Sentiments and Activities: Essays in Social Science. 
GEORGE CASPAR HOMANS. New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1962.
326 pp., figures, index, notes, tables. $6.50.


Reviewed by CLIFFORD GEERTZ, University of Chicago


Homans collects here 17 of his sociological, anthropological, and historical essays, chosen less for the purposes of showing the continuity or unity of his interests than their variety. And they are various. The methodology of small group research and the possibility that the Frisians invaded East Anglia in the 5th century; the usefulness of sociology for management and the reconcilliation of Radcliffe-Brown's views on ritual with those of Malinowski; life among the working girls of a modern office and the causes of unilateral cross-cousin marriage in tribal societies-all these arrest at least momentarily his restless attention. He reflects on his experiences as captain of a subchaser during the war ("The skipper must keep his mouth shut, if he can"); on why British academics profess to despise sociology ("The function of the British objection to sociology is to produce sociologists who can be objected to"); on the rise of "Organization Man" ("Capi talism and socialism fight only over what name they shall be called by"). All this and, as they say in the advertisements, much more: "The Rural Sociology of Medieval England," "Social Behavior as Exchange," "The Strategy of Industrial Sociology," "Status Congruence," "The Puritans and the Clothing Industry in England," etc.


Perhaps taken slightly aback by this vivid image of his own versatility, Homans has prepared an "Autobiographical Introduction" to "explain the scattering of my subjects by giving, as well as I can at this late date, the more obvious reasons why I took them up and why I pursued them as I did." It is a beautiful piece of work, written with the vigor, clarity, and charm we have come to expect from Romans when he escapes the more self-conscious mannerisms of his style, and one of the most informative descriptions of the backstage life of a performing social scientist ever written, a superb contribution to both intellectual history and the sociology of knowledge.


To hear him tell it, Romans was a pretty feckless youth ("My entrance into sociology was a matter of chance ... I got into sociology because I had nothing better to do"), writing verse, thinking vaguely of a career in journalism, and drifting carelessly through the depression on the ark of an independent income. But he soon learned that though he could not make something of himself "if I would only relax and say 'Yes', other people would make something of me." They certainly would, for he was surrounded by bulldogs. Bernard DeVoto, himself no shrinking violet, introduced him to Lawrence J. Henderson, brilliant chemist and physiologist and holder of definitive opinions on everything human, who was beginning his famous Harvard seminar on Pareto, into which Homans was promptly conscripted, along with Crane Brinton,] oseph Schumpeter, Charles Curtis, DeVoto, and others. From there (and after writing-with Curtis-a book on Pareto, the only sociologist he had at that time ever read) he moved into the orbit of Elton Mayo,another man with a mind of his own. From Mayo, who introduced him to industrial sociology and to anthropology, he went on to Charles McIlwain and medieval English history. Then the war. Then the Harvard Social Relations department and intensive contact with Clyde Kluckhohn, Talcott Parsons, and-outside the department-with the behavioral psychologist, B. F. Skinner. Step by step, Homans traces out the development of his thought within the context of this pandemonium of influence, steadily reducing what at first glance appears to be a melange of unrelated interests to an ordered progression toward what has emerged-since The Human Group and Social Behavior: The Elementary Forms-as the master theme of his work: "Sociology [is], contrary to Durkheim, a corollary of psychology."


But whether out of the vast array of intellectual possibilities presented to him Homans has chosen the most worthwhile to pursue may perhaps be questioned. Homans shows with marvelous clarity why he made the intellectual choices he did-rejecting in turn Marxism, Freudianism, Functionalism, and Parsonianism-bu t he does not convince us that the choice he finally made was a wise one, that from a heritage of riches he has not plucked a trinket. Anthropologists will be stimulated by the broad range of subjects outside the usual definition of their interests treated in this book, they will be grateful for the reprinting of both the Malinowksi-Radcliffe-Brown paper and (even if, as I do, they regard it as thoroughly misconceived) the cross-cousin marriage study. But those who remember English Villagers of the Thirteenth Century as one of the neglected classics of our science can only regard Homans' turn toward a "with men as with pigeons" psychologism with a disappointment verging on dismay.


Book Review, in: American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 64, No. 6 (Dec., 1962), 1310-1311.


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