the tw o cultures with Thom as H en ry H uxley; and in this contention to o - though the participants may not always have been aware o f it - the invisible third disputant, sociology, played a key role.

Literary criticism as a gu id e to livin g : M atth ew A rn o ld M atthew Arnold, who made so lasting an im pression on the literary and social criticism o f the V ictorian age, was the son o f an eminent Victorian, Thom as Arnold. D r A rn old was born in 1795, and became headmaster o f Rugby in 1827. T h ou gh he may have disappointed those w ho had expected him to reform the educational system of the public schools from the ground up, he was none the less the first to include such subjects as mathematics, m odern languages anti m odern history in the curriculum o f his school. In 1841, a year b e fo re his death, he was appointed Regius Professor o f History o f O xford. W ith the first excrescences o f the Industrial R evolu tion b efore his eyes, D r A rn old saw with trepidation how in his tim e w orking people w ere beginning to form organizations which seem ed ready to resoi I to rebellion and murder; as a result he becam e the advocate o f a stat e which was strong but aware o f its social responsibilities, and o f .i church amalgamated with the state which was concerned less witli preaching stabilizing dogmas than with acquiring its legitimacy through the active am elioration o f social abuses. In the contention betw een the men o f letters and the scientists in which Matthew A rn old was later to play a leading role he assumed an uncom prom isingly conservative posture: he w rote to a friend that he woulil rather have his son believe the sun went round the earth than that Ii In m ind should be overw h elm ed by the natural sciences. M atthew Arnold, born in 1822, was a poet, critic, pedagogue ami professor. F or over thirty y e a r s -fr o m 1851 to 1886 - he was active as one o f H er Majesty s Inspectors o f schools, and in 185 7 he beca me Professor o f P o etry at O xford , where he was the first to lecture In English. Com m issioned by the governm ent, he undertook an ex ten sive examination o f the French, German, Dutch and other educational systems so as to pave the way fo r educational reform s in England W h atever M atthew A rn old did he did in the grand manner. H e wn > and continued to be a poet whose strength was intuition and whoM weakness was analysis; a scientist who rarely proceeded sy# tem atically and preferred to present his arguments by example*; a

Concealed sociology


lover o f dramatic gestures and fo rger o f rousing slogans many o f which are current in English even today. His diagnoses o f the ills o f society w ere as a rule acute and accurate, but his cures w ere m ostly vague and indefinite. Relentless and repetitive, his style resem bled that o f a preacher ham m ering a single truth into the heads o f his con gregation: he h im self called h im self a simple, unsystematic w riter without preconceived ideas; he did n ot w holly lack a sense o f humour, but many o f his writings are perm eated by the just percep tible unintentional com icality o f a w riter w ho takes everything too seriously. T o M atthew Arnold, too, W ord sw orth becam e the p o et through whose life and w ork the m ighty pow er o f poetry could best be made m anifest In this there lay a certain paradox, fo r W ord sw orth had never received in England the recogn ition he deserved: no sooner liad he em erged from the shadow o f Scott and B yron than Tennyson l>egan to obscure his fame. As W ord sw orth him self had soberly ( alculated, in an age in which Bentham determ ined England s philosophy o f life his poem s had n ot earned him enough m oney even to pay fo r his bootlaces. Th rou gh ou t Europe English policy was increasingly subject to i iticism; English painting was at best provincial; the English had no music at all; but English science received recogn ition and, excelled only by G oethe, W ord sw orth stood at the sum m it o f European poetry. W ord sw orth s poem s showed how close human speech i ould approach to perfection and how it could becom e a medium through which man could com e close to expressing truth. F or W ordsw orth the w riting o f p o etry was a m oral act, and the greatness " 1.1 poet was to be measured by the degree o f seriousness with which In .isked and answered the question o f how man ought to live: a duty ill I he w eightier in that the problem s o f the conduct o f life were in I iif,land increasingly becom ing the province o f pedants and prol< sionals- am ong w hom w ere also num bered the adherents o f the m w social sciences. Arnold warned against taking W ord sw orth s com m entaries and hi Ii in if ic-sounding arguments seriously, for, like other poets, he too U|ist'd into a kind o f higher rigm arole when he becam e to o |ililliisophical: only his poetry contained reality, while his philosophy wir. .is a rule only illusion. W ord sw orth could not but experience illllk ulty in analysing his own poems, fo r they w ere as seem ingly Inevitable as nature itself; it was as though nature had taken his pen In mi him and w ritten on his behalf. W h eth er or not this was an



