photo neededIn existographies, Werner Stark (1909-1985) (CR:71) was an Czechoslovakian-born English sociologist noted for his 1962 harsh critiques of physics and chemistry based sociologies and economics, which he classifies via extremeness (see: Stark classification).

In 1962, Stark published his The Fundamental Forms of Social Thought, in which he devotes two chapters to a "angry" critique of what he refers to as the "extreme mechanicism" school of sociology, where people are treated as particles (see: human particle) and or molecules (see: human molecule) whose behaviors are explained through mechanism and physical science principles. [1] The gist of Stark's extreme mechanism sociology critique is summarized well by a recent 1993 retrospect synopsis by American sociologist Leon Warshay: [4]

“Some modes of mechanism (Chapter 10), such as Simmel’s, are tolerated; others, such as Lundberg’s, are not. Simmel is deemed a moderate even though he leans toward nominalism, just as Durkheim is favorably contrasted with Simmel as a moderate who leans toward realism. Lundberg is criticized for aping physics—for using motion, energy, and force as social mechanism and defining societal groups as ‘electron-proton configurations’—thereby being enslaved by ‘mechanistic modes of thought’ (pgs. 153-54).

The work of Henry Charles Carey (which is discussed in Chapters 10 and 11) and that of S.C. Haret is characterized as extreme mechanicism. Both apply physical principles to society (e.g. force, attraction, motion, constrains, space, equilibrium, energy, and electricity) and both see individuals in mechanistic-atomistic terms (e.g. as particles and or molecules) as inert elements caused from without. Stark criticizes extreme mechanicism for its inability to deal with social fact (pg. 163) and as inclined to be a- or anti-historical (pg. 159).

Some ‘empiricism’ is evident here in Stark’s criticisms of the various types of mechanicism he posits. His argument is an angry one: that Carey, Pareto, and Lundberg have all ‘imported’ models from elsewhere (e.g. from physics and astronomy), and have ‘imposed’ them on social phenomena (which Stark knows to have an idealistic character) under a ‘unity of nature’ positivist ideal, which is really a sociology unified under physics (pg. 155).”

In short, Stark aims to espouse extreme theories of social mechanism in which the individual is discussed in guise of the physicalist terms of atoms and molecules, which Stark considers a ‘foreign substance’. The following is Stark's view on the theories of Italian engineer Vilfredo Pareto: [4]

“Pareto’s positive mechanism is excoriated for imposing a molecular model upon social life in the name of an objective science.”

In the end, however, although critical of these extreme mechanism views, Stark comments that these views will be needed in some way in a modern sociology.

Stark's two chapter critique is similar to Russian-born American sociologist Pitirim Sorokin's 1928 opening chapter "The Mechanistic School" to his Contemporary Sociological Theories.

Social chemistry
In questioning why English biologist Thomas Huxley’s 1871 call for the development of the field of social chemistry has never actuated, Stark comments: [1]

“Why should no social chemistry ever been developed?” He states that “nobody would suggest that the social scientists should imitate meteorology, for this discipline does not appear to have got very far … but what about chemistry? A sociology based on chemistry [has] in fact been called for, but, significantly, [this call has] found no echo. It would have been easy to take up this suggestion and develop it further. An intending social chemist would have found it one whit more difficult to manufacture a sociological parallel to the Boyle-Charles law than Haret did to the Newtonian propositions. But the experiment appears never to have been tried. Why?”

In this same year, Stark also speculates on the concept of the 'human molecule', a view which he seems to reject.


Stark also theorizes on social mechanisms, social processes, and spent the last ten years of his life writing his five-volume treatise The Social Bond (1976-87) on the subject of the social bond. [3]

1. Stark, Werner. (1962). The Fundamental Forms of Social Thought. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
2. Stark, Werner. (1976-87). The Social Bond: an Investigation into the Bases of Law-abidingness. Fordham University Press.
3. Stark, Werner, Leonard, Eileen B., Strasser, Hermann, and Westhues, Kenneth. (1993) In Search of Community: Essays in Memory of Werner Stark (1909-1985) (Part III: Social Bond, pgs. 117-72; physicalist terms, pg. 54, 57). Fordham University Press.
4. (a) Warshay, Leon H. (1993). “The Social Theory of a Humane Organicist: On Werner Stark as Intellectual Detective and Moralist”, in: In Search of Community: Essays in Memory of Werner Stark (1909-1985) (pgs. 45-55). Fordham.
(b) Leon H. Warshay (faculty) – Wayne State University.
5. (a) Stark, Werner. (1962). The Fundamental Forms of Social Thought. (pgs. 261-63). Routledge.
(b) Huxley, Thomas. (1871). “Administrative Nihilism”, Fortnightly Review, pg. 536. Nov. 1.

External links
‚óŹ Werner Stark – Wikipedia.

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