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Aleksander Hertz

(1895-1983) Sociologist, essayist and theater theorist. He was born into a Polonized Jewish family with a patriotic past-his own father had taken part in the January Uprising.

During his high school years, he belonged to the leaders of the secret Union of Progressive and Independence Minded Youth (Zwiazek Młodzieży Postepowo-Niepodleglosciowej), and then joined the Polish Socialist Party, and the Polish Military Organization. He studied in Warsaw and Vienna, writing his doctoral dissertation on Hegel under the supervision of Professor Tadeusz Kotarbinski. He published in Przeglad Socjologiczny (Sociological Review) and cooperated with the monthly Wiedza i Zycie (Knowledge and Life). He initiated research in sociology of the theater in Poland, and his lectures at the State Institute of Theatrical Arts gave rise to his book Zagadnienia socjologii teatru (Problems in the Sociology of Theater).

In September 1939, he left for France, and from there to the United States, where he settled permanently. At first he worked with the Office of War Information, and after the war he as involved in the book trade. He was interested in humanistic sociology. Although he had been influenced by Karl Marx, Vilfred Pareto and Max Weber, he was never strictly bound to any of their theories.
Hertz undoubtedly contributed to the popularization of Weber's thought in Poland. His research included the area where the sociology of culture and politics overlapped, and believed that sociology should be treated as a means of achieving mutual understanding among the various elements in a democratic society. He was also the first to point out totalitarian traