Review of An Introduction to Pareto
by G.C. Homans and C.P. Curtis
The French translation of Pareto's treatise on sociology has been available since 1917 and has received ample notice from American scholars. Graduate students have been examined on it for the last ten or twelve years. This introduction is not, therefore, as the authors and publishers assume, the revelation of an unknown genius, but rather an effort to popularize an author whose writing, like his thinking, is unclear.
A professor of physiology in Harvard has organized a group of amateurs in sociology, and this book by "a Boston lawyer" and "an alumnus of Harvard" seems to be an effort to promote the cult of the "Paratians," as they call themselves. The sociologist who reads it will find it written in a pleasing style and with a naïve and disarming candor. After several pages devoted to the discussion of a fact, and after deciding that head-aches, belly-aches, and "strong feelings of anger or of pity" cannot be called facts, they compel forgiveness by saying: "But, as usual, all our flounderings trying to say what we mean by fact have only involved us in further trouble." Much space is devoted, of course, to the concept of residues, which includes far more than the invariable element which Pareto proposes in the earlier part of his book. Such diverse phenomena as religious revivals, squash-playing, snobbery, the Declaration of In-dependence, faith, hope, charity, tapping on the floor when moved by music, and the English "heroic line" (normally an iambic pentameter), are included, besides many more. "One of the things that convinces us that residues are important is that into our cataloguing of them we can work almost any subject in which we are interested." But no impatience is possible with men who write, as they do an page 90: "We have struggled hard to make clear what we mean by a residue, and we are afraid that our struggles have only involved us more deeply in the mire of words."
Pareto was deficient in a sense of humor. This little book makes atonement. It may not be informing, but it is certainly amusing.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO