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Sociology, Phenomenology and Marxian Analysis: A Critical Discussion of the Theory and

Practice of a Science of Society. by Barry Smart


Review by: Peter Ludes
Social Forces, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Jun., 1977), pp. 1086-1087
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2577576 .
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1086 / Social Forces / vol. 55:4, june 1977


and other perspectives. Few of the authorsprobe deeply into problems of the compatibility
and cross-fertilizationof diverse approaches,but the book lays valuable foundationswhich
may stimulatereadersto undertakethese tasks themselves.
SOCIOLOGY, PHENOMENOLOGY AND MARXIAN ANALYSIS: A CRITICAL
DISCUSSION OF THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF A SCIENCE OF SOCIETY.

By Barry Smart. London& Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976. 206 pp.
Cloth, $16.00; paper, $13.25.

Reviewer: PETER

LUDES,

Universityof Trier

What is phenomenology? And what is Marxian analysis? What are phenomenological


sociological analyses? And what are Marxian sociological analyses? Is there a theory of a
science (!) of society? And what is the practiceof this science?
These are crucial questions for sociologists and the recipients and (ab)users of
sociological knowledge in the world of everyday life. This book lays some groundworkfor
answers to these questions by discussing (among others) recently translatedworks by Marx
(Grundrisse),Lukacs (History and Class Consciousness), Dahrendorf,and Habermasin the
context of recent American and British sociological writings-and vice versa. It is a good
introductionto the area of sociology concerned with the historical sources, practicalgoals,
and implicationsof "a science of society," and with its peculiar topics and methods. But
"[i]t goes without saying that this analysis is not enough and that it is but the first
moment [I would say: but one moment] in an effort at synthetic reconstruction"-as Sartre
says in an epigraphto this book.
The authorsees crises in sociology andMarxism-and probably,althoughhe does not
say so, in the social structureof modern society. Yet, the "only sense in which the 'new'
sociologies have been critical for conventional sociology is in terms of methodological
issues," and Smart(again) emphasizesparticularlythe methodologicalsignificanceof Marx's
writings, rejectinga "fragmentedMarx" and, more generally, "a fragmenteddescriptionof
a fragmentedreality." He treats "Marxiananalysis as a critiqueof sociological science." For
example, "[w]hereas with Marxiananalysis the reductionof the worker to an object, to an
abstraction, is revealed to be a consequence of the capitalist mode of production and its
science of political economy, for sociology the reduction of man to homo sociologicus is
treatedas an index of scientific status." And phenomenology emphasizes "that experience
and evidence are not infallible and indeed should be consideredproblematical.The development of any inquiry then becomes a matterof explicating not only the 'what' but also the
'how' of experience."
Smartappearsto overemphasizethe potentialof more extensive and intensive use of
Marxiananalyses, of "a revelation of the underlyingrationalityof the given social order."
Of course there is also an underlying irrationality,producingtensions and crises, and it is
questionablewhether "the development of a [completely] rational intersubjectivesociety"
is desirableor even possible. In order to "retrieve the critical and emancipatoryinterestfor
sociology" we must take into account the (changing) limits of humanity-of the subjectsand not only those of natureand technology, the other dominant(and also changing) "limits
of growth."
Smart concludes: "It is not so much the case that Marxiananalysis 'solves' all the
problems confronted within sociology as that it offers a way of understandingbetter the
natureof the problemsinvolved in doing a science of society because it begins by questioning
the 'given.' " But Marx did not bracketMarx, nor did he question the historicalrole of the
proletariat(as did, in different ways, Lenin, the Social Democratic Parties, and Marcuse).
Marx did not-could not-analyze the implications of Marxism for the actions of trade
unions, workers' parties, the state, and capitalists. Questioning the "given" today also

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Book Reviews / 1087


means questioning Marx. Smart's call for critical Marxian analysis is surely appropriate,
particularlyfor manyAmericansociologists. But we must not forget thatwe must go beyond
Marx-in our methods, in our theories, and in our practice.
REVOLUTION AND THE REVOLUTIONARY IDEAL.

By RobertBlackeyand CliffordPaynton. Cambridge:Schenkman, 1976. 295 pp.


Cloth $9.50; paper, $4.95.

Reviewer:WILLIAM

H. OVERHOLT,

Hudsont Instituteand Columbia University

This volume consists of five chaptersof theoreticalcommentaryon revolution followed by


sixteen chaptersof chronologicalaccountsof revolutionsand concepts of revolutionfrom the
ancientGreeksto the currentconflict in Africa.
The five theoretical chapters constitute one of the most disjointed collages of impressions of revolution currently available. The authors lump together as revolutions the
great revolutions, the Indian and Irish Independencerebellions, Latin Americancoups, and
the activities of JerryRubin and Abbie Hoffman. A chapteron "Violence and Strategy in
Revolution" jumps randomly among comments on violence, leadership, charisma, and
organization, confusing the reader while contributing nothing to our understandingof
violence in revolution. Strategyis ignoredexcept for brief referencesto Rubin and Hoffman.
Appropriately,in that chapter there is not a single footnote. Chapters on social institutions and sociological factors in revolutions are shallow and arbitrarilystructuredalmost
to the point of incoherence. Ideology, a subject presumablycentral to a volume on "The
RevolutionaryIdeal," is treatedwith the depth and cavalier style one would expect of a good
sophomoreexam paper. Relative deprivationis treatedsuperficiallyand uncritically.A final
theoreticalchapter on "Urbanization and Revolution" (an apparentlyarbitrarychoice for
extended treatment) provides the reader with what amounts to a newspaper reporter's
perceptionof urbanizationand its possible consequences for revolution, almost completely
ignoringthe extensive literatureavailable.
The history is somewhat better. The authors briefly outline the history of various
revolutionsand key aspects of revolutionarythought.Much of the summaryin these chapters
is competent, and its brevity would have been a virtue were it not accompaniedby superficiality. Superficialimages prevail. The authorshave no sense of the difference between the
theory and the actualprocess of the Russian Revolution, no comprehensionof the impactof
the Japanese invasion on the course of the Chinese revolution. Not one original thought
appears.The choice of revolutionscovered is governed by no identifiableprinciple, with the
New Left and the Irish Rebellion included as revolutions but revitalizationmovements and
premodernupheavalsin China and Japanexcluded. Likewise the balance of emphasis seems
totally arbitrary,with the Nazi revolution receiving two paragraphsand the adventuresof
Fidel Castroand Che Gueveratwo chapters.
The things this book does badly are done well elsewhere in work apparentlyunfamiliar
to the authors. The high points of the book are chapters on Marx and Lenin and to some
extent that on Mao, but unfortunatelyfor the authors these subjects have been treated
magnificentlyelsewhere. EdmundWilson's To the Finland Station (which appearsneitherin
footnotes nor in bibliographynor in substance)covers much of the same territoryincisively
and in delightful prose. Many of the images of revolution are addressedmore concisely and
more insightfullyin HannahArendt's On Revolution (a volume also apparentlyoutside the
authors'reading).
The authors'style, particularlyin the theoreticalchapters,is impreciseand full of the
facile generalizationsand silly tautologies of undergraduateblue books: we are told that the
ardorof old revolutionariesusually wanes and that "it is probably[sic] that without a weak
government and a shaky social structure, Castro would not have succeeded so easily."

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