Review of The Polish Peasant in Europe and America

Theodore Abel

The Polish Peasant in Europe and America. By WILLIAM I. THOMAS and FLORIAN ZNANIECKI. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1927. Two volumes. Pp. ix, 2250.

The new two-volume edition on the Polish peasant supplants the first five-volume edition published in the years 1918-20. It makes this classic of sociological literature more accessible to the increasing number of social psychologists, sociologists and social workers who find the work indispensable as a model of research and a source-book on methods of approach to the study and interpretation of social phenomena.

Never before and not since has a sociological study been made that in any way can match the scope and value of this treatise. It sets forth a novel and fruitful way not only for the analysis of the immigration problem but of group-

(666) life in general. An exhaustive treatment of the social life and the processes of disorganization and reorganization of the peasant community in Poland serves as a background for the detailed interpretation of the problems of adjustment which the peasant, as an immigrant, faces. A novel method is used by deriving material from first-hand sources; correspondence between members of family groups and autobiographical write-ups. The authors have also offered a new methodological basis for analysis by introducing the attitude-value concept, the four wishes, a new procedure for the development of laws and generalizations and valuable suggestions for the applied sociologist and social worker. From the methodological point of view alone Thomas' and Znaniecki's book is a pioneer work that is destined to play an important part in the development of scientific adequacy in the social sciences. The richness of fertile and poignant suggestions and comments which are to be found in profusion throughout the whole treatise, have not yet, however, been exploited and applied to a great extent, nor is their significance fully realized by the sociologist. It is to be hoped that the new edition will draw a renewed attention to this work.

It is to be regretted that the authors abstained from a revision of the treatise. The original was written over a period of years, during which points of view have somewhat shifted. This made for discrepancies in the text which the new edition should have corrected. Furthermore, the actual text does not show clearly the application of the principles of the "methodological note" which precedes it. The "note" was apparently conceived after the text was completed. But the value of the book could be considerably enhanced by relating with greater precision the conclusions of the text to the methodological propositions.

By way of comment it should be said that the relative contributions of the two authors has for some time been a matter of controversy. In view of the translations of Polish materials that constitute the bulk of the two volumes, and the thoroughgoing knowledge of the Polish background and the 'psychology' of the Polish peasant which the treatise shows, it is evident to the reviewer that Znaniecki has the greater share in the achievement. And so far as the theoretical aspects of the treatise are concerned, Znaniecki's recent publications indicate clearly that his influence in their formulation also was dominating.

University of Illinois


No notes

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2