Краткие заметки (немецкого) бывшего ГДРовского социолога науки

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Краткие заметки (немецкого) бывшего ГДРовского социолога науки

Винклер Роза-Луиза

Кандидат философских наук, профессор, исследователь Берлин, Германия.


Short Notes of the Sociologist of Science from the Former German Democratic Republic

Winkler Rose-Luise

Dr, PhD in Philosophy, senior researcher.

Twenty years after the historical rupture that caused dramatic changes in society — first of all in Eastern Europe — and also in the organization of science as a social institution, it now with reasonable distance that we can look back at the origins of ‘science studies.’

One of the main aspects in the dissolution of the GDR Academy of Sciences was that German scientists in the East and West drew on their distinctive understandings of scientific organization that formed in their respective systems. Basically, neither of them was aware of significant differences in the ‘other’ organization of science in the GDR and the FRG, including science funding, employment, observing moral norms by the majority of scientists, etc. Now we know that postwar developments in both parts of Germany led to the fact that scientists (except the so called Reisekader in the GDR and a certain number of people in the FRG) did not know each others’ work. At best there was insignificant knowledge gained only through literature.

These were the consequences of scientific developments during and after the war. But we, social studies scholars and sociologists of science, feel the impact of the past still on the present day. Today’s discussion in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of R. K. Merton raises hope for a freer discussion of all scientific issues, including Merton’s contribution to science. It is especially interesting because it highlights the significance of Merton’s ideas in science studies. Up to now he has been regarded, first of all, as a sociologist of science, not very heavily engaged in the science studies efforts. Time and again, both western and eastern sociologists looking through the science studies perspective have rejected the significance of the Mertonian theory of science.

The first meaningful work in Russia that professionally examined Mertonian sociology of science and the transformation of his namesake paradigm in the 1960s to 1970s was writ- ten by two authors E. Z. Mirskaya and E. M. Mirsky (Современная западная социология науки, 1988).

One of the merits of this work is that the authors analyzed the relationships between sociological theories and perspectives from other disciplines in developing Merton’s conception and that of his school. They were absolutely right to pay attention to the ear- ly stages of Merton’s period when he turned into a sociologist and to demonstrate that his ideas about the system of norms governing scientific work, or on the scientific ethos, “are not at all a discovery made somehow unexpectedly and at once” (Современная западная социология науки, 1988: 43).

Merton was not only the first to systematically study the occupational behavior of scientists, but also the first to “transfer the subject of sociological analysis from scientific findings to the area of scientific activity, from the area of knowledge to the area of research, regarding the research process as activity to the rules. It was Merton’s big achievement that he identified these rules in a pure form, clearer than they existed in the minds of scientists. It is also very important that the entire concept of norms was built not in philosophical, but in sociological terms (author’s italics. — R.-L. W) and linked with a lot of interesting empirical research” (Современная западная социология науки. Критический анализ, 1988: 50).

A number of causes including historical ones did not allow the Soviet school of sociology of science in the 1920s–1930s to live up to the empirical level of the Mertonian sociology of science. Nevertheless, many works at that time were not a mere pre-history of science studies and sociology of science (Винклер, 1998: 7). They had a distinct scientific meaning in the global community (Винклер, Келле, 1996: 369–400), as well as a left-wing group of scientists in the UK (J. Bernal) or R. Merton’s school in the USA (Современная западная социология науки, 1988).

Their empirical and theoretical approaches differed greatly, they emerged on different foundations and the relationship between initial disciplinary views on sociology of science and science studies was not alike. These different perspectives on the scientific ethos have not been compared so far. But if it were made it would mean that it is necessary to take into consideration both national and international components of scientific work. Incorporation of East Germany’s science into the FRG’s science would be a case in point. Though the so-called unification of science in Germany was to a certain degree an exception in the overall transformation of science in Eastern Europe, I think we would make no mistake that it provided us with an illuminating picture of the relationship between norms and the real behavior of scientists, which was one of the main subjects of R. Merton’s sociological research.

Up to recent days in Germany it has seemed impossible to meet western scientists in person. The developments after the 1990s made it real and I took the risk and wrote a letter to Robert Merton. I asked him to explain to me what works in the Soviet period on the development of sociology of science (Bukharin, Hessen, Rainov) he knew and whether some forms of communication existed. His answer was very kind: “As it happens, I never met or corresponded with any of them… (He continued): I knew Bukharin`s Historical Materialism in its English translation, of course, and his later introductory essay to “Science at the Crossroads (1932). Checking my reference to B in my 1945 “paradigm for the sociology of knowledge” I find myself referring to “the questionable thesis” “only proletarian [social] science has valid insight into certain aspects of social reality.” And of course, like my colleagues, I was disturbed — rather, outraged- by his execution after Stalin`s notorious purge trials”.

Hessen’s and Rainov’s works became known only through scientific literature1. Science would flourish if only scientists were capable of interacting and communicating in all countries at «Augenhöhe» (equal rights) as politicians say in the present-day Germany. Perhaps it is because of this that Robert Merton was behind the foundation of the committee on sociology of science in the International sociological association in the 1960s. I can only regret that as a sociologist of science I did not have the chance to meet him personally and to sustain our conversation that had just started. According to my colleague Manfred Bonitz, Robert Merton was very polite and full of humor during their meeting when he wrote to him Comments recipient of the 1995 Derek Solla Price award. (Bonitz, 1995, 2: III–VII).



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