The Residue of Pareto

The Future in Retrospect

Courtesy Reuters

TRATTATO DI SOCIOLOGIA GENERALE. BY VILFREDO PARETO. 2 vols. Firenze: Barbèra, 1916. English translation: THE MIND AND SOCIETY. Edited by Arthur Livingston; translated by Andrew Bongiorno and Arthur Livingston with the advice and cooperation of James Harvey Rogers. 4 vols. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1935.

PARETO has never been widely read in the United States. Even during the 1930's, when the admirable English translation of the "Sociologia Generale" edited by the late Arthur Livingston came out, there was no more than a flurry among the reviewers. Pareto's big book does indeed continue to be read by professional students of human relations. As an "anti-intellectual," as perhaps "the Karl Marx of the bourgeoisie," his name at least is part of the miscellaneous furniture of the minds of educated Americans. He deserves a better fate.

For Pareto today does not seem old-fashioned, dated, in the way that another great systematic general sociologist, Herbert Spencer, does. The two have a great deal in common; both had scientific and technical training--Pareto was an engineer, and Spencer almost an engineer--both were brought up in the strict secularist faith of the Enlightenment, both believed in individual freedom, above all in economic life, and both feared and distrusted the encroaching democratic state. Both wrote ponderously and at length, so that for the ordinary reader the task of reading them is a formidable one.

The task is hardly worth while today for Spencer, unless the reader wants to try to relive Victorian intellectual history. For Spencer, faced toward the end of his life with the evident errors in his earlier prognosis of evolution from the "militant" to the "industrial" society, from status to contract, from state intervention in economic life to complete laissez faire, could only rail at his contemporaries for their blindness and wronghcadedness, could do no more than preach against their sins. Pareto, who was only 20 years younger than Spencer, and who regretted the state and prospects of the Western World in 1900 at least as much as did Spencer, made

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