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Aiken on Mills

In response to:

C. Wright Mills and the Pragmatists from the March 11, 1965 issue

To the Editors:

The remarkably insightful review of Sociology and Pragmatism by Henry D. Aiken (March 11, 1965) is marred by a no less blind opening paragraph. Let me simply address myself to the facts.

(1) Mr. Aiken seems to think that Mills made a “revision” of the dissertation and that I made another “revision.” Nonsense on both counts. Mills made some penciled notes in the margins of his copy, which on a selective set of occasions could be incorporated in the text. My changes were confined to problems of grammar, chapter headings, etc. In short, this is a cleaned up version of the dissertation—and not a revised version in any sense other than described above.

(2) Mr. Aiken likes the original title of the dissertation (A Sociological Account of Pragmatism), and says that the present title is so inappropriate that anyone can “see” this but myself. How strange! Mills loathed the title given his dissertation—foisted upon him by a committee which refused to accept this as a work in philosophy no less than in sociology, and so rigged the title over his objections. The present title was one he and I hit upon when we were considering publishers.

(3) Mr. Aiken’s “advice” to “leaf lightly” through my introduction, and through the first part of Mills’s book, is based on nothing more than his hatred for the sociological (Mills’s “desultory attempts to classify…”, “his puerile statistics…”, “his derivative remarks upon the rise of the secular American university,” etc). It would have been less agonizing for the reviewer to admit the possibility that the book is as good as it is because of its sociological style, rather than in spite of it.

Irving Louis Horowitz

Washington University

St. Louis

Henry David Aiken replies:

I shall not quibble with Professor Horowitz over the question whether his so-called “clean-up job” amounts to a revision; perhaps this is not a question of fact in the hardest sense of the term. For the rest, however, I am obliged to deal with him rather more sternly. Nothing in my opening paragraph remotely suggests that I “like” Mills’s original title; that I had a quite different point in view anyone but Professor Horowitz can see. And my remark in the review about what “anyone but Professor Horowitz can see” is directed, as anyone but he can see, not to the (genuine) inappropriateness and pretentiousness of the title of the book as it now stands, but to the fact that the title given on the frontispiece (Sociology and Pragmatism: The Higher Learning in America) differs from that given in Professor Horowitz’s inaccurate (by his own implicit confession) Preface (Socialogy and Pragmatism: A Study in American Higher Learning). Which of these titles did Mills himself approve? If Mills did have a hand in changing the original title of his dissertation to one of the two mentioned above, Professor Horowitz was free to say so in his Preface. He did not say so, and I am not yet a mind reader. Finally, my advice to the reader (which, incidentally I reaffirm) to leaf lightly through Horowitz’s Introduction and the first four chapters of Mills’s book was not vaguely based on a “hatred for the sociological.” My hatred—or distaste—is reserved for badly written sociology, irrelevant sociology, pretentious sociology, and poorly executed introductions by professors of sociology. Professor Horowitz has evidently got himself and his mentor confused with their subject itself—a blunder which I find it easier to avoid with each passing moment. May the Lord protect authors from their epigone.

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