accurate characterization o f W ordsw orth, M atthew A rn old insisted in general that g o o d w riting was produced, n ot because m en con sciously and deliberately decided to produce it, but because they w ere constrained to its production out o f an instinct o f selfpreservation .4 For this p erfect language called poetry interpreted life fo r us; it consoled mankind and sustained it in the world. W ith o u t poetry even the sciences seem ed incom plete, and m ost o f what in A rn old s time still counted as religion and philosophy would, he was convinced, in future be replaced by poetry. T h e strength o f poetry resided in it* pow er to interpret, to lay open the world: it was a pow er possessed in the first place by the lyric, but many prose works possessed it too. 1 1 could not be the goal o f poetry to set down the solution to tin secrets o f the universe in black and white: it was concerned rathri with establishing a meaning fo r man in the w orld and elucidating to him his place in i t Science never addressed the w hole man; and th erefore it was not Linne, Cavendish and Cuvier w ho had com municated to him a presentim ent o f where the secret o f nature truly lay, but Shakespeare, W ord sw orth and Keats, Chateaubriand mid Senancour. Th e m ore a scientist strove to make o f him self a w hole man, ilm m ore ardently did he yearn, in the midst o f his arid activities, loi il refreshm ent that poetry alone could furnish. As to what this poetic ,il refreshm ent consisted o f in the last resort, A rn old was delibei.it<lv vague: poets had com m and o f a magical faculty / and G oeth e hid in his Nlaximen und Reflexionen, already said all that was to be Mild about i t T h e arts and sciences are attained by thinking, p o eliy l n o t fo r poetry is inspiration.6 A rn old was, however, very far from assigning poetry to the r< dm o f the irrational: on the contrary, it was precisely its higher inlellie > tuality that distinguished poetry from all the other arts, and only I It! fact that he thought em otionally divided the po et from the scionllul A rn old was highly critical o f the creative outburst in English HlPtM ture during the first quarter o f the nineteenth century: the pot it ill
4 Matthew Arnold, The Study o f Poetry [1880], in English Literature und Iru/i ( The Complete Prose Works of Matthew Arnold, Vol. 9), ed. R. H. Super (Ann Adiltjl University o f Michigan Press, 1973), p. 188. 5 Matthew Arnold, Maurice de G uerin [ 1863), in Lectures anil Essays in Cri/iuiHi I I A fc Complete Prose Works of Matthew Arnold, Vol. 3), ed. R. H. Super, with theiuttlim iilifB Sister Thom as Marion H octo r (A n n A rb o r University o f Michigan Prt I'lrtlpj p. 16. 6 Matthew Arnold, On Poetry |1879j, in English Literature and Irish Politlt i, | l4 f l i G oethe, Maximen und Reflexionen (from Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre).

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this era, he thought, knew to o little but still went on madly writing. A m ighty excitation o f em otion, not o f spirit, arose from the poem s o f Shelley and Byron; and in an age in which G o e th e s G erm any was grounding the strength o f its culture in education and the faculty o f criticism, even W ord sw orth had very little interest in books. Even i f poetical inspiration rested less on analysis than on syn thesis and presentation, the p o et none the less had above all to know i great deal:
A p o e t . . . ought to know life and the w orld b e fo re dealing with them in poetry; and life and the w orld b ein g in m odern tim es very co m p le x things, tlir creation o f a m odern poet, to be w orth much, im plies a great critical i llort behind i t . . .7

Ai cording to Arnold, true criticism was possible only from a pos ition o f impartiality. Disinterestedness meant the search fo r the In st that is known and thought in the w orld8- independently o f all pi k tical or political considerations and free from any calculation o f utility. Culture depended above all on discipline; yet discipline was IVn y hard to achieve in England, because the country lacked a centre 'in h as the Academ ie Fran<;aise that could have watched over cor1 1 t ness o f inform ation, judgm ent and taste. In English poetry there ** *iin too much inspiration and not enough intelligence; and a host o f ptosc writers existed who found it easy to write w ell because they Ifr ir content to say little. I'oetry and criticism were activities that had almost nothing to do With aesthetics but very much to do with morality; Arnold, who rtlwiiys orientated him self by the life, character and actions o f men, ih iltcd som ething like an eth olo gy on a p oetic foundation, and Understood the great poem as a dietetic o f private as w ell as public III* In the light o f such a claim, however, poetry and criticism w ere HlMiud to enter into com p etition not only with science but with It ll|'lon as well, especially since A rn old had asserted that, in his own the strength o f religion resided in the fact that it was unconll Ime. poetry. In A rn old s cultural arithm etic9 three-quarters o flife B||||Nlsled of m orality o f conduct, with science and art sharing the l^ lin tln ln g quarter. Principles o f right behaviour w ere am ong the MII'M Im portant themes o f religion, which he characterized as

M ill lirw Arnold, T h e Function o f Criticism at the Present Tim e (1865), in Lectures >/ fiu.<yi hi Criticism, p. 261. * Ibid., p. 268. fill'll A I > u1c y, Matthew Aruu/d and Science, Publications o f the Modern Language i 1B A " " " Ullon ol America, *> (1942), p. 273. 7



m orality touched by em otion : 1 in this way religion was secularized 0 and society sanctified. A rn old considered Literature and Dogma (1873) - an attem pt at a better understanding o f the B ible - his m ost im portant prose work. T h e first step towards a prop er com prehension o f the Bible lay in tinrealization that the language o f the holy scriptures is not rigid anil in flexib le but fluid and approxim ative, not scientific but literary, and that consequently the B ible could be an ob ject only o f literary, not o f scientific criticism. O nly the nature o f the Zeitgeist o f the nineteenth century, which had elevated the natural scientist to tin status o f its idol and strove to subject every sphere o f life to sciencc, could explain why the theologians were increasingly renouncing all educative duties and m erely seeking recogn ition as students o f tin Bible. Th e production o f undoctrinaire essays no longer interested them: in future the dogm as o f religion w ere to be presented, not In literary form, but with scientific exactitude. W ith that, however, dogm atic th eology abandoned the claim in be evolvin g the principles o f the m orality o f conduct, fo r these wet*' to be acquired, not through the procedures o f science, but only liy critically appropriating the best that has been said and thouglil III the w orld . 1 Th eologians wanted to b e athletes o f logic , 1 and in thfl 1 2 process fo rg o t that mankind did not long fo r logic at all, but lol education and historical understanding. W h e n St Paul employeil such expressions a s grace , rebirth or justification he used tlx in approxim atively, as though he was taking part in a conversation, making a speech or writing a poem , and not as though they weiv scientific terms. Paul em p loyed no scientific term inology: I lit language o f the B ible was a groping, poetical language, .uni theologians distorted the meaning o f his sayings when I liny em ployed his literary phraseology as scientific terms. It was a com m onplace o f anth ropology that men clothed I lu ll dearest desires in legends and stories, and that these legends .mil stories thereafter determ ined their behaviour: a fact such as 1 ill 1 required no further scientific investigation, fo r it was c l o s e t actuality than any discovery o f science, and religion was the firiiM'&l o f all realities. A rn old com pared his own tim e to the era in whit ll Christ came to Judea: the Protestant dissidents w ere like ilil Pharisees, and our friends the philosophical Liberals, who belli vi*
1 Matthew A rn o ld , Literature and Dogma: An Essay Towards a Better Apwri hi imltlB 0 o f the Bible [1873], in Dissent and Dogma (The Complete Prose Works of tAuithew , Ii i*m| Vol. 6), ed. R. H. Super (An n Arbor: University o f Michigan I ri-ss, Hindu p. 176. " Ibid., p. 168 Ibid., p. 169.

Concealed sociology


neither in angel nor spirit but in Mr H erbert Spencer 1 corresponded 3 to the Sadducees. A n adm iring reader o f the Imitatio Christi, A rn old thought that the gravest peril facing his age lay in the fact that the masses w ere gradually losing touch with the Bible. A m on g the forces responsible lor this loss w ere not least the pseudo-science o f Biblical criticism ,i nd the im pertinence o f those professors o f th eolo gy w ho concealed i heir literary ignorance behind abstruse reasonings: like all who I'laced their faith in science, these B ible students to o lacked a broad rxperience o f the diversity o f real life such as literature was w ell placed to communicate. A rn old quoted with approval G o e th e s definition o f superstition as the poetry o f life - it was in precisely this (use that religion had to becom e superstition again. IJy insisting on reading the Bible as a literary docum ent and not as a scientific source M atthew A rn old reinforced the claim o f literary 1111 icism to be the only proper guide to living fo r his age: at the same lime he thereby denied that natural science could make a similar i la iin.

T h e tw o cultures in the n in e te en th century I In dispute betw een the two cultures goes back to b efore the nineteenth century, but it was only when the social and cultural conii 'in dices o f the Industrial R evolu tion becam e perceptible, and the i Hit lines o f the new scientific and tech nological civilization becam e Ia1111 ly visible against the skyline, and public education started m ore ai" I m ore to affect larger segments o f the popu lation that it becam e I f-mtral topic o f day-to-day politics. W lirn, for exam ple, John Stuart M ill was elected rector o f St Andrews U niversity it was a m atter o f course that in his inaugural tiddicss he should broach the subject o f the tw o cultures. H e could ftdy on his hearers agreeing with him when he refused to regard the JlHlvrisity as a place where m en w ere instructed in a profession: no liln was to receive there a training that w ould later enable him to i h i n a living. A university did not turn out efficien t lawyers, doctors engineers: it produced m en capable o f civilized intercourse with il. another. W h ere contention arose was over the question o f *ln iIn i this general education should be predom inantly literary or llle n llfli. A ccording to M ill the truth was, however, that every linivt iMty education must pursue intellectual, moral and aesthetic

1 Ibid., p. 399. 1



Fichte s 'Gelehrter> becam e fo r Carlyle the literary man, anti Johnson, Rousseau and Burns w ere the men o f letters with whom he concerned h im s e lf- writers o f the second rank, com pared with G oethe, but because o f the circumstances o f their lives more familiar to an English public. T h e literary man, with h is copy-rights and copy-wrongs,6 was at once a profane and a sacred figure: some 2 one who defrayed his living expenses with books and at the same tim e evolved in them a guide to living which mankind could follow. T o Carlyle his era seem ed to be gettin g m ore and m ore out ol jo in t an indication o f this was what the writers o f books did in the w orld and what the w orld did to them. Th e w riter was guided in Ii In activities by the rules o f no profession; no one asked whence In came or whither he was going. L ike a pariah he wandered through i world which he could equally well mislead as enlighten; he was nothing but an accident in society.6 And yet books perform ed miracles In 3 the way runes had done in earlier times. In the wretchedest lending libraries o f rem ote villages books determ ined the everyday behavh mi o f their readers, and the maddest views o f life becam e practlutl realities. T h e art o f w riting united in the strangest way the dist.mi past with the im m ediate present: A ll things w ere altered fo r men; -ill modes o f im portant w ork o f men: teaching, preaching, governing, and all else.6 T h e universities, in which kn ow ledge had for hmn 4 been handed on through spoken comm unication, had become collections o f books, and in the church the true preachers mill prophets were now those w ho could write books. Follow ing Pic lilt, Carlyle saw literature as a kind o f revelation: as Byron and Goellit', Shakespeare and M ilton s cathedral music had shown, literalnit* brought to light the god-like in the terrestrial and com m on. T h e art o f writing and printing could not be separated from ilie progress o f democracy, and since the power o f the w riter was bet t nit ing an ever m ore public fact it could be exp ected that men o f I t let# w ould soon organize themselves into a guild. T h e ob jective ol mi li an organization could not be to secure the financial independent e u | writers through stipends or salaries- Carlyle considered it neces .iti v, rather, that there should be men o f letters w ho were poor, m em ln'il o f a spiritual order o f beggars whose material poverty woiitll enhance their spiritual influence. It was through Darwinian eyes that Carlyle look ed upon lit* literary world, in which - as in the rest o f society - only the 'ilntll*
*' Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero- Worship, urn! the Heroic in History, ed. Archlbitlil Mmh Meehan (Boston: Ginn and Co., 1901), p. 177. * Ibid., p. 183. I bill,, p In|j

Concealed sociology


could survive the struggle fo r the higher positions. H e saw in this struggle the precondition o f all progress, and to him to o there occurred the question that becam e the central problem o f the nineteenth century and its social sciences: ought this struggle to be legulated or should its ou tcom e be left to chance? W riters w ere burdened with what they had inherited from the eighteenth century, that era in which Pandora had shaken every evil mi t o f her box. It was a sceptical age that wanted to know nothing o f heroes and pictured the world as a machine, an age in which personal Interests and motives, weavers loom s and parliamentary m ajorities net the tone. T h e era o f Bentham and the utilitarianism o f the steamengine was an age in which heroism was blind and men acted like logs and wheels in a contraption o f s te e l From this mechanical world the divine seem ed to have vanished. It was in the fact that men o f letters w ere not organized that ' u ly le saw the fundamental evil o f an age suffering from both intellectual and m oral scepticism which had brought forth such Uncial pestilences as the French R evolu tion and Chartism; at the h i me tim e he had no doubt that men o f letters w ould henceforth ...... bine togeth er to form a species o f priesthood and bring to the Wot Id a new faith. T h e eighteenth century, the age o f unbelief, had Incn an exception: I prophesy that the w orld w ill once m ore liet oine sincere; a believing world: with many H eroes in it, a heroic w>i Ul!* 5 1 1 was customary to reproach Carlyle with a lack o f calmness in his iliInking, which was always full o f passion, and with allowing his Intellect to be clouded by em otion, yet he fo reto ld with precision I In* decisive role which the priesthood o f the m en o f letters was to |ily in the m odern world. F ollow in g Carlyle, M atthew A rn old il> > rlbed the social uprooting o f the intellectuals as at once the u 1'ie .o n d itio n fo r and opportunity o f the attainment o f higher knowledge: intellectuals w ere aliens whose views w ere determ ined tot by u particular class standpoint but by an unpartisan spirit and a ili illie lor the perfectin g o f mankind; and with that, Julien Benda s i/i 111 already com e into the picture, as did K a rl Mannheim s socially lin|iui:tlal intelligentsia.

Literary criticism and social p la n n in g Aimmg those who succumbed to the influence o f M atthew A rn old i I S. Eliot, an Am erican from St Louis who, raised to respect *
< Ihit/., |1. ZO.J.



religion, com m unity and education, h ad- as he him self made a poini o f stating - becom e in England a classicist in art, an Anglo-Catholic in religion and a royalist in politics:
U p o n the glazen shelves kept watch M atthew and W ald o, guardians o f the faith, T h e army o f unalterable law.6 6

