Professor Stanislav Andreski

Sociologist whose wartime escape from Poland informed his later work on military organisation


Stanislaw Leonard Andrzejewski (Stanislav Andreski), sociologist: born Czestochowa, Poland 18 May 1919; Lecturer in Sociology, Rhodes University, South Africa 1947-53; Senior Research Fellow in Anthropology, Manchester University 1954-56; Lecturer in Economics, Acton Technical College, London 1956-57; Lecturer in Management Studies, Brunel College of Technology, London 1957-60; Professor of Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Santiago, Chile 1960-61; Senior Research Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research, Ibadan, Nigeria 1962-64; Professor of Sociology, Reading University 1964-84 (Emeritus), Head of Sociology Department 1964-82; part-time Professor of Comparative Sociology, Polish University in London 1969-99; married 1957 Iris Gillespie (two sons, two daughters; marriage dissolved), 1977 Ruth Ash; died Reading, Berkshire 26 September 2007.

Stanislav Andreski, Professor Emeritus of Sociology of Reading University, was an outstanding figure in the first generation of British sociologists. At a time when other sociologists were obsessed with class, Andreski saw clearly that the key to power was control over the means of force.

In 1954 he published Military Organization and Society, which became recognised both as a pioneering work in military sociology and a model of how to use the comparative method. It was followed by Elements of Comparative Sociology (1964) and the collection of articles War, Revolutions, Dictatorships (1982), which again compared institutions in different societies to achieve sociological insights.

The later essays returned time and again to the key questions of who can and does employ force and their provocative titles include "The Armies and the Privileged Strata", "On the Peaceful Disposition of Military Dictators" and "Italian Military Inefficiency: an explanation". They were provocative because Andreski, a highly original thinker, widely travelled and extremely well read, was able and willing to challenge conventional assumptions that lesser sociologists and political thinkers took for granted.

Perhaps the clue to Andreski's interests, originality and unusual talents lay in his – for a British professor of sociology – unusual origins. He was born Stanislaw Andrzejewski in Czestochewa in Poland in 1919, and in 1939 fought in the Polish army against the German invader. His unit was forced to retreat and he was taken prisoner by the Soviet army which had attacked Poland from the other side.

As the prisoners were being marched eastwards, Andreski escaped and hid in the forest; had he not done so, he might well have been murdered by the Soviets along with the other Polish officers at Katyn. He then escaped from Poland over the mountains to Slovakia and Hungary, and from there via Yugoslavia and Italy to France, to eventually reach Britain in July 1940 – via a cargo boat from La Rochelle to Plymouth – where he rejoined the Polish army.

At one point on his journey he walked down a long, completely dark railway tunnel, feeling his way along the wall, and not knowing into which country he would emerge. As he emerged into the light, armed guards shouted at him and he was arrested. He used to say how relieved he had been that he could not understand anything that the guards said, which meant that he had to be in (then) neutral Hungary, and safe.

While he was stationed with the Polish army in Britain, Andreski obtained an external degree from London University with First Class Honours and later a PhD. At the end of the war he had no wish to return to Communist Poland. After such experiences it is easy to see why he saw military power and war as so crucial to understanding how societies function and why he was so determined an opponent of the Soviet Union and of its British sympathisers.

In 1947 he took up his first academic post, as Lecturer in Sociology at Rhodes University, South Africa. He returned to the UK in 1953, and for two years was a Senior Research Fellow in Anthropology at Manchester University, before moving to London to lecture at Acton and Brunel technical colleges.

Andreski's interest in the sociology of economic development then took him to work in Chile and in Nigeria and to his writing Parasitism and Subversion: the case of Latin America (1966), and The African Predicament: a study in the pathology of modernization (1968). On the voyage from London to Nigeria he met Yakubu Gowan, later General Gowan and president of the country, but then fresh out of Sandhurst. He asked him if he thought that army officers would ever seize power in Nigeria in the way they frequently had in Latin America. Gowan assured him that, due to their British training, such a thing was quite impossible.

After two years in Ibadan, Andreski returned to the UK in 1964 to become the first Professor of Sociology at Reading University, and founder of the department. He held the chair until his retirement in 1984, and for some years afterwards was Professor of Comparative Sociology at the Polish University in Exile in London. He continued to write and publish. His interest in the great sociologists of the past and his command of languages led him to edit selections from the works of Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer and Max Weber and in 1984 to publish Max Weber's Insights and Errors.

Andreski always wrote a clear, impeccable and attractive English that was a pleasure to read. He held in contempt those social scientists who were obscurantists and jargon-mongers, and in 1974 published an attack on them in his best-selling Social Sciences as Sorcery. It was very popular with the public but infuriated those of his colleagues whose careers were based on concealing behind verbiage the fact that they had nothing to say. Andreski was equally contemptuous of bureaucracy and when he received an absurd questionnaire from the Social Science Research Council asking him what method he used, he replied "thinking".

His attitude again had its roots in his wartime experiences. When guarding Scotland with the Polish army, he was sent a bundle of paperwork in Polish about the provision of a canteen for the NCOs marked "most highly secret", which he promptly threw in the waste paper basket of the place where he was billeted. His thrifty Scottish landlady rescued the papers and sold them to the local fish-and-chip shop. Unfortunately the commander of the local Polish forces had a great weakness for fish and chips, sent out for some and was not best pleased when they arrived wrapped in Polish military documents.

Andreski was a character, a man whose keen brain, encyclopaedic knowledge, fluency in five languages and ability to read others, enabled him to attain a commanding position in comparative sociology. Few British sociologists have matched him for originality or have had such a range of achievements.

Christie Davies

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Installation Manager

£35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Tax Investigations Manager/Senior Manager

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits: Cameron Kennedy Recruitment: This rapidl...

Scrum Master - Southampton, Hampshire - Excellent Package

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited:...

Senior Scrum Master - Hampshire - £47k

£47000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Key skil...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice