The Romanian Academy has held a special conference to pay tribute to Dimitrie Gusti
The Romanian Academy has held a special conference to pay tribute to Dimitrie Gusti on the 140th anniversary of his birth. The founder of the School of Sociology in Bucharest, Gusti was a magnet for prominent figures such as Mircea Vulcanescu, who drafted the theoretical foundation of the sociological system, HH Stahl, another remarkable sociologist, as well as the likes of Anton Golopentia, Constantin Brailoiu, Mihai Pop and Pompiliu Caraion.
Dimitrie Gusti was the creator of an original sociological system that was recognised internationally, as well as an excellent manager of cultural institutions. He studied philosophy in Germany, earning his doctoral title in 1904, and later also studied law. He then returned to Romania and in 1910 joined the staff of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy of the Iasi University. He became a member of the Romanian Academy in 1919 and between 1944 and 1946 was also the president of this institution. He also served as minister of education, culture and the arts between 1932 and 1933 and taught at the University of Bucharest and Iasi.
Nicu Gavriluta, from the Faculty of Philosophy and Social and Political Science in Iasi, says Dimitrie Gusti was always in tune with his times:
Nicu Gavriluta: “Dimitrie Gusti embraced the ideas of his times. Being a pupil of Wilhelm Wundt, a German psychologist and philosopher, Gusti was bound to be interested in the famous controversy between nature and spirit; natural sciences versus the sciences of the spirit. Wundt’s answer is based on the individual or social psyche, while Dimitrie Gusti said society is the sui generis reality that can explain and mediate between the two worlds. Society, Gusti proposed, must be analysed in a complex and subtle manner. This is why he placed emphasis on the frames of research. We all know that some of these frames are social par excellence, the psychological and historical frames for example. However, two other frames, the cosmological or cosmic and the biological are extra-social. Because they are extra-social, the researcher must then go out and do fieldwork and see reality for what it is. So he did, he went out and travelled through the countryside.”
Between 1925 and 1948, Dimitrie Gusti initiated and coordinated the monographic research of Romanian villages. Also, thanks to his efforts, social service was regulated by law in 1939. Sociological research combined with practical social action and social pedagogy was laid down in law for the first time in the world. Gusti is also known for his interviews carried out in the rural areas and in which he documented aspects from the daily lives of the people in those days:
Nicu Gavriluta: “A thorough, precise, accurate examination of reality is a compulsory element in sociological research, and its importance is undeniable even today. On the other hand, if we want to understand the more profound layers of the social system, we need to go into the invisible dimension of social reality, into those elements handed down from one generation to the next and which continue to shape a community’s thinking and behaviour in fundamental ways. And Dimitrie Gusti, as a disciple of Durkheim, relied on the idea that social reality is a system of meaningful human acts, and strived to identify meanings and interpretations. He also believed that that the original meanings of such acts disappear over time, and are replaced by other, equally important values that are created by society collectively.”
Zoltan Rostas, a sociologist and researcher with the “Gusti Co-operative,” coordinates a team that works to promote an accurate image of Gusti’s complex personality:
Zoltan Rostas: “The Gusti case is still open, and requires a different approach. We believe that researching and rediscovering professor Gusti’s legacy is the true tribute to his personality. And this is easier said than done, because, although we have access to information and to his works as part of Romania’s recent history, we risk getting stuck with a subjective, superficial and incomplete view on his personality. We can only discover Gusti if we discover the world in which he lived. So our path is a return to the roots of his biography and to the exact contexts that help us understand the forces that contributed to the birth of Gusti’s sociological theory.”
The “Gusti Co-operative” is an online platform mainly designed to make available social history works and testimonies on the Bucharest School of Sociology and on social science in Romania. The initiator of the project is sociologist Zoltan Rostas.
(translated by: Cristina Mateescu, Ana-Maria Popescu)