As to the p o et s true position E liot was at one with A rn old and Shelley: he was the unacknowledged legislator o f the world. But E liot was at variance with A rn old s attem pt to see in poetry a kind ol co ffe e w ithout caffein ,6 a substitute fo r religion that could only 7 lead to a further dim inution in the significance o f religion. And hr com m ented ironically on A rn old s attem pt to fu nction as a critic ol society: like many others interested not only in literature but also in ideas in general, A rn old had occasionally been assailed by tin tem ptation to set books aside so as first to put the wholi country in order. In saying this, however, E liot was not cham pioning the principli o f Iart pour Iart. as he w rote in 1928 in the new edition o f The Sum,/ Wood, poetry always had som ething to do with politics, religion and ethics, only he was unable to say precisely w h at Sceptical towatdi every species o f interpretation, Eliot resisted accepting sociologists as interpreters o f poetry; in this he showed a similarity to F. I< Leavis, w ho m ounted so vehem ent an opposition to the sociology oI literature. O n the contrary he warned the poet w ho reflected on tin use o f his activities against involving him self in the tasks of I ho sociologist .6 P o etry as such possessed a religious significance and 8 exerted its influence on s o c ie ty - fo r that very reason it must noi hi m isunderstood as religion and literary criticism must not be misun derstood as sociology. W h en Eliot visited Paris fo r the first tim e in 1910 he stayed at rue de l Universite, close to the Sorbonne; it was also not far from the College de France, where injanuary and February 1911 he attended lectures by Bergson, whose evaluation o f intuition was allied to hit own poetical tendency. E liot s ow n declarations perm it the readet In perceive the influence o f Bergson in T h e L o v e Song o f J. Allied P ru frock ; but Eliot was also aware o f sociology, and among those

6 T. S. Eliot, Cousin Nancy, in Collected Poems 1909-1935 (N e w York: ^ arcn in l 6 Brace Jovanovich, 1948), p. 34. 6 T. S. Eliot, The Use o f Poetry and the Use o f Criticism Studies in the Relation o j Critit nm M 7 Poetry in England. The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures fo r 1932-33 (Cambridge, M itin

Concealed sociology


who appear to have exerted a particular influence on him in Paris was Emile Durkheim . T h e strongest influence o f all, to be sure, was that o f Charles Maurras, and P eter A ck royd has poin ted out that the i urrent characterization o f Maurras by means o f the triad 'classique, uUholique, monarchique6 may have influenced E liot s subsequent self9 dcscription. Th ere already existed in Eliot s early poetry a species o f sociology ol know ledge concealed behind all the irony and self-irony: an i uduring tendency to render to him self an account o f his own ii1 1ions and position in the world. Leavis, w ho was am ong the first to " cognize Eliot s poetic rank, also saw how great a role epistemological itlid metaphysical questions played in his poems: E liot the critic i-med always to be com m enting on Eliot the p o e t Al ter 1928 - the period coinciding alm ost exactly with his conver sion to Anglo-C atholicism - E liot also becam e a social critic and * Ial theoretician, though he was, to be sure, interested m ore in dis tission o f basic principles than in the solution o f real social I '" >l>lems. T h e im m ediate occasion was the founding o f the Chandos I' 11 tup, which to o k its name from the restaurant in Lon d on where its members w ere accustom ed to meet. Founded after the G eneral 'I i ike o f 1926, the group had defined its ob jective as the discovery o f 1 ertain absolute and eternal principles o f true so ciolog y :7 there0 'ii 1 was sounded the them e o f a Christian so ciolog y that now 1 m oved to the centre o f Eliot s in terest In 1933 and 1940 he 1I1 llvered lectures at the Anglo-Catholic Summer School o f Sociology, mill between 1938 a n d l9 4 7 he was involved with T h e M oot, a grou p "I ( lergymen, writers, scientists and politicians w ho m et once a year in iliscuss questions o f social planning and the creation o f an elite in Ilost war England. Th e minutes and correspondence o f the group In >w Eliot to have participated to the full in its deliberations. I le had always been sceptical as to the possibility o f the individual iiiiellectual s producing any real effect on society:
N o ! I am n ot Prince H am let, n or was m eant to be; A m an attendant lord, on e that w ill do T o swell a progress, start a scene o r two, Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool, D eferential, glad to be o f use, Politic, cautious, and meticulous; Full o f high sentence, but a bit obtuse; A t times, indeed, alm ost ridiculous Alm ost, at times, the Fool.
** Peter Ackroyd, / S. Eliot (London: llamish Ham ilton, 1984), p. 41. Ih J ., p, 222.



