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TetraSociology: "a nugget of gold", "a brilliant" or "ambitious imagination"? Western sociologists' pluralism of opinion to TetraSociology

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4. TetraSociology: "a nugget of gold," "a brilliant" or "ambitious imagination"? Western sociologists' pluralism of opinion o­n TetraSociology

The answers settle down in the chronological order. The key phrases are allocated with a greasy font by me.

1. Dear Professor Semashko,

I found your account of tetrasociology impressive in its own way and it is obviously based o­n very wide reading of a kind of sociological literature. Nonetheless I have to tell you that it is not the kind of sociological work which I do. Throughout your terminology uses physical analogies and seeks to place sociology within the general field of natural science. My own sociological theorizing is based up o­n that of Max Weber in which all structures are ultimately seen as reducible to the categories of action and interaction as set out in the first four chapters of Weber's Gemeinschaft und Gesellchaft which I read in its English version translated by Roth and Wittich. Chapter o­ne is crucially important but so also are the next three chapters of Volume 1. I should be surprised if someone does not agree to publish your work. No doubt you will, be in touch with the Theory Group of the ISA. I find it increasingly difficult to get my own kind of sociological theory published.

With greetings to a valued colleague,
John Rex,
Professor Emeritus,
University of Warwick,
Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom.

2. Dear Dr Semashko,

I'm afraid you will find my replies to your questions rather disappointing. For your first question, I am not sure what you mean, which makes it hard to answer. Of course I recognize that there is in practice a plurality of sociological theories, and I do not feel any objection to that - except that I don't think that a theory is of any interest unless it has empirical implications and, since the adequacy to empirical reality is the test of a theory, of o­nes which disagree with each other some must be wrong, or weaker, unless they are simply about different things. For your second question, no, I do not think the article is publishable in a western journal. For your third question, I fear that your 'theory' is probably not a theory in the sense in which I understand the word - or if it is, it is not a kind that I find useful. It is a member of a wider class, of which T. Parsons' and in particular Stuart Dodd's are other examples, which attempt to encompass everything in a framework which is essentially arbitrary (for instance in treating everything in terms of three, or in your case four, factors), and ends up playing with words rather than seriously discussing social realities. I know that it is very easy to get drawn into the fascination of elaborating such material, but I do not think that it is wise. Sorry! Yours sincerely,

Jennifer Platt,
Professor of Sociology
Book Review Editor, International Sociology
School of Social Sciences
University of Sussex

3. Dear Professor Semashko,

I have read your article and, although I appreciate the effort you have put into it, I do not think it is likely to be published in a western journal. The problem is that it attempts to be too original (if you will excuse the term). It does not connect sufficiently with current debates in sociological theory or follow o­n in the same style of argument as those debates. It is too 'metatheory' and not sufficiently 'middle-range'. Sorry if this sounds discouraging. Good luck with your work. Sincerely,

Kenneth Thompson,
Co-chairs of ISA RC16 Sociological Theory.

4. Please send the article by surface mail : Mino Vianello, editor REVUE INTERNATIONALE DE SOCIOLOGIE, Via Brennero 36, 00141 Rome. Regards

Mino Vianello

5. Dear Professor, I am sorry but I must tell you frankly that I am not interested in spending the time to deal with your development: tetrasociology. I respect your theoretical imagination and ambition, but it is not something I wish to get involved in discussing at this time.

Jeff Alexander

6. Dear Professor Semashko.

I have read your short paper with interest, but at its present state, it is not suitable for publication in Sociological Theory. What you are proposing is obviously very ambitious, and in the paper version, the arguments are too terse and short to communicate effectively the approach. At present, you offer a typology, or actually several typologies, but just how these increase explanation of the social universe is unclear. I think what you say is very suggestive and interesting, but it is really the kind of argument that needs to be developed in a book, or at least a much longer article. I am sorry that I cannot accept it for publication. Please keep me advise o­n your progress in working with your approach.

Jonathan Turner,

7. Dear Professor Semashko:

Thank you for submitting your work "TetraSociology: from Theory to Technology" to CURRENT SOCIOLOGY. The editorial review of your paper is now complete. We find your paper interesting and well done, but regrettably it is inappropriate for CURRENT SOCIOLOGY. Our mandate is to publish shorter review articles of strong interest to sociologists internationally o­n any area of sociological inquiry. Your paper would be more appropriately submitted to a theory journal or a generalist sociology journal that publishes theoretical articles. There are, as you know, many of those journals in various countries. We wish you all best wishes in finding a suitable venue for your paper.

Yours sincerely,
Susan McDaniel,

8. Dear Leo Semashko

We have now had the opportunity to study your paper submitted by e-mail, but frankly we do not know what to make of it. However, what seems to be clear is that a great deal more explanation is required. To do this satisfactorily would we feel turn the work into a book rather than a journal article. There is so much that is not clear at present. For this reason we have to say that the work is not suitable for publication in Sociology in anything like its present form.

Best wishes.
Maggie O'Neill and Tony Spybey
Joint Editors, 'Sociology'
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Staffordshire University UK

9. International Sociology

Dear Dr. Semashko,

We have reviewed your article both in this office and by an outside reviewer (assessment follows), and I am afraid we cannot accept it for publication in INTERNATIONAL SOCIOLOGY. The English language problem appears insurmountable. I wish you success with the book version which has already appeared in Russian.

Said A. Arjomand, Editor
Department of Sociology, State University of New York
Reviewer's Assessment;

As it is, of course you can't publish it. It's barely comprehensible, and dubiously useful. o­n the other hand, it might be good, although I'm not sure that the author can change it so as to make it good. I'm not saying I think it is good; I merely am saying I can't at this point definitively rule that out.

The basic problem is dual. First of all, it is in the style of Parsonian theorizing - an extensive morphology which claims to be comprehensive. (It's also Parsonian more directly, in the emphasis o­n tetralogies rather than trinities.) Personally, i am allergic to this kind of work, so i am scarcely the fairest judge. But I did plow through most of Parsons when I was a graduate student. Obviously, Parsons was a very bright man, and there are insights all over the place. But Parsons is almost incomprehensible in English, and English is his native language. Imagine if Parsons had tried to write it in German, which he claimed to know. That's what we have here. What Semashko is like in Russian I don't know and couldn't evaluate (apparently, someone else did, but who?). But Semashko in English means we have sentences which have no clear meaning, words wildly misused (humanitarian for human, for example) and so o­n. Can o­ne fairly judge? I doubt it. So, maybe we have a nugget of gold, but if so, it's covered in slime.

Forwarded by Said Arjomand

10. British Journal of Sociology

Dear Professor Semashko,

The Editor has now carefully considered your article 'Tetrasociology' which you submitted to the Journal. He found it of interest but regrets he is unable to offer to publish your paper in the BJS o­n this occasion. I am sorry to give you this disappointing news but hope that it will not deter you from submitting other articles to us in the future.

Yours sincerely,
Jacquie Gauntlett
Journal Manager, British Journal of Sociology
London School of Economics
22 August 2001

11. Dear Leo.

Your article is brilliant, but needs being re-elaborated. Besides, the English needs deep revision. But you have certainty ideas. Good work

Mino Vianello
3 October 2001

12. Greetings from ISA Research Committee 51 o­n Sociocybernetics

Dear Leo Semashko,

I have received your paper and abstracts o­n TetraSociology from Felix Geyer and I have read them with great interest and profit. In fact, some of the questions you try to tackle have been also my concern since a long time. This, however, in the context of modeling social systems. It is my great pleasure to send you with this e-mail some of my writings which hopefully may be of interest to you.

In my own work I was not oriented towards statistics as you are. Nevertheless I encountered as the two main problems the issue of choosing the right basic concepts and then to obtain sufficient and appropriate empirical data. These, it seems to me, are also difficulties for you. What also becomes very clear from your papers, although it is not said explicitly, is the general problem, dealt with in model theory, that a model is always a simplified representation of some empirical reality. Therefore I cannot quite follow your optimism in really tracking down completely terrorist networks, although your approach may indeed be a valuable contribution to dealing with this kind of problems.

With regard to the basic concepts your are using I don?t fully agree with everything, although in part this may be a problem of terminology and language and o­nly in part a problem of theory. In particular I give myself a much more fundamental and important place to information and information processing following the work of Tom Stonier. In your theory information seems to be simply covered by «resources». Also I feel uneasy about your status constants. On the other hand I consider the basic idea very valuable and I have not really covered this dimension in my own approach. Very much certainly depends o­n how to break down the constants of TetraSociology. Maybe we can have some discussion o­n this when you have had a chance to read my papers.

In a way I very much see your TetraSociology as a combination of the Systems Dynamics framework (in which, however, information flows are an explicit basic concept) with input-output analysis. Both systems dynamics and input-output analysis are important tools at the level of (general) systems theory. Interpreting such a (general) systems framework with sociology has always been a major focus of my own work. In TetraSociology, at least from the little I could read so far, I cannot quite see how you interpret your systems framework with sociology o­n the basis of theoretical sociological arguments. Of course, this may be found in other parts of your work.

So I see two transitions, both of which are very difficult: (a) interpreting a systems framework sociologically and (b) interpreting the sociological framework empirically, i.e. with data. With regard to (b) an important question is what the transitions (or equations used to represent them) in the matrix look like in empirical cases and another o­ne, whether we can get adequate empirical data for it. The possibility of calculation, or in my case modeling, depends to a very large extent o­n adequate answers to these latter questions.

Your very admirable and challenging aim of a quantitative mathematical sociology, which would also be optimal for modeling and computer simulation, my own interests, seems to me still difficult to achieve. This in particular, if information is to be quantified too. This is of course possible and our member Shann Turnbull has done very interesting work in this direction. Nevertheless, the meaning and effectiveness of information does not lie in the bits and bytes but in its meaning. And that is precisely what cannot be quantified (yet?).

As I said, I did not go myself towards statistics. Yet indicators have been a concern of mine and I think the work of my friend Hartmut Bossel o­n indicators and orientation theory could be very valuable for you. I enclose some references in an attachment to this mail. If you are interested I could send you some articles by paper mail.

It is this work o­n indicators which leaves me doubtful about your proposition that everything going o­n can be reduced to price and cost. In a way I can follow your complaints about the insufficiency of traditional economic statistics, but o­n the other hand ecological statistics, social statistics, quality of life statistics are quite common meanwhile, at least in our Western Countries. Much of this has been initiated already a long time ago by the so-called social indicators movement and the quality of life movement. Similarly I think it is not enough to equate «technology» with information technology, even if I?m working myself in this branch of society and economy.

From the little I have seen I think the scope and ambition of your scientific work is truly admirable. I think it is important to be consequent like you are and to go all the way from philosophy to sociology, application, and even software.

I`d very much enjoy to have the opportunity to discuss with you personally your theories at our meeting in Brisbane and I think it would be a very important and fertile contribution to the discussion in our group if you could present your concepts and theories to us in Brisbane.

At this point I?m not quite sure, whether you did send the papers I received from Felix Geyer officially to our Review Committee who has to approve all the abstracts and whether you are planning to join us in Brisbane. Of course, this travel will be quite expensive for all of us, but if there is anything I can do for you in this respect I?ll be very happy to send you a formal invitation or a letter of recommendation which may help you to get some travel support.

With best regards
Bernd R. Hornung
- President -
ISA - RC51 o­n Sociocybernetics 2.12.01

Brief comment. The variety of evaluations and opinion vividly testify to Western sociologists' pluralism. The array of opinion is as wide as can be: from sharply negative to the most laudatory, from "a brilliant, a nugget of gold, admirable scope and ambition," etc. to "ambitious imagination, Parsonian theoryzing, metatheory," etc. Obviously, comments about "poor usage" of English are fair; this, however, while becoming for some an additional argument for rejecting the theory, didn't prevent others from seeing in it something "interesting, useful, admirable." We also cannot help pointing at racism, arrogance and scorn in some responses. But these are few. Overall, a majority finds the article and the theory interesting, while pointing at certain substantive and stylistic drawbacks, which make the article in its current shape unfit for publication. This is a decent evaluation. Besides, several reviewers note that the theory presented requires a book, rather than a short article, to fully expound the arguments. This recommendation is followed upon in this book. I can o­nly express my gratitude to all those who sent me their comments, many of which I heeded and which helped to make my book better. The o­nly thing that saddens me is the instances of racism. My another regret is that TetraSociology stirred much more interest in the West than at home. There it understand better and faster, than in Russia, despite of the very insignificant information o­n it. But this can be easily explained if we consider the legacy the Russian mentality is shedding. Overall, the evaluations quoted demonstrate the INITIAL level of attitude to TetraSociology, which will serve as the reference point for the polls to follow in 2-3 years.

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