Epoka inteligencji : Historia porównawcza warstwy wykształconej w Europie

Sdvižkov, Denis GND

The author’s goal is to present one of the most important historical phenomena, i.e. the intelligentsia, in a comparative way, taking into account the European perspective. The book was written in a way that can be understood by a wider group of readers and students. The publication is the result of research carried out in Berlin, Paris, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Warsaw and is a guide to the history of the educated social class in four countries, i.e. France, Germany, Poland and Russia. It is also an attempt to synthesize and summarize the historiographic discussions on the intelligentsia as a research problem. Sdvižkov focuses on the period between the mid-19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century. The final turning point is 1914 that the author himself perceives as a not fully adequate date as he later explains in the book. According to Sdvižkov, the main purpose of this publication is to provide readers with a concise form of a comprehensive picture of the history of the intelligentsia and to analyse the most important issues related to this phenomenon. On the basis of this presentation and analysis, it will be possible to decide whether we should talk about the intelligentsia or rather about the intelligentsias.

In the extensive introduction to the book the author presents the beginnings of the intelligentsia in which he specifies the terms “intelligentsia” and “educated social stratum”. The intelligentsia is perceived as individuals and social groups, who over the years considered themselves the carriers of this trait, and represented the nation, or all humanity. However, he claims that the term is of a vague character, which is already evident in the study of histories of particular nations. This is due to the fact that the intelligentsia is understood differently, hence it does not fit into any fixed pattern, homogeneous for all cultures and nations. The analysed countries belong to the ancient-Christian civilization. In the last three centuries, they shared a basically identical canon of knowledge and education.

In the first chapter, the author familiarizes the reader with the 19th-century French mixture of regimes and revolutions that gave rise to the intelligentsia in the 19th century. He points out that it is rather an attempt to reconstruct what kind of social class was replaced by the intelligentsia, which later, in France was not understood in accordance with one particular pattern, or term. There were rather a series of concepts that differed and were used simultaneously. The term intellectuels, whose evolution was presented in the first chapter, did not appear until the 20th century. The author does not find it surprising that the environment of the educated class did not create any lasting concept, which would have a range and symbolic power comparable to philosophes originating from the Age of Enlightenment. He concludes that this concept became L'Affaire, which the proper history of French intellectuels stemmed from.

Sdvižkov presents a detailed depiction of the French education system. He starts with the 17th century, when the formalization of intellectual life and legitimization of its institutions began to take shape. The centralization and nationalization of higher education became a hallmark of the French education model. Primary and secondary schools remained the remit of church religious congregations. Mainly the clergy and the bourgeoisie from the upper, and rarely middle and lower social classes made up the educated part of society.

In the 18th century, specialized education started developing. Educated people became a problem for the government because they demonstrated the anachronism of state divisions, and their social status was not defined. The profession was defined as metries intellectuels that were regarded as a separate group, but their place in society remained unclear. Initially, this group was referred to as philosophes. Their era ended whit the outbreak of the French Revolution. The philosophes’ role was to spread the truth and morality. They considered themselves intermediaries between the state and society and were an outline of the intelligence to come. In the first half of the 19th century, along with the expanding French book market, poets, writers, and later artists, who most often came from the middle class, also had a huge impact on society. At the end of the century, the literary and artistic avant-garde played a leading role in the formation of intellectuels.

In the years 1880–1890 the concept of intellectuels was narrowed down, as it was associated with avant-garde literary and artistic circles. It also underwent gradual radicalization and politicization. Basically academic environments (diplômés) were the driving force behind the concept of intellectuels. Sdvižkov pays a lot of attention to concept of the professor – the person’s ascetic form of life and his position in society. The author notes that before the French Revolution professors were recruited from the higher bourgeoisie. After the revolution though, they definitely came from the middle class and petty middle class. In most cases, they were people advancing from the lower social strata. Over time, the social significance of the professor began to increase and at the end of the century it had a leading role in civilization.

In chapter two, the author focuses on the intelligentsia in Germany. He wonders if educated people once formed a separate social stratum. In terms of Germany, throughout 150-200 years, there was only one concept related to the educated social stratum. Despite all transformations, there was one and the same type. The idea of the educated stratum is rather uniform. It stems from the statement that the Reformation is the spiritual homeland of German intelligentsia, as thanks to the Reformation the first book written in the national language appeared, the foundations for a mass literary market were laid, and due to the dogma of universal priesthood, the role of a priest was brought back to earth. The pastor’s work itself, which required proper and comprehensive education, gave impetus to the development of education and renewal of academic life. So apart from the professors, it was the pastors who stood behind the birth of the 19th-century German intelligentsia.

Then the position of universities significantly enhanced, they remained unrivalled and were under the authority of the state. The educated social stratum mostly consisted of civil servants and their position was good enough and allowed for the creation of dynasties of scholars. The transformation of education and the new role of the educated social stratum meant that in the second half of the 18th century, the issue was no longer about “the state of scholars” but about “the educated states”. At the end of the 18th century, with the advent of the national idea, education became the basis for the educated stratum to determine its public role. The system of primary, secondary and higher education was unified, and a classical gymnasium completed with a leaving certificate created opportunities for university studies.

In the 1840s, the term Intelligenz was used to refer both to the individuals who presented reason, knowledge, and the accuracy is assessments, as well as to the entire educated social stratum. Initially, education was to be available to everyone, but eventually the educated stratum transformed into an intellectual elite. The social position of the intelligentsia was located within the middle class centre. The intelligentsia separated itself from the noble culture, as they claimed that their contents of education differed. The educated class only absorbed some elements of the courtly and noble culture. However, the boundary separating the intelligentsia from the masses was set meticulously and its necessity was due to the total lack of education of the lower classes. From the mid-18th to the second half of the 19th century, there was a clear division between burghers with higher education and entrepreneurs.

Over time, knowledge began to be perceived not only as an indicator of prestige, but also as a source of income. Interest in education as such grew significantly. The number of people with higher education holding managerial positions in private enterprises increased as well. Advancing to the status of educated social stratum could take place even within one generation. The first step was often related with taking on the role of a pastor or a teacher. Educated people of the first generation enabled their offspring to access more prestigious and more expensive education. This was typical of the less prosperous petty middle class and lower strata.

In the second half of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century, both the social structure and the public role of the university changed significantly. The number of students increased rapidly, which resulted in a percentage change of intellectual children in this group. The author also focuses on the change in national and religious character at universities, where the number of Jews increased. This led to the increase in anti-Semitism among students and professors.

In the second half of the 19th century the crisis of the German educated stratum occurred. There was also a decline of the academic professor as a politician active in the public sphere, who started taking the form of a sage advising the authorities, or an objective mediator for society. Over time, there was also a decline in the importance of MPs with higher education, and a general decline in the importance of the intelligentsia in society. The “man of culture” gave way to the “professional man” as the leader of social progress. Over time, universities turned into places that were only to transfer knowledge and lost their status of entities defining spiritual culture. A new concept of the intellectual emerged. This time it included the educated stratum, which was active in the growing intellectual market, generally independent of the state, and engaged in public sphere. Intellectuals were no longer associated with the university academics to the extent as it had been before. This group mostly consisted of representatives of artistic circles and the world of literature, journalists who most often came from the middle class.

In chapter three, the author focuses on the intelligentsia in Poland. He states that Poland is an example of a country where the intelligentsia can exist without symbiosis with the state, because its identity was more influenced by the absence of the state, rather than by the state itself. Nevertheless, the institution and the idea of the state played a great role in this case. The Polish intelligentsia consisted of many elements: Poles from the Russian, Austrian and Prussian partitions, “Parisian” Poles in exile, Kresy and the diaspora of the Polish intelligentsia in tsarist Russia, primarily in St. Petersburg. Each of these segments was influenced by the national specificity of individual states, or countries Poles lived in. Sdvižkov focuses primarily on the part of Poland that was occupied by Russia, as these areas constituted 80% of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The author notes that in this case the Polish intelligentsia actually means relationship between the educated strata in Poland and Russia, which were in a way co-dependent, despite all cataclysms and tragedies. It was caused by the fact the two countries were neighbours and coexisted within one state organism.

Sdvižkov, trying to trace the odyssey of the Polish intelligentsia from its roots, starts with analysing medieval Poland and the order of intellectual life at that time. The heyday covered the period from the 15th to the 17th century. The tradition of educational travel and learned correspondence was revived, printing became popular, books were imported from the West and exported to the East. In the case of Poland, nobility played an important role. Many magnate courts changed into centres of intellectual life. The institution of a court-mansion writer who was a magnate client was created. Along with the education reform, a change took place. Increasingly, young noblemen gravitated towards cities, mainly Warsaw. The development of the pedagogical thought of the Polish Enlightenment was also associated with the activities of the National Education Commission - a unified education system was introduced, ranging from municipal schools to secondary and higher education, and the universities in Cracow and Vilnius were recognized as the main centres of two school districts.

The roots of the intelligentsia should be sought wherever any state structures were created. At that time, the intelligentsia included civil servants, officers employed at aristocratic mansions, school teachers, and educated clergy. Apart from well-educated magnates, there were also middle-class and poor nobility, merchants and well-educated townspeople who constituted the majority. The urban public space, above all Warsaw, was the second extremely important environment for the development of the intelligentsia as bureaucracy directed and staffed by Poles was created there. Over time this bureaucracy and related spheres began to require formal qualifications and passing a state exam. At the same time, a separate identity of the educated stratum was formed, which primarily took place at universities.

The failure of the November Uprising turned out to be a devastating blow for the nobility dominating in the cultural and public spheres. The first wave of land confiscations and the mass emigration of nobility insurgents began. After the suppression of the uprising, the development of education was inhibited, and schools and universities were closed, as ordered by the authorities. Polish academic life was completely paralyzed. In the 1840s, with the beginning of the industrial revolution, the landowner became the main recipient of intellectual products. The situation remained unchanged until the 1860s, when a network of educational institutions started being created in Poland, tuition fees were reduced and the University of Warsaw reactivated. After the January Uprising, as a result of political purge, the clerical stratum ceased to be the social base of the intelligentsia. State structures and the education system were Russified, and Russian became the language of instruction. The importance of Polish teachers and professors decreased drastically. Most of the educated stratum worked in private administration, primarily in landed estates.

In the 19th century, landowners considered themselves both the intelligentsia and citizens. Increasingly, the impoverished nobility started moving to cities, above all Warsaw. The intelligentsia gained a more urban character. Both, in the countryside and in the city, the intelligentsia grew beyond the original landed gentry roots and became associated with the educated stratum, in which not only people coming from nobility and clergy were in the forefront, but also doctors, teachers, pharmacists and notaries. The intelligentsia of middle and above all minor nobility was decisive when it comes to the image of this stratum. The Polish intellectual labour market was small and poorly paid. Scholars belonged to the group of the poor but proud.

In chapter four, the author familiarizes the reader with the formation of the Russian intelligentsia. This process was relatively similar to the aforementioned ones, i.e. it started from Christian culture, went through the stage of modernizing state, to the emerging society. The main cultural processes are also comparable - secularization, rationalization, the elites changing from the landed gentry to the educated public opinion formed in the urban environment.

The history of education in Russia could not develop without its relationship with the West. This transfer was an indispensable part of the work on national awareness in the formation of culture. Up to the 18th century, teaching was devoid of any regularity and there was no education program. It is also extremely important that there was no interdependence of church and secular educational institutions in Russia. In the 18th century, not only did the state create secular education, but also previously non-existent system of theological education, and as a result it was the state that remained an educational monopolist.

The first representatives of the new educated stratum at the tsarist court were secretaries and undersecretaries in offices, first of all in the foreign affairs office. From the end of the 16th century, attempts were made to create universities. Most of the students came from clergy families, a few were courtiers, but also individuals from all walks of life were invited, even sons of the common and peasantry. Writers who studied in Poland and Ukraine can be regarded as the 17th-century intelligentsia. A polite bachelor devoting his life to the service of his homeland and ruler was to be a new type of educated man.

The first institutionalized educational network in Russia consisted of state arithmetic schools and facilities of a military-technical nature. The curriculum was of a purely utilitarian character then. In terms of education, monasteries were no longer significant, theological seminaries were transformed into multi-tasking institutions. In the 18th century, mainly soldiers and officials sent their sons to state schools. The social prestige of general education was none. Students were physically forced to attend classes at school. The society was to be brought up through the state enlightenment. Everything related to education was concentrated around the state and the military for a hundred years. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the army joined politics and played a significant role in the development of culture. The army can be regarded as an environment in which the intelligentsia crystallized. The academic community, much closer to the intelligentsia, had a bigger problem with gaining social recognition. The first Russian professors appeared in the 1750s and 1760s and came mainly from clergy. Nearly all of them studied and graduated abroad, and the crowning achievement of education was an educational journey at the expense of the state.

From the 1760s to the 1780s, Enlightenment policy reached its peak. At that time, the foundations were laid for the planned education of women and for a uniform education system operating in accordance with the Austrian-Prussian formula. It was based on the Enlightenment idea of raising a “new man” under the supervision of the state. A stable form of education was established only in the first quarter of the 19th century, i.e. during the reign of Alexander I. The program was based mainly on the German model. A functional, unified system of secondary and higher education was built and an academic network started being developed. A state exam was introduced, which was necessary for obtaining a higher rank. Since then, especially for the nobility, education indeed became an indispensable element of life, both in the civil and military service.

The sphere of culture and education, which until then was completely nationalized, began to develop according to its own laws, continuing the line started in the 18th century. Education became a way of regulating the career of civil servants, push the role of parenthood into the background thus undermining the former system.

During this period, the Russian concept of intelligentsia began to pave its way. It was then understood as a rational social stratum capable of interpreting reality. Social and political involvement was an important criterion. This concept started being used in the 1830s, and with the new opportunities brought by public opinion, it was used more and more often. The intelligentsia was written about, thought over and discussed in the published works and papers. Its tissue was formed from emerging formal and informal relations, from the emerging network of social contacts. The intelligentsia was a heterogeneous mix, containing a bit of nobility, clergy, free thinking and servility. Studies at the seminary were often considered the first step of the lower classes in order to achieve social advancement perceived as reaching the sphere of civil servants, academic intelligentsia and freelance professions.

The author notes that social advancement was possible regardless of origin. However, novices were required to achieve above average results, have an extraordinary personality and meet certain criteria, i.e. accept the main values of the intelligentsia and comply with particularly hard dictatorship of the public. The admission was possible thanks to various, primarily state, scholarships. The author also focuses on the system of intellectual dynasties, which in time developed on the Russian soil. He also takes into account the lifestyle of a standard intellectual home in Russia.

Praca przedstawia dzieje warstw wykształconych we Francji, Niemczech, Polsce i Rosji od połowy XVIII do połowy XIX wieku. Autor analizuje procesy, które doprowadziły do rozwoju świadomości inteligencji jako grupy społecznej, jej stosunek do państwa, modernizacji i najważniejszych ideologii owych czasów, a także realia życia inteligentów: ich sytuację materialną, zainteresowania i fascynacje, mody i aspiracje. Książka zawiera też katalog głównych problemów teoretycznych badań nad inteligencją i jej samoświadomością.

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