TABOR - Tradition and Contemporaneity in the Romanian Orthodox Church
< Back Links

Dimitrie Gusti’s Sociological School in the King’s Service. An Attempt at Social Engineering in Interwar Romania

Paul Ersilian Roşca, Dimitrie Gusti’s Sociological School in the King’s Service. An Attempt at Social Engineering in Interwar Romania
The first four decades of the twentieth century represented the period with the most radical transformations that Europe had ever experienced. The metamorphosis – whether political, economical, cultural, ethnical or scientific – was often extreme, radical and profound. Social sciences were no exception, being usually involved in the front line among the determining factors of change. The new political, economical and social systems benefitted from the ideological support that these sciences could eventually put into practice. This was also the case of interwar Romania, where the ideological movements were a constant source of friction and rupture between the various segments of society. Historians, philosophers, theologians and men of letters were involved in a confrontation with clear political and social connotations. Each side was claiming the supremacy, superiority and importance of their vision, demonizing any opposing attitude. One of the Romanian key figures of this period was Dimitrie Gusti. As a philosopher, sociologist and professor of ethics, Gusti founded the Romanian Sociological School and the Romanian Social Institute together with other numerous scientific institutions from Romania. As a student and disciple of key figures in the study of social sciences such as Emil Durkheim and W. Wundt, Dimitrie Gusti was an adherent of multidisciplinary monographs regarding rural communities. Thus, with the support of King Carol II of Romania, he developed a pioneering project between 1925 and 1948 concerning the systematic research of the Romanian villages, which remained an unfinished  work due to the installation of the communist regime.  His pioneering research was doubled by the completion of a video monography, whereby the most important aspects of rural Romanian life were revealed. Gusti’s endeavours were not entirely scientific, being mostly aimed at implementing a much vaster political and social vision. During the authoritarian regime of King Carol II, Europe was the campsite of strong radical movements: fascism, nazism and communism. The Romanian Legionary Movement promoted an extreme nationalism based on fundamental values such as mother country, orthodoxy, antisemitism, appeal for popular traditions. Extremely influent among the young, a part of the intellectuals, the clergy and the peasantry, the legionaries entered an ideological conflict with the regime of Carol II. Thus, the monarch assumed the messianic role as saviour of the Romanian people and found an ally in Dimitrie Gusti through the implementation of the Romanian developement programme. The changes were going to take place through an intervention programme for the rural society, which was still anchored in the mainstream of the Middle Ages. Gusti’s system of thinking “Sociology-Politics-Ethics” strongly connected social science with political action. Influenced by the French philosopher Saint-Simon, Gusti was certain that the scientist’s mission was to research social reality and to transform it. For Dimitrie Gusti, the King’s intervention could have been of conservative nature (in the sense of granting the rights acknowledged for the existing social categories) or of social nature (when it aimed at improving the status of the lower classes). Thus, Gusti promoted the ideal of a social Monarchy concerned with the faith of the Romanian peasantry, where King Carol II became the “King of peasants and of Romanian villages”.

Keywords: Romania, nationalism, rural society, Carol II, Dimitrie Gusti, sociology.