N o w how ever, in tim e o f war, the inclinations o f the individual had to step into the background and intellectuals had to form them selves into a group. T h e differences which divided E liot from the Scrutiny group as regards social criticism soon becam e evident. Leavis and his adherents continued to be petty bourgeois outsiders who reacted to the evolu tion o f capitalism and state socialism by conjuring up a harmonious English agrarian society which had come to a definitive end in the last years o f the seventeenth century: this social idyll, supported by no historical facts and serving essentially as a group-sustaining ideology, made o f literary criticism a nostalgii discipline. T h e conservative social critic Eliot, on the other hand, whom Leavis repudiated as a vassal o f the L on d on Establishment was decidedly m ore m odern than the Scrutiny group: like other con servatives, E liot had recognized that only a change in the traditional techniques fo r maintaining supremacy could ensure the continuing dom inion o f the political and cultural orth o d o x y in England; and after the mechanism o f naturally expanding markets had ceased in function the idea o f social planning was accepted by these conservu tives by compulsion, not fo r idealistic reasons .7 1 A t the end o f the nineteenth century Matthew A rn old had percelvvil in the sociology com ing into being on the continent o f Europe tin discipline which w ould stand in com p etition with a literary criticism that wanted to count as the guiding discipline fo r industrial society But A rn old s fears w ere groundless: those constellations o f sot l.d historical study which w ere elsewhere creating the university fam ily o f sociology were very far from doing so in England, where sociolop,li ill thinking had long since discovered a hom e in philanthropy and social work, in a row o f already existing academic disciplines, in statistics and in political administration. W h ile in such countries ill France and Germ any sociology had developed distinct yet vatyln(( profiles as a science both opposing and supporting the Establish ment, and had then within each country gon e on to splintei IlilH separate schools, in England sociology was simply a constituent uf social com m on sense: it had no need to secure its existence li|l becom ing an independent academic faculty. Marxism, with which sociology occasionally seemed to H com peting or contrasting discipline, had likewise failed to ai hlevn it distinct p rofile in England: here even large segments o f the wi > I inn t
7 Harold Macmillan, 'Reconstruction' (1935), in Arthur Marwick, Middle * *I *1 1 "Itfl in the Thirties: Planning, Progress and P olitica l" Agreem ent ', The Hnnl/lh IlnHlU cat Review 74 (1964), p. 287.

Concealed sociology


class chose the Tories, the bourgeoisie was conservative, the socialists w ere reformers, and the beginning o f the nineteenth century saw the gradual form ation in the ranks o f the upper m iddle class o f that stable intellectual aristocracy typical o f England which presented the paradox o f an intelligentsia which appears to con form rather than rebel against the rest o f society .7 This intellectual 2 aristocracy had literature in its bones ,7 and its guiding discipline 3 was literary criticism. O nly a superficial observer could believe that I here was no sociology in England: apart from the L on d on School o f I' conom ics there was fo r decades no faculty o f sociology, but lively sociological thinking lay concealed not least in literary criticism. Th e storm y 1930s disturbed the im perturbable repose o f English i ulture. Increasing international tension, and at hom e the breakingtip o f the political and econom ic consensus, indicated that the apitalist system was about to co llap se- a conclusion the W ebbs also I Itew when, w ithout ever having been Marxists, they threw themclves into the arms o f Soviet communism. U nem ploym ent, wagei (Us and strikes now made the class nature o f English society stand n u t m ore sharply. 1 1 was here that there lay the seeds o f that d evelopm en t which was in the end to create a sociology in England as well, though, to be niiir, its institutionalization had largely to wait until w ell after the fn i ond W o rld War. Com pared with the construction o f schools o f Mu lology in Am erica, France and Germ any, how ever, English nui lology always remained curiously pallid and lacking in distinct lili nI it y: the disciplines that came into being in England during the liM war years, and were its essential contribution to intellectual iii 11ition both at hom e and abroad, w ere so-called cultural **lmiles', as represented by such names as Richard H oggart and lliiyntond W illiams. A b rie f characterization o f what constitutes i n 1 in a I studies would amount to an abstract o f English intellectual 1 lii'iimy since M atthew Arnold: they are a blend o f sociology and llti iiiiy criticism.
N * A nnan, 'T h e Intellectual Aristocracy, in Studies in Social History: A Tribute to G. II I'nvtlyun, ed. J. H. Plumb (London: Longmans, G reen and Co., 1955),