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On The Rack

The Guardian


Before me lies the latest issue of the "Harvard Guardian," as chock-full as its prodecessors with exciting stuff. The leading feature of this issue is "Sorokin and the Dangerous Science. It consists of three articles by distinguished members of the faculty, discussing the three volumes of Professor Sorokin's "magnum opus."

None of them liked what they road, but they say it in different ways. A. P. Usher, learned historian of our economic past believes that the structure and purpose of Sorokin are more significantly displayed by Volume II. The editors evidently agreed, and hence put his article first.

My personal impression is that the first two hundred pages of Sorokin's first volume contain the decisive argument, but D. W. Prall thinks so little of that volume that we might well summarize his tortuous arguments in the good old American phrase, n.g.

Usher is somewhat more kindly, but he feels that the elaborate statistics adduced by Sorokin do not, on the whole, support his argument. As a historian, Usher has little sympathy with Sorokin's method of ideal types which he believes better adapted to short essays than to extended treatises.

In the latter, the simplification in detail which such types involve, becomes painfully evident.

Prall, the subtle theorist of esthetic problems, is evidently irritated beyond endurance by Sorokin's treatment. "In fact," Prall cries out, "Professor Sorokin rejects all art; the term means to him only 'subject matter' ". According to Prall, it would be absurd to accept Professor Sorokin's terms, and "as a guide to the fluctuations (of art) through the centuries a blind man is no help."

Very different is the view of W. Y. Elliott, past master of political philosophy and science. "The great feature of Professor Sorokin's work is that he seems to be bold enough to ask the right questions."

Yet the answers seem to please Elliott little more than the other men. Turning to the concrete material, Elliott finds that an elementary knowledge of statistics "would lead one to view with scepticism, if not with horror, the proof of Sorokin's pudding contained in such statistics of revolution and war as are produced in the third volume."

Elaborating upon this theme, Elliott feels, like the others, that subjective prejudices are the real foundations of what poses as objective scientific truth.

One turns from these articles with a feeling of futility, and a sense of doubt as to the wisdom of the editors in giving so much space to this matter. For either these men are right, in which case, why not leave Sorokin to a brief review, or they are wrong, in which case their views ought not to be presented at such length.

I should not be surprised if Professor Sorokin should want to come back with some kind of statement in defense of his position.

It is also regrettable that this big feature throws the issue as a whole somewhat out of balance. There are several nice, though much less pretentious articles.

W. W. Austin, '39, undertakes to show that Richard Henry Lee, revolutionary father, was the forgotten begetter of the Bill of Rights. "Government and the Farmer" by Edwin F. Ringer is a competent and compact review of the problems of American agricultural policy, though not startling in any way.

Martin D. Schwartz, '38, gives a spirited account of the career of "Middletown's Maverick Mayor." It is a good piece of contemporary history writing.

Finally, C. C. Means, Jr. gives a rather general and disjointed review of Dr. Walsh's book on the C.I.O., although this former tutee of Dr. Walsh shows a nice perspective on the philosophical setting of this study.

Of the summaries, now an accepted and very valuable feature of the "Guardian," the one on the National Recovery Act deserves special commendation for succinct lucidity.

"Who will watch the guardians themselves?" is the inviting slogan of the magazine. Well, if I am to be the watchdog this time, I will bark and say that the November issue has taken on a bit of the color of the month in which it appears.

The "Harvard Guardian" is a great enterprise, and one in which I believe 100% but there seems to be a bit too much "Harvard," and too little "Guardian" this time.

How to remedy the danger of becoming too ingrown is hard to say. It would seem highly desirable for the "Guardian" to develop sufficient standing to be receiving articles from men outside the immediate vicinity of the Yard.

There must be many men trained in the social sciences here, but active now in the outside world, in government, business, and journalism, who have significant points of view which the "Guardian" might make it its business to draw out, and thus keep us all in touch with each other.

Videant custodes, ne Universitas detrimentum capiat

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