To the Editor:
Mr. Luethy’s self-styled European view of social mobility (“Social Mobility Again—and Elites,” September) seemed as well expressed as it was speciously reasoned. Besides, his intentions were anything but clear. It would be foolish to deny that he raises an important point: how can different societies be validly compared with reference to the same general phenomenon? Perhaps he is right about the relative shortcomings of the particular statistical manipulations in the Lipset-Rogoff study, but surely this does not mean that no statistical comparisons can be valid, nor does it acknowledge the service that Lipset and Rogoff have clearly done in framing their questions in the first place. They are better able to defend themselves than I can do it for them. But what saddens me about Mr. Luethy is the relative waste of his brilliance, for, with some penchant for the number thirty-six, he seems to believe that there are as many social mobilities as there are people. From his comments, as far as he commits himself, he doubts the possibility of general concepts. His doubt is merely based on the recognition, for instance, that there is not just one but potentially as many elites as there are possible social situations. Yet he himself uses the same word in several contexts. Surely his several elites have something in common? Why is it not important to discover their common features? This is not to deny their differences. Difference and similarity are palpably complementary terms. Sometimes, however, there may only be time to state one’s findings about one of these. Besides, why does Mr. Luethy talk about American sociology? By his logic it should not exist.
This cannot be a European view, for its misplaced logic has been dealt with there by the possible mentors of Mr. Luethy himself, such as Max Weber, Pareto, Durkheim, and others, who both argued for and demonstrated the possibility of a general analysis of social phenomena that goes beyond the tradition of history. And why does it follow that because a theme is inappropriate for present statistical treatment it thereby becomes a theme for social philosophy?
As a European trained in the States and living in Canada, I find this European view of American sociology itself a good example of the kind of delirium of classification that Mr. Luethy opposes, and an accusation that in many quarters is very nearly pointless.
Kasper D. Naegele
University of British Columbia
[In the near future we shall publish an exchange of letters between Messrs. Lipset and Luethy on the subject of the latter's article.—Ed.]