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Roman Rybarski's Coping with Science


Academic year: 2021

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Janina Rosicka (Poland)


The turn o f the 19th and 20th centuries witnessed the appearance o f m any currents which slipped attem pts to classify them on the ground o f the custom ary and previously fo o lproof yardstick o f basic philosophy. M arxism , pragm atism , historism , psychologism, economism, vitalism, rationalism , empiriocriticism , scientism, relativism, nationalism , etc.— a medley o f all kinds o f varieties and com binations. Still, the eclectism seen in m any scholars resulted from the popularity o f cursory truths o f positivism rather th an from their precipitate absorption o f different schools’ tenets. In the situation o f th at time, some people chose to aband o n the study o f m etaphysical o r axiological issues and to forget questions which were notoriously inconvenient for scientific research. W hat they w anted was to get a breathing spell, a com prom ise they reconciled themselves to in the hope to regain their peace o f mind. T heir avowed objectiveness relieved them from the need to take sides with one o r another philosophical current, creating a dangerous illusion o f being beyond and above the reality aro und them.

But the very first year o f the 20th century brought with it yet ano ther dram atic change, as M ax Planck came forw ard with his qu antu m mechanics. Heisenberg’s Principle o f U ncertainty was soon to follow. N atu ral science began to nip at its N ew tonian-C artesian authority. Probabilism instead o f deter­ minism, the corpuscular and, at the same time, wave structure o f m atter, the noncontinuity o f m atter—all th a t shook an o rder o f truths which had been established for two centuries before that. All o f a sudden, people began to notice wrinkles on the scientific world outlook, indeed some thought they were seeing mythical features in it. Anti-scientism, an attitu de which had been aro u n d in European culture since W illiam Blake and G oethe, was gaining field.

All th at academ ic cacophony reinforced the dem and for some kind o f order. A ttitudes suggested by relativism o r historism were soon gaining in popularity am ong intellectuals. Each epoch has its own justifications and its own value systems, and th a t is why each epoch should be judged against its own fram e of


reference— a tru th which was emphasized by D ilthey and D urkheim alike. Le Bon studied crowd psychology, G. Sorel preached the gospel of universal strike, and J. G. Fraser studied superstitions. It was to those people th at irrationalism owed its trium ph, b oth as a social force and as a key to understanding the real world.

The dispute over w hat science essentially was had, ap art from its philosoph­ ical dimension, a political aspect. As the m yth o f social engineering was having its heyday right after W orld W ar I, ideology took the place o f science. T h at was as significant a breakthrough as the substitution o f science for religion by the Enlightenm ent. The dispute abo ut the future o f the world was taken over by ideologies, above all socialism and nationalism . The socialists’ rom antic frame of m ind m ade them w ant to change the world in the nam e o f universal hum an ideals, and science was to be responsible for rationalizing those ideals. N ationalism , which underlined its specific character, was forced to reject the optim istic vision o f science previously offered by liberalism and socialism.

The Polish dispute abo u t science took the form o f a discussion between the “ R om antics” and the “ Positivists.” Poland’s nationalists (N arodow a D em okra­ cja) represented a positivist attitude, underlining the scarcity of available means and the overriding im portance o f the state’s needs. Socialists, for their part, called for an unbridled developm ent o f science as a m anifestation o f m an’s creative m ind. Those were m ostly shallow discussions, confined as they were to a crude opposition between spontaneous creation and tough requirem ents o f real life.

F o r the “ Positivists,” the m ost outspoken exposition was provided by R om an Rybarski, econom ist and historian, one o f the chief ideologists and politicians o f N ational D em ocracy.1 In this contribution, I wish to outline R ybarski’s scholarly studies in the context o f the political dispute over the shape o f doctrine. I begin with his attitude tow ards research activity as one of different kinds o f social behaviour, to proceed to a discussion o f his contributions to the disciplines in which he worked (political economy, economic history, history o f

1 R om an Rybarski was born in Z ator on July 3, 1887. A fter graduation from the faculty o f law at C racow University, he w ent for a tw o-year sabbatical to England, France, Italy and the U nited States. In 1913, he finished his courses for an academ ic degree in political econ om y under Professor W. Czerkaw ski’s supervision, and in 1916, at the age o f only 29, he w as appointed professor o f C racow U niversity. H e w as a member o f the Polish delegation to the 1919 peace conference. He served as U nder Secretary o f State with the M inistry for the Form er Prussian-held Polish Territories, as D epu ty Treasury M inister in W. Grabski’s Cabinet, as deputy to the Polish parliament (the Sejm), and N ational D em ocratic caucus whip. F rom 1921 onw ards he lectured at W arsaw Technical U niversity, and in 1924 he w as appointed professor o f finance at W arsaw U niversity. H e held the last-nam ed jo b till the outbreak o f the war, w hile also serving as dean o f his department. Apart from his scholarly b ook s, he w rote several hundred articles on political issues (he had a w eekly colum n in G azeta W arszaw ska, for exam ple). H e was a first-rate speaker. H e spoke seven languages. Arrested on M ay 18, 1941, and held in the W arsaw prison Pawiak, he died o f typhoid fever at the A uschwitz concentration cam p, probably on M arch 6 ,1 9 4 2 (the G erm ans gave pneum onia as the cause o f death to his family).


economic ideas, sociology), and lastly to look at the relationship between his attitude as scholar and his political views.


His 1926 book called Nation, Individual, Class is am ong his best. H e attacked the Enlightenm ent concept o f science but also presented his own views system atical­ ly. Rybarski regarded science as a process in history. T hat view o f his was supported by his conviction abo u t science’s essential lack o f autonom y. As he treated science instrum entally, Rybarski constantly cautioned against forgetting th at judgem ents claiming to be scientific propositions are very limited in their validity. He watched the real world from the angle o f the old opposition between tradition and rationalism which dated back to the epoch o f Enlightenm ent. It was the 18th century th at challenged tradition in favour o f education, while the intellectual elite o f the time, dom inated by rationalists as it was, tried to m ake others similar to itself and, with time, also to tell the world to listen to reason. T hat was how the cult o f science began, when science was regarded as a panacea for all hum an failings. But th a t aspiration led to a degeneration o f science. Science increasingly became centered on itself, trying to box all the m ultifarious m anifestations o f the real world into its own rational categories.

Religious fanaticism was to be superseded by scientific fanaticism . Science’s potential was overrated and abused. Science failed to supply answers to questions which are being answered by religion, and the perpetual metaphysical problem s which have always faced m an rem ained unresolved. The Enlighten­ m ent’s optim istic equation o f intellectual with m oral progress proved to have been a mistake. Science cannot become m ankind’s guide, because it failed to prove itself in any o f the roles assigned to it by the Enlightenm ent— as um pire, as benefactor, as adviser.

Rationalism , universalism, individualism — all these ideas propagated by liberalism and utilitarianism p urp o rt to use science in order to impose a unidim ensional picture o f civilization upon the world. Referring to natural laws, they set rigid abstractions against the living history and trad ition o f the particular societies. In the name o f abstractions, they urge people to stand up against social institutions which em body the accom plishm ents and the wisdom o f m any generations. Says Rybarski, “ It is difficult to do anything for the abstraction ‘m ankind,’ because a brutal kind o f egoism soon shows its ugly face from behind a pretence o f hum anitarianism .” 2 A bstractions have no mobilizing power, requiring no heroism from those involved. Rationalism is fascinated with its vision o f a completely m echanical world where “ there is no m oral ideal but only m oral necessity, no creative policy-making b u t merely routine m anipulation [...] in such conditions, isn’t life going to lose all m eaning when m an is m ade to


feel like little m ore than a tiny little wheel in a huge mill ?” 3 If science is recognized as a creative force capable o f subordinating the real world to itself, then we will try to create a rationalized Wellsian world w ithout m oral standards, w ithout random ness, w ithout mysteries.

Pointing at the constraints implicit in an idolatrous veneration o f science, Rybarski contents him self with showing th at such an attitude leads to nowhere. By th a t Rybarski did n o t mean to refute rationalism in general. Science cannot possibly cease to be rational, for otherwise it would lose its reason o f existence. R ybarski attacks rationalism for the sake o f rationalism , the form er kind of rationalism being a vision o f the real world and the latter just a m ethod. A vision o f the world— no, thank you. A vision o f m ethod—yes, by all means. Tw entieth-century science m ust abdicate all its illegitimate claims, renounce its disposition to take control o f all the world. Science should satisfy itself with its right to com m ent on events and facts, and a com m ent which should always be m odest. Above all, science should satisfy itself with the provision o f facts, and it should put up with the tru th that the evaluation o f facts is already a highly debatable exercise.


R ybarski’s attitude tow ards science was partly ambivalent. On the one hand, he lashed out against science regarded as a rationalized ideal, sometimes going as far as to deplore it as the num ber-one public enemy. On the other hand, though, he engaged in the particular disciplines with great passion, m ostly in history and economics, bu t also in finance adm inistration, sociology, or political science. He respected the autonom ous status o f those disciplines. W hat he sought to achieve was less a synthesis than a desire to get as m uch knowledge as possible. T hat attitu de o f his was one concequence o f his instrum ental approach towards science. Rybarski, toeing the positivists in th at respect, attributed to science inform ation and praxiological functions, saying th at w hat the m aterial science was using was contained in “facts.”

R ybarski’s attitude tow ards economic science evolved as time went by. If he looked back at the 27 years which elapsed between his first book on economics (1912) and his last one (1939), he could see he did m anage to do w hat he had set o ut to do right from the beginning, namely to find such a form o f economic science which w ould set up a possibly close link between economic practice and economic theory.

D uring the storm y seven years between 1912 and 1919, R ybarski published three studies4 dealing with the m odel o f homo oeconomicus, the notion of

3 Ibid., p. 24.

4 T hey were N au ka o przedm iocie gospodarstw a społecznego [The Su bject-m atter o f Economics] o f 1912, W artość wymienna ja k o m iara b ogactw a [Exchange Value as the M easure o f Wealth] o f 1914, and Idea gospodarstw a narodowego [The Idea o f a N ation al Economy] o f 1919, all published in Cracow.


“ wealth” and th at o f „national econom y.” In his fou rth b o o k ,5 he gave expression to his own particular frame o f mind as he tried to melt together the views propounded by the neoclassical and the psychological schools. Rybarski believed economic analysis should in the first place establish the given n a tio n ’s specific degree o f developm ent along with the specific form ula o f economic m anagem ent, and only afterw ards should econom ists concern themselves with practical m atters. T h at particular study is perhaps a bit chaotically arranged, and the au th o r repeatedly rem inds readers th a t his rem arks on such or other m atters concern only one in m any possible aspects. Nevertheless Rybarski does seem to have regarded the old classical and laissez-faire prescriptions as unquestionably one-sided and thought the historical and the psychological dimensions were at least as significant as those ones.

In 1924— 1939, R ybarski’s fundam ental w ork appears in print, the three- volume System o f Political Economy. It is n ot a hom ogeneous w ork, and its final shape m ust undoubtedly have been influenced by his reflections to be found in the N ation,6 In the first volume o f the w ork (o f 1924), Rybarski still expounded the view— which was shared by the other “ nationalistic” economists, i.e. Stanislaw G rabski and Stanislaw Gl^biriski— th at economic history and eco­ nomic theory are m utually com plem entary. In the subsequent volumes he found there was no sm ooth passage from economic history to economic theory. Already in the second volume (called Theory o f National Economy o f 1930), Rybarski m entions “ the narrow bounds o f theory” several times. His acute analyses o f categories proposed by theorists o f the time could be underw ritten by m any a m ethodologist even today. He once m ore avowed th at feeling ab o u t a “ narrow interpretation o f economic phenom ena by theory” at the beginning o f the third volume (Socio-economic Psychology o f 1939). T h at evolution o f his views can be sensed during a perusal o f his fundam ental trilogy. Volumes one and three are relatively easy to read, namely economic history and psychology, respectively. But the intervening volume is obviously tedious, and perhaps less to readers than the au th o r himself. Rybarski had an easy style. He had a knack for conveying his enthusiasm on paper, writing with verve, and never forgetting th at the argum ent should always be lucid. In the volum e on economic theory, tellingly, his fervour obviously flags, the pace o f his argum ent slows, and Rybarski again and again reminds his readers th a t all th at is ju st theory.

5 W artość, ka p ita ł dochód [Value, Capital, Income], W arsaw, 1922.

6 In 1924, he published the first volum e o f a trilogy on the developm ent o f the econ om y and o f econ om ic theories (R ozw ój życ ia gospodarczego i idei gospodarczych) ann oun cing his plan to publish soon thereafter a general theory o f political econ om y and a book o n national econ om ic policy. H ow ever, it was only six years later— in 1930— that the Theory o f N ation al Econom y [Teoria gospodarstw a społecznego] appeared, and it took another nine years for Socio-Econom ic P sych ology to appear (1939). T he delay, as well as the changed titles, were undoubtedly caused by his reflections in the N ation [Naród] o f 1926.


T h at is n o t so much indicative o f a neglectful attitude tow ards economics as o f the awareness that th at particular stage o f study cannot possibly be bypassed, the way everyone should first be sent to a kindergarten. Theory, in R ybarski’s eyes, is ju st a necessary introduction to the proper considerations. The ideology o f liberalism on which economic theory was based was regarded by Rybarski as a “ bagful o f generalities” which can be “ babbled about no end.” Rybarski felt ham pered in his straitjacket o f economic theorist. He resented being confined to rational actions. But m ost o f all, he was annoyed to see th at actually nothing could be added to those sophisticated considerations.

W hy, then, did he not repudiate economic theory, which he accused of narrow-m indedness, o f hypostasizing, or o f rem oteness from real life ? The answer is easy— Rybarski kept history in reserve. R egarding economy as the ideal o f economic behaviours, Rybarski confronted economic theory with real life through history. Econom ic theory should not juggle with figures. The economy is not just a m achine churning out products b ut a complex structure involving different, sometimes even contradictory, possibilities. Culture is a continuous process in which old elements are constantly mingling with new ones, past with present and future elements all exist side by side with one another. History alone can m ake us aware o f the wealth o f economic facts, while history of ideas can show how m ankind was construing the inform ation implicit in those facts as time went by.

H istory, according to positivists, should confine itself to the recording o f facts. Rybarski stood firmly by th at injunction. His studies in economic history abounded in docum ented facts, and statistical figures account for more or less 75% o f the text. The a u th o r himself, never one to put him self in the limelight, talks in the style o f a disengaged narrator. The reader gets direct insight into the historian’s body o f m aterials. He can check the a u th o r’s estimates for himself, and he can also try to interpret the figures in his own m anner. Only the concluding chapter o f a dozen or so pages provides an all-embracing and balanced summing-up. A gainst the backdrop o f other historians o f the interw ar period, who often gave vent to their prejudices, Rybarski stands out by his all-but Olympian calm and distance, which stands in stark contrast to his views expressed in economic and political pamphlets. While those pam phlets have since then grown a bit o ut o f date, R ybarski’s historical studies have benefited and gained enduring virtue owing to th at attitude o f his. Indeed, those studies can now be used as surrogates o f docum entary m aterials for archives which perished during hostilities in W orld W ar II.

It took Rybarski 19 years, after the appearance of his first historical study,7 to publish the next one, but after th at he regularly and at brief intervals churned out next studies8 in the history o f finance, o f which he was professor at W arsaw

7 Sprawa włościańska na Sejm ie w roku 1831 [The Peasant Question a t the Sejm in 1831], 8 T hey were H andel i p o lityk a handlowa P olski w X V I stuleciu [Polish Trade and Trade P olicy in the 16th Century], tw o volum es, Poznań, 1929 ; G ospodarstwo K sięstw a O św ięcim skiego w X V I wieku


University. He strongly hoped to be able to fill the gaps in the history of pre-partition Poland. He completed the jo b with a history of the reign of the Vasa dynasty during the war, but th at study has unfortunately perished.9 A t the same time, Rybarski did im portant research in finance theory. His History o f

Finance, 10 which sums up his university lectures, has been hailed as a “ perfect

college textbook, alm ost a classic in its kind” 11 and it has n o t forfeited th at reputation to this day.

The true context o f historical processes can be reached only through the history o f economic ideas, which was regarded as one o f the m ost im portant economic disciplines by Rybarski. The study o f economic ideas held by people in previous centuries shows how m ankind reacted to economic and other facts, how it interpreted them and w hat actions it considered right in specific situations.

R ybarski’s observations concerning the history o f economic ideas are interesting indeed. He impresses the reader with his ability to see m atters in all their aspects, to notice links between different political or economic events on the one hand and the cursory ideas on the other, and also with his refusal to yield to the tem ptation o f easy m onocausal explanations. M any currents m ake up the picture o f economic life. It is im p o rtan t to acknowledge both those facts which concern directly production processes such as size o f capital, financial ac­ cum ulation ability or technological advancem ent at the m om ent, b u t also ideas, and not merely purely economic ones but also m oral ideas, religious ideas, fashion trends, wide-spread custom s, etc. N either the “ directly” economic facts n o r the ideas will by themselves suffice to account for the phenom enon o f economic life. But taken together they m ake up a system o f “ economic facts” and m ake it easier to understand past epochs. R ybarski repudiates the M arxist view o f history which says theory is “merely a passive secondary reflection o f changes which take place in the economic system.” 12 In his plea for the autonom ous character o f economic ideas, Rybarski shows how m uch depends on people themselves, on the wisdom o f politicians, b u t also on fortune, th at is, on whether or not a given idea appears at “ the right tim e.”

[Economic Life in the Oświęcim Duchy in the 16th Century], Cracow , 1931 ; W ielickie żu p y solne w latach 1497— 1594 [The Salines o f W ieliczka, 1497— 1594], W arsaw, 1932 ; L es finances de la Pologne a I’epoque des partages, Cracovie, 1935 ; K red yt i lichwa w E konom ii Sam borskiej w X V III wieku [Credit and Usury in the Sam bor A rea in the 18th Century], Lwów, 1936 ; Skarbow ość P olski w dobie rozbiorów [Polish Finances during the P eriod o f the P artitions], Cracow , 1937; S karb i pien iądz z a Jana K azim ierza, M ichała K orybuta i Jana III [The Treasury and Finances during the Reigns o f Jan K azim ierz, M ichał K orybut and Jan III], W arsaw, 1939.

9 This is stated by J. Rutkow ski in his obituary published in K w artalnik H istoryczn y 1939— 45, p. 595.

10 The first 192-page edition was entitled Skarbow ość [The Financial S ystem ] W arsaw, 1927. In 1933, Bratnia Pom oc published N auka skarbow ości [The D octrine o f Finance] o f 290 pages, a second edition o f which in 1935 had 398 pages including four appendices.

11 S. Zaleski, “ R om an R ybarski,” Ekonom ista, 1947, p. 157 (obituary).

12 R ozw ój życia gospodarczego i idei gospodarczych (vol. one o f S ystem ekonom ii p olityczn ej), W arsaw, 1924, p. 106.


R ybarski’s study o f departures from rules o f economic theory, and his abdication o f the kind o f inquiry which is described in the first volume o f his fundam ental trilogy where the prim ary jo b was to explain the m utual relation between ideas and economic facts, led him eventually to the question of

Socio-economic Psychology in the third volume. In it he said economic history

and economic theory do not cover all economic life. He underlined the im portance o f the “collective m ind” in “ practical life and in the state’s economic policy” and set out to study the motives behind economic behaviours and, conversely, the effect different form s o f economic activity can have on hum an behaviour. He also acknowledged possible effects o f noneconom ic factors (family, caste, class, religion, race, nationality).

