By Joseph H. Bunzel
In principle I am no friend of classifying sociology by national schools. 1 This is especially true of present-day work, with its intertwined rapid communication and its frequently unoriginal eclecticism. Only too often such articles read like the telephone directory of a city that you will never visit and probably do not wish to visit. However, having accepted the assignment it seems imperative to return to the origins and the wellsprings of, in our case, Austrian sociology, one of the seminal European sociologisms, deeply steeped in the tradition of legal, natural scientific realism.
Austrian sociology as such is probably one of the least known of all national schools. Its founder, Ludwig Gumplowicz, is usually counted as a social Darwinist. Moreover, he is claimed by Poland, 2 and in the review by Durkheim, 3 is referred to as a German sociologist. Recent interest in him and his work in this country centers largely on two misunderstandings: (a) that Gumplowicz was a racist in the sense in which the word is understood nearly one hundred years later in the United States, and (b) that he is a representative, if not the founder, of conflict theory in sociology--well known, of course, in philosophy--again in the sense in which is has been accepted and is being used by neo-, pseudo-, and crypto-Marxists of today. Neither is correct. His importance for sociology lies in his stress on the group as the proper study for sociology and in his legal and political work, especially his trail-blazing studies in administrative law. This of course entails a good bit of conflict- theoretical thinking but nothing of the extent of his great adversary Marx. Gumplowicz's major disciple was Gustav Ratzenhofer, who has made a lasting impression on the early Chicago school. 4
There seems to be no unifying bond among the many scholars who have been writing and in fact teaching sociology in Austria. Neither in the Austro- Hungarian monarchy, nor in the much reduced state that remained after 1918. There was even less unity among the hundreds of scholars who went out from there, first from the state of 200 million and then from the state of six million that we know today. The first and second Austrian schools remained pillars of socio-political systems in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.