Of all the social groups in eastern Europe, the intelligentsia is the most interesting stratum and, for western sociologists, the least understood. All the other classes and strata that have existed in eastern Europe have had their counterparts in the West. (Even if the Russian or Romanian boyaerin or the Polish szlachcic were not always similar to the French or British nobleman, it was possible to compare the role and position of their classes.) Also comparable are all the factions of the middle class, the peasantry and the workers from the various countries of Europe. Only the intelligentsia as a social phenomenon was without a counterpart in either western Europe or America. Of course, for the individual member of the intelligentsia we can easily find an equivalent in western societies. 1 But the same educational background, the same economic and social position, standard of life, interest, and hobbies--still do not make a westerner a member of the intelligentsia. For no such social group exists in the West. The failure to distinguish the individual taken in isolation from the individual understood as a member of a social stratum is the main reason for the confusion that the term intelligentsia has brought about for sociology. People of the same social and cultural characteristics do not necessarily form the same social strata, as some authors are inclined to think.
The second reason for the confusion is sociological formalism. This entails the conviction that a social phenomenon that we meet in one time and