R ybarski’s psychological economics had nothing in com m on with the A ustrian school. Charging the A ustrian school with being too one-sided and equating the psychological aspect o f m atters with their subjective form , Rybarski proposed his own, broader, sociological approach to the subject. This way, his

Psychology became a sociological study on the effect economic and noneconomic

values have on economic behaviour. The title o f the third volume is due to R ybarski’s dislike o f speculative sociology which is dom inated by “ quacks”— a feeling, incidentally, Rybarski shared with Florian Z naniecki.13Both wanted an empirical kind o f sociology concentrating on the study o f social facts.

R ybarski’s m ost interesting observations concern the role o f work. He regrets the falling dem and for skilled w orkers, saying that standardization and batch production are depriving work o f all fun. Technological progress, according to Rybarski, m ust n o t be frowned upon, but then there was no ignoring the fact that the grow th o f rationality (in W eber’s m eaning) leads to a degeneration o f the role of work. There is no way changing th a t state of things radically, for “ Economic democracy in a hoax,” 14 and the only effect o f collectivization is the growing im portance o f large business enterprises.

The decisive role in the world today is played by the nation, meaning a melting pot in which all elements, including economic ones, are brought together. Studying the tendency o f different economic structures to become similar to one another, Rybarski concluded the growing economic similarities entailed no analogous grow th o f international solidarity. He also expressed the view th at “ people are connected through different elements. The weakest o f all perhaps is the economic interest.” 15

Rybarski focused all his attention on economic institutions’ destructive effect. In his view, the rationalization o f the economic sphere tends to spread over other areas. A person w ho is guided by economic interests changes into a r o b o t;

13 Cf. F. Znaniecki, “Potrzeby socjologii w P olsce” [“The N eed s o f Sociology in P olan d”], N auka P olska, 1929, vol. 10, pp. 286— 298.

14 Psychologia społeczno-gospodarcza (volum e three o f System ekonom ii p olityczn ej), W arsaw, 1939, p. 169.


a n ation gradually forfeits its cultural identity; and social ties tend to weaken. The Psychology is pervaded with the R ybarski’s skepticism ab o u t the pos­ sibilities o f the econom y as a progress-generating force and as a dom ain o f creative work. R ybarski attacked the then dom inating m odel o f econom ic life accusing it o f the same faults he had earlier ascribed to science. Universalism (the tendency o f nations to become similar to one another), individualism (which weakens social ties), am orality and rationality are all factors which prevent m an from becoming truly hum an, do not let m an’s natural disposition to express itself fully, and degenerate the hum an race.


W here is the road to a better future then ? F o r Rybarski, looking for a new shape o f science m eant discovering some kind o f nonscientific auth ority which could im part m eaning to intellectual undertakings. Rybarski found th at in politics, which is not “ the a rt o f applying old prescriptions and m eticulous stencils but a truly noble a rt which only creative minds can m aster.” 16 Politics basically is to reach to the depths o f a n atio n ’s indigenous energies and to w ork for their release. The chief boundary line between science and politics, then, is creative work. Science does not possess th at specific quality, for in the best o f cases its role am ounts to an impassive photographing o f the real world. Science is unable to understand a phenom enon such as life which “ has value owing to creative w ork, owing to the fact th a t next to science there is room for creative a rt in the broadest sense o f the term, th a t is, also for social a rt.” 17 If creative w ork is an attrib ute o f the nation, then politics is the tool the nation uses to choose from different possibilities, interests and ideals which exist side by side at the time. T h at choice “ is no t an act o f scientific truth but an act o f will, an expression o f needs o f a given com m unity determ ined by all kinds o f factors.” 18The cult o f science is essentially the transfer o f responsibility each politician owes to his n ation onto shoulders o f scientists, it is a shedding o f their m oral responsibility and hence an endorsem ent o f the existence o f evil in history and o f individuals’ am oral nature.

Rybarski stood up against the choices imposed upon him by his epoch. He did not think m uch o f the idea o f solidarity or o f a rom antic adulation o f history, to say nothing ab o u t the cult o f science. C aught between the Scylla o f the rom antic m yth and the Charybdis o f rational science, Rybarski repudiated both possibilities, w anting neither the cult o f m yth nor the cult o f science. W hat was left then ? R ationalized m yth, th at is, rationalism as a critical m ethod o f studying the real world, and “de-mystified” m yth, th at is, the Polish people with all its faults and virtues as an autotelic value. R ybarski’s nationalism grew up from a need to resist sym ptom s o f m oral fall interpreted no t only as an external threat

lfi Ibid.. p. 358. 17 N arod..., p. 7. 18 Ibid.. p. 31.


to Polishness (alien cultures, ethnic m inorities) but also as an internal threat which he saw in harm ful m yths spread by Rom anticism and deliberately nourished by pro-G overnm ent forces (the sanacja).

