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Edward Shils (1 July 1910-23 January 1995) Author(s): S. N.

Eisenstadt Reviewed work(s): Source: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 141, No. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 366-373 Published by: American Philosophical Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/987206 . Accessed: 19/05/2012 10:02
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EDWARD SHILS
(1 July 1910-23January1995)

hen Edward Shilswas awarded International the BalzanPrizein 1983he wasthe firstsociologist, the second"social moral" and and scientistafterJeanPiagetto be given that honor- the awardcitation singled ProfessorShils out for his importantinnovativeand unique contributionto contemporary sociology, bringingtogetherthe more tradition American of one empirical sociologywith the moretheoretical of Europeansociology, analysingand defendingthe intellectualand moralresponsibility the socialsciences, of the emphasizing components of civilization, of the culturaltraditionand of the orientationto the in sacredin the development the socialorder.... He hassucceeded of the tradition the Chicago of schooland bringing together moreempirical the theoreticalthinkingof European socialscientistssuch as Simmel, and morethananyothersingleperson, Weber,andMannheim probably he hasstressed importance combining the of themin a singleframework, an thusmaking important contribution towards trulyuniversal, a general sociology, as against the "French","German",and "American"
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sociologies.

But it was not only becauseEdwardShils'swork and writings united these varied traditions of sociological inquiry that he was he distinguished his peers. He was not recognized by only because was in instrumental bringing the English to of reading publicseveral the most worksof classical important European sociologyandsocialthoughtand bringing also to this public his exposition of the problematique of Durkheim, Weber, Toennies, or Mannheim. He did indeed bring theseEuropean traditions bothwith the empirical together traditionand with the distinctiveproblematique Americansociology. It was, of above all the mode in which he did all this that was so however, distinctive and that singled him out as the most towering world sociologist. He was a toweringfigurenot becauseof his world-wide and in his countriesand contacts, his teaching through sojourns different the universities aboveallbecause worldwasbothShils's but and province he undertook understand world,the constihis problem; because to the
PROCEEDINGS OF THIE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, VOL. 141, NO.3, SEPTEMBER,

1997

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BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS

Patrizia Barberito

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tution of society and especiallythe turbulencesof modern society and to analyze them in terms of the great intellectual traditions of Europe and the U.S.-and later on in his life, also in terms of the intellectual traditions of China and India and the Jewish tradition as well. Edward Shils's interest in European sociology was part of his broader interest in European literature,theology, and philosophy- all of which he taught in many universities, mainly, but not only here in Chicago. Indeedboth in high school and in the college of the University of Pennsylvania Edward Shils's first interests were in literature and history; he studied the major European languages in order to gain through them accessto the greattreasuresof the Westerntradition. And he came to be interested in sociology becausehe thought that sociology might provide him with some clues if not answersto problems of which he became aware through the study of literatureand history and which he continued to see as central to the understanding of the nature of human life, of the social bond, and of the ways in which societies were constituted. He did find some, but only some such clues in the work of his greatteachersin Chicago-Robert Park and Frank Knight and in the work of CharlesH. Cooley-he looked for more such clues in the works of the greatEuropeansociologists. But Shils also looked to the works of historiansand theologiansin whose writings he often found very incisive, deep insights into the central problems of the conditionhumaine. It was this searchon which started,perhaps,in an inarticulateway in his youth and which he fully and clearlyformulatedlater on in his life, that makes for his unique distinctivecontribution to sociologicaltheory and analysis. It was this search that imbued sociological analysis and theory with insights and dimensions which were in many ways beyond the then acceptedwisdom of the social sciencedisciplines, in the different periods of their development. He did not deny or denigratesuch acceptedwisdom-although very often he was highly dissatisfiedwith the ways in which large movements of the mainstreamof this endeavorwent. But above all EdwardShils was interested in putting sociological researchin a broader context, in the framework of the centralproblems of the constitution of society, and as a part of the enlightenedcriticaland responsibleself-reflectionof society. In the period when large sections of American sociology were concerned with ecological, organizational or with attitude studies he brought out the crucial importance for the understanding of human behavior of the primarygroup, of the bond of solidarity- interpersonal

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but alsosocietywide. He identified importance sucha bondin the the of German army, in the urban neighborhoodsstudiedby the Chicago school of sociology, or in the interactionof workersin factoriesand to clerksin offices.Edward Shilsinterpreted datathatwere available the he everyonein the field andby his interpretation took the commonly held datafar beyond what was the accepted wisdom. The themes of to of and relations continued be central to solidarity, primordial personal his concerns his throughout life. His distinctivecontributions sociologicaltheory becameeven to morepronounced fromthe fiftieson afterhis collaboration with Talcott in Toward General a Here againhe built on Parsons, Theory ofAction. but this collaboration went farbeyondit. It was not only that Edward Shilsdid not fully accept,as many othersdid not, the seeminglyclosed systemic assumptionor the abstractformulationsof the Parsonian did Mostimportantly Shilssawthatthis approach not do full approach. justiceto the most crucialdimensions the constitutionof societyand of the tensions and ambiguities inherentin it. In his seminalarticleon in and "Personal, Primordial, Sacredand Civil Ties"reprinted Center he went on buildingon such works as for instanceNock's Periphery Conversion delineatethese dimensions. In his classicalarticleson to charismaand centerand peripheryhe showedhow to bring concepts derivedmostly fromtheologyandphilosophyor moraldiscourse-and fromecology-into the very centerof sociological analysis.In this way could be radically was transformed.Charisma of sociologicalanalysis coursea conceptpromulgated earlier Weberaswastradition which to by Shils devoteda brilliantvolume-perhapsthe only majorsociological work devotedto this subject. But Shilswent farbeyondWeber. Shils how is demonstrated charisma not only or justsomething extraordinary, beyond the routineof daily life, but that it constitutesa very central he componentof anyongoingsocialorder; showedhow the charismatic relation orientationto the centerandthe consequent center-periphery in charisma with wascritical the constitutionof society. By connecting the the constitutionof centers,Shils transformed conceptsof centerderived bothfromthe studyof ecologies periphery paradoxically perhaps of cities and of history of relationinto powerfulsociologicalconcepts in which illuminated a very forcefulway the very centralproblemsof socialtheory. Above all he showed that these componentsof human action: the are tradition,charisma, sacred, primordiality, pertinentnot only to

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the analysisof "traditional"-tribal historicalsocieties,but he also or showedhow they areconstitutive modernsocieties-how indeedit is of impossible to understandmodern societies and the so called "new nations" without taking into account the ways in which these componentsare interwovenin the complex division of labor, in the of organizationof the marketcharacteristic modern societies,which constituted starting the point of classical studies. sociological Alreadyin the daysof his youth EdwardShilsdid not acceptthe visionof modernsocietyascomposed dissociated of individuals pursuing instrumental interests.Again,against then only theirown especially the andcontinuously wisdomon the alienation accepted modern pervading societies, he sought to identify how through the very dispersionof primordial of orientations attachments, the charismatic modernsocieties may,indeedonly may,exhibita muchhigherdegreeof moralconsensus andcohesiveness thanthe lessdifferentiated traditional ones. Thus indeedall Shils'sworks-his analysisand reformulation of stratification politicalauthority; the role of intellectuals well as and of as his very penetrating analysisof the strengthand fragilityof centersin traditional modernsocieties-revealhis emphasis the dimension and on of the transcendental the orientation the sacred the construction and to in of socialorder. All thesecontributions haveprovidedvery powerfulinsightsand indications new directions systematic for for sociological research which arevery innovativeandoriginalandit is thesecontributions make that him a uniquefigurein contemporary sociology. In his lastyearshe devotedmost of his energies the furtherance to and to the analysisof three centraldimensionsof the constitutionof society. His programme first,to understand was, collective consciousness andthe waysin whichprimordial sacred and components interwoven are in the collectiveconsciousness differentsocieties; of second,to analyze civil society;and lastlyhe devotedhimselfto the understanding the of importance of knowledge and movements of knowledge in the
constitution of society.

In all these mattersagainhe went againstthe acceptedwisdom which for instanceoftenpresented nationality opposedto civility. In as one of his lastpublished articles nationality civil societyhe shows on and how nationalityin contrastto nationalism, not only not opposedto is civility but is indeedconstitutiveof it. In his work, asyet unpublished, the movementsof knowledge on

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Shils emphasizedthe study of the history of the worlds of knowledge and especially of science and the crucial role of these forms of intellectual creativityplay in the constitution of societies. His numerous analyses of the different modes and constructions of intellectual traditions and the social attitudes of intellectuals, his analysesof ideology and institutions of learningand science, containingvery profound analyticalsociological insights, are rooted in his basic concern for the ways in which intellectuals as carriersof the major cultural traditions, and institutions of learning, are contributing to the development of such order or are destructive of it. This concern was also his guiding line in editorship of the BulletinoftheAtomic Scientists Minerva-unusual and daringfeats and in the contemporary intellectual world. His concern with the constitution of intellectualtraditions was of course closely related to his continual concern with the analysis of intellectuals and ideologies-to which the first volume of his collected works is devoted. Already his experience in the thirties and in the Second World War made him very suspicious of totalistic ideologies-he saw in them, as he has brilliantly shown in his articleon "Authoritarianismof the Left and of the Right," one of the greatdangersto modern societies,that is, the distorting of any real moral consensus. But Edward Shils was not sanguine about the fate of modern societies-especially modern liberalcivil societies. He knew full well that these basic components of social order may be, are perhaps indeed, in constant tension and that it is only through persistent reflection and awarenessthat these tensions may perhapsbe containedin a constructive way. EdwardShils saw as one of the majorchallengesof sociology, as the "Calling of Sociology" (the title of the third volume of his essays) to deepen such reflections and awareness among wide sections of social scientists and the wider public. His own important and innovative contribution to sociology and the articulation of sociological tradition as part of the broad contemporary intellectual culture had been inspired, above all, by his concern about a modern social orderin which the components of civility are central and in which the different elements of cultural tradition, human interaction and the orientation to the sacredare incorporated in a civil order. Similarly Shils's analysis of the development and institutionalization of sociology was based-as was all his work-not only on an uncommon erudition, but on a profound belief that sociology may play

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an important role as a vehicle for putting acrossan instructivemessageto modern mass societies to offset the various ideological trends and formations to which they are very prone. But he was not optimistic that sociology, social sciences or intellectuals in modern society will indeed live up to the challenge. Although he was a man of strong opinions-these opinions were rooted in greatanguishabout the fate of modern societies. Shils sharedin many ways Weber's view about the predicaments of modern life and he addressed this predicament without illusion but with a strong commitment in the mode of la vie serieuse a la Durkheim. His uncertainty about the fate of modern societies was to no small degree rooted in his very skeptical attitude toward the role intellectuals have played in modern societies-very often undermining, in his view, the very foundation of these societies. He was highly critical of the role of intellectuals in the promulgation of various totalistic ideologies and has devoted some of his most brilliant energies to the analysis of the ambivalence of intellectuals to the society in which they lived. The tasks he set up for himself and for others were very arduous and although he did not belittle his own accomplishments-yet he was not sure that he would be indeed able to live up to the standards set up he for himself or to the challengesof the problems the elucidation of which seemed to him to be so critical. This awarenessdid not make life easy for himself or for many of those from whom he expected to recognize the challenge of this endeavor. In his later years a certain sadness, perhaps resignation-without, however, ever of giving up his work and commitment could be felt in his behavior-bringing always back a reflection in which the concerns with primordiality, tradition and the orientation to the sacredcontinued to play a central role. It would indeed be very interestingto know where this concern of his with the primordial and the sacredcame from. But one can at most only speculate. One such speculation is that this concern might have been rooted in his Jewish background. Shils was an agnostic nonobservant Jew-but he had very strong feelings of Jewish primordial identity and loyalty. It was one-indeed only one, but a very strong one, of the bonds between him and his close friend the late Arnaldo Momigliano. Shils did not grow up in an observant household and he learnedYiddish-which he mastered,togetherwith a greatstore of Jewish stories-only afterhe came from Philadelphia as a social worker to New York. But I still vividly remember Edward telling my wife and me two

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or three years ago about the deep impressionmade on him by the Friday afternoons and evenings on the eve of the Shabatin the neighborhood where he grew up, whose many more observantJews would prepare and begin to celebratethe Shabat-and in some way Edwardhad a longing for it. I rememberthe pleasurehe had in having some Friday Shabatdinners with us or other friendsin Jerusalemor in sitting down to the Sederwith us in Chicago; and his strong feelings of loyalty and attachment to the Hebrew University in Jerusalemin which his influence was very great and which is fortunatein having his librarybequeathedto it. His gift will make it possible for us to commemorate his distinctive contribution to sociology. The world of learninghas lost one of its most towering figures;the world one of its most concernedand committed citizens;and many of us a close friend and companion. His life will be with us a cherished memory and his work a continued challenge. I think it would be appropriate if I finish these words in the memory of EdwardShils by reciting the first part of the Hebrew prayer for the dead, the Kaddish, Itgadalveitkadeshshmei raba;bealmadivrakir'uteh,weiamlich malchuteh bechajejkhonubejomejchon;beagalaubizmankarivvenomarAmen; Jheh shmeh rabamevorachleolam olmej almaja. ELECTED 1980

S. N. EISENSTADT RoseIssacs Emeritus Professor of Sociology TheHebrew Universityofferusalem

were deliveredat the memorialservice for EdwardShils at the University of These remarks Chicago, 12 April 1995. They are used with the permissionof the author.