N ationalism viewed the individual as a hum an being deeply rooted in history, with strong ties to the national com m unity through the national culture and its unique tradition-bound social institutions. T h at ideology enabled alienated individuals to identify themselves with the com m unity, being the only remedy against the D urkheim anomie Rybarski repeatedly m entioned in the Nation, which is indicative o f an absence o f em otional social ties. His, then, was a nationalism in the Anglo-Saxon variety, a kind o f nationalism which is critical o f its own nation and open for the future which m ust not am ount exclusively to the im plem entation of tasks passed on by tradition but which is an art— the art of m aking choices in a changing reality.19

R ybarski’s nationalism is a protest against the belief that m odernization is a rational process dictated by the laws of reason and therefore proceeding in keeping with universal rules. Rybarski concedes that that process can only partly be rational. The reason o f the Enlightenm ent invented abstractions such as Society, M an, N ature, im parting the same form on them, a “ n a tu ra l” one, while m aking its m ost sublime epitome, namely science, the fundam ental force which sets into w hat is a clearly progressive m otion all those abstractions. The shaken faith in the autom atic character o f progress gave birth anew to the question ab ou t the clockw ork o f history. N ationalism supplied the answer to that question— it was the internal forces o f each nation which led to the appearance of differences between nations. Each nation pursuing its own specific course contributed to welfare in the world. T h at m oderate brand o f nationalism was essentially a nationalistic variety o f liberalism, som ething also like a theory of com parative costs which transposed individual behaviours into entire nations.

Rybarski was fascinated with politics, and the exercise o f science was for him a m eans tow ards a supreme goal, namely the choice o f the civilization which would be m ost prop er and m ost necessary for Poland. Actually he could have done with economics to form ulate a political and economic programme. However, he wanted m ore than that. He had a visionary’s im agination : he w anted a Poland which would be culturally hom ogeneous, a country of num erous “ autonom ous economic actors” pursuing the m ost desirable road of developm ent for the Polish national character. His m ost favourite pastime was to

lp H e recognized the rate o f growth w as bound to flag because o f the deep crisis o f the econom y which was based on the idea o f free enterprise. The future world will be divided econom ically, as some nations will prefer econom ic freedom and others econ om ic planning. Rybarski him self was convinced o f free eco n o m y ’s superiority, but he thought the laissez-faire doctrine in its “pure” shape as untenable. A system based up on econ om ic freedom should coexist side by side with the state’s wise econ om ic policy. In the case o f Poland, that should be a long-term policy, and the Governm ent should take it as a principal responsibility to educate society to respect values such as reliability and perseverance which are typically em bodied in the middle class.


look for Polishness. N ationalism m ade Rybarski penetrate the history o f Polish culture and institutions which are specific for the Polish people.

Rybarski, unlike m ost economists, does n ot see the ideal in a rich country but in one which is civilized, realizing the values history has attributed to it and, on account o f that, different from other ones and at the same time com plem enting m ankind's general heritage. Rybarski feared the economic factor m ay suppress the diversity o f social values. Fortunately, culture defends m ankind against the rationalized brave-new-world kind o f society o f robots. Social psychology should take advantage o f economic history and economic theory to produce som ething like a d raft socio-economic culture o f the given nation.

Rybarski him self m ade an attem pt to produce such a d raft project in two studies, namely in The World Econom y’s Future (1932) and The Polish E conom y’s

Future (1933). He envisioned the future in terms o f the Toynbeean challenge

facing the nation. The correct interpretation o f that challenge was a politician’s responsibility, but a scholar could help in that, and Rybarski, who m ade no secret o f his fear th at the forecast m ay be wrong after all, tried nonetheless to predict the future o f the world and to indicate developm ent trends in Poland.


It was Vilfredo Pareto who influenced Rybarski m ore deeply than anyone else. Pareto was aware o f the limited validity o f economic theory and realized that a science based on the concept o f the homo oeconomicus stood no chance at all. He pointed at the variety o f economic phenom ena which were inexplicable in terms o f economic theory. He recognized th at sociology alone can describe what is ultimately an incongruous real world, which accounts for the definition of sociology as the study o f nonlogical facts. Yet despite these reservations Rybarski viewed economics as a discipline helping us to detect perm anent behaviours in the economic world (residues). Rybarski went even further than that, questioning those residues as hypostases (fictitious notions). H e defined the subject o f social psychology similarly as Pareto had defined his sociology.

As for historism, R ybarski undoubtedly subscribed to m ost o f it, referring to W eber’s or Som bart’s findings. But the difference was th a t he refuted relativism, especially the ethical one, as well as the general attitu de tow ards the past. Historism urged people to study the past in order to com prehend it, but it did not take up m atters connected with the future as a m atter o f principle, som ething which certainly is not true o f the a u th o r o f The World Econom y’s Future. His use o f the accom plishm ents o f the historical school was a m atter o f practice rather than principle or doctrine. The body o f his views was perhaps m ost close o f all to those o f M ax W eber who regarded economics .as an inalienable part o f sociology, applied classifications, recom mended a fully rational approach tow ards phenom ena, and to bring them gradually closer subsequently tow ards the real shape. He also attached great im portance to the discovery o f m otives o f


behaviour. Any attem pt to class Rybarski with the historical m ovem ent stumbles n o t only over the obstacle o f his futurologist interests but also over the fact that his studies contain none o f those historiosophical speculations which are so typical o f the historical school.

As for the other schools o f thought o f his time, Rybarski took a reserved position. Deriding the psychological school as not psychological enough, he was also well aware o f the limits o f neoclassical economics. He sympathized with institutionalism : he quoted Wesley C. M itchell as an authority, and he devoted some space to a discussion o f Veblen’s Theory o f the Leisure Class, but he does not really seem to have relished th at particular kind o f economic analysis.

Pareto, Dilthey, W eber, historism — all these do not suffice to describe the specific features o f R ybarski’s writings. His argum ent undoubtedly had a pecu­ liar m ark which was specifically his own. This is seen above all in the Nation and in the Socio-economic Psychology. He went along the road indicated by Pareto, expanding economics with a sociologically orientated kind o f psychology. But whereas Pareto did write a Treatise on Sociology, Rybarski contented himself with his System o f Political Economy. His trilogy was concluded with the m ost original w ork o f all, pointing at one area which had not been penetrated before and which was undoubtedly im portant for economic behaviours. F o r Rybarski, the entire body o f economics is composed o f the history o f economy and of economic ideas, economic theory, as well as psychology with elements of sociology. T h at particular insatiable hunger for describing things from all conceivable points o f view is w hat distinguishes him from his contem poraries in economic research. A nother distinctive feature is his social, or even sociological, approach tow ards psychology along with certain anthropological findings.

The sim ultaneous study o f m any disciplines was to be a step forw ard on the road tow ards restoring the proper status to science. If the p roper study o f science is life itself with all its abundance o f forms, then the m ore points o f view we take in studying it, the greater our chance o f com ing closer to truth. Rybarski believed the lim itations could be overcome by the diversity o f social sciences each o f which should preserve its autonom y. In his personal ranking o f im portance, economic theory was at the bottom , history was halfway up the ladder, and sociology (social psychology) crow ned it all. H istory was the discipline Rybarski had the least reservations abou t o f all. As for economics, he accused it o f excessive abstractionism and individualism, and sociology o f quackery. Social psychol­ ogy, which should replace sociology, was his greatest hope. Economic theory supplies us with a description o f behaviours o f rational “ actors o f national econom y” showing the individualistic aspect o f the world, H istory m ust be credited with the ability to dem onstrate the involved nature o f social conscious­ ness and o f teaching people to be critical in their attitudes. The richness o f real life is visible in the specific features o f national cultures, in various economic and political facts. H istory dem onstrates the uniqueness o f hum an actions, econom ­ ics describes the econom y in its practical aspect, whereas social psychology supplies politicians with knowledge which is indispensable for them. History


detects deviations from rational behaviour, and it is operating close to the level o f concreteness ; economics bases its argum ent entirely on hypostases ; and so the only truly instrum ental discipline is social psychology, because it includes elements o f social engineering.

D id R ybarski’s suggested a road open to a new line o f economic research ? The socio-psychological line in m odern econom y is no t lessening, it has its em inent spokesm en too. One o f them began to w ork sim ultaneously with R ybar­ ski trying, after the G reat Depression, to create a discipline he called economic psychology. He is G eorge K ato n a, au th o r o f the Psychological Analysis o f

Economic Behavior (1951), who concentrated his attention on people’s motives

and on circumstances amidst which people learn different behaviours. New vistas are opened for psychology and sociology in application to economic facts and processes by H arry Lebenstein (Beyond Economic Man. A New Foundation

fo r Microeconomics, 1976) or K enneth F. Boulding (Economics as a Science,

1970). Sociopsychological doctrines, above all th a t o f E. M ayo the a u th o r o f a first systematic study o f hum an relations, are quickly absorbed and utilized by economics. M any m ore examples could be cited. The socio-psychological current is producing a num ber o f interesting ideas both for economic practice and theory. Rybarski, therefore, can safely be recognized as one o f the Polish fathers o f sociopsychology, next to Stanislaw Ossowski, who was w orking on a study called Some Questions in Social Psychology during W orld W ar II, which however appeared in print only in 1967. D ue to the vicissitudes o f history, R ybarski’s study came ou t too early, while Ossowski’s boo k appeared too late.

O f his two personalities—as politician and as academ ic— th a t o f politician undoubtedly was the d om inant factor in R ybarski’s life. Politics, in his own outlook, was the peak o f hum an activity, for politics m eant the furthering o f the people’s aspirations. Science was merely instrum ental in that. Science is ju st a tool people use to describe the real world by presenting facts. Science’s im portance m ust no t be overrated, for it is the em anation o f only one o f m an ’s indigenous powers. Science can n ot save the w orld above all because it cannot im part m eaning to hum an life, while a judicious national policy-m aking can do that. M an is a being governed by em otions who has a desire o f the metaphysical. M an can find satisfaction of th a t desire o f his in religion, as well as on the road of rediscovering his own individuality within his national com m unity. Science can merely suggest a way to do that, it can supply him with the necessary intelligence, because science is confined to praxiological actions. “ Science can say w hat consequences will result from taking a poison [...] b ut it cannot tell people, ‘Follow this goal, n o t th at one : A nd, science will n o t be able to persuade the unconvinced by its scientific m ethod.” 20

A hard-w orking erudite, R ybarski was sophistically skeptical in his a r­ guments. Life cannot be squeezed into narrow scientific categories and there are no answers at h and to surprises life tends to bring with it. Science is basically


a system o f m utually opposite approaches. The best thing, accordingly, is for economics to be historical, praxiological and psychological at the same time, to become eventually political economy. Rybarski exploits the opposition between historism and liberalism, between the R om antic tradition and the Positivist tradition, between politics and science. It is a head-over-heels kind o f scholarly tennis in which one m an hits back all the balls in a game which is actually a double and the m an m oreover w ants to display truly Diltheyan qualities such as intellect, em otions and will.


D oubts abou t the role o f science circulating in his epoch were probably articulated m ore persuasively by M ax W eber in his renowned Vocation fo r

Science (1919) than by anyone else. Science is an em bodim ent o f “ intellectual

rationalization” , a tool used to “demystify” the world. W hat used to be called “ progress” basically does n o t go beyond technology or everyday practical life. Science cannot tell us how we should live, and it cannot take up existential questions. Accordingly, from the angle o f hum an culture (in th at W eber refers to Lev T olstoi’s philosophy o f culture) science m akes no sense at all because the rational nature o f progress logically rules o ut death. W hy should science be cultivated at all ? Since science is no autotelic value, it m ust n o t be expected to provide an answer to a question form ulated in such a m anner. It is necessary to go beyond the boundaries science itself has set to find a solution “ in keeping with one’s own ultim ate outlook on life.” W eber thus articulated the principal opposition inherent in the idea o f science typical o f the form er h alf of the 20th century, namely the opposition between progress and rationalization ; science is either a tool o f progress, an autonom ous creative force, or it merely helps us to understand the w orld aro u nd us better.

W hether som ebody subscribed to socialism or to liberalism, the 19th century scientific tradition rem ained unaffected. To a liberal, science was a value in itself as a factor o f progress ; to a socialist, science appeared to be the epitome of hum an creative activity which accounted for science’s great prestige in society. A nationalist was critically-m inded a b o u t science, because he rejected liberalism and socialism alike along with their concom itant value systems. The nationalist repudiation o f science had therefore prim arily a political dimension. T hat act therefore was running parallelly to the chain o f changes touched off by physics at the tu rn o f the century which changed the picture and m ethods o f science, indirectly strengthening them.

N ationalism found a theoretical backing for its fight against science in positivism as well as in writings o f the tw o.G erm an historical schools (the older and the younger). Borrowings from positivism included the attitude tow ards particular disciplines, which were recognized as autonom ous fields o f knowl­ edge ; a scientistic ideal o f science along with a refutation o f the doctrine th at science as such exists as something over and above particular disciplines. Respect


for culture, a strong emphasis in research upon differences existing between different cultures, a relativism o f concepts— these were all borrow ings from G erm an historicism.

R ybarski’s work reflects all am bivalent attitudes which were aro u n d during his epoch. F o r him, nation was an unquestionable value, and politics an invaluable tool. In his Nation Rybarski banned science for its different unfounded claims and its desire to dom inate all walks o f hum an life. R ybarski’s views were in line with the principal current o f criticism against science. The attack on science— which was called sarcastically “ the deity o f the 20th century” by Pareto— was for Rybarski prim arily an attack on rationalism and liberalism. Accordingly, economy was bound to become the chief adversary because, in line with liberal principles, it was to be the fundam ental social science. H istory and sociology, on the other hand, were to be elevated.

How did Rybarski set out to do th at ? G enerally, by ignoring the significance of economic theory while underlining the im portance o f economic history and social psychology. T h at particular attitude o f his caused certain ambiguities, though. In his Nation, Rybarski rejected the aspiration to produce a synthesis o f all disciplines. But in his economic trilogy he was no longer as consistent as that. His Social Psychology tries to overstep the borderline draw n by nationalism . In that book Rybarski obviously tries to drift tow ards a synthesis on the basis o f historical, geographical, anthropological, economic and sociological findings. W ould th at have m eant he was turning his back on w hat he said in the Nation ? This question will not be answered, as only R ybarski’s next books could supply it. Still, it does seem he regarded psychology as som ething like a paraphilosophy, a science em bracing different fields and describing the diversity o f the hum an world o f values.

Rybarski died in the spring o f 1942 in Auschwitz at the age o f 55. He had published 33 books. M aterials for a thirty-fourth have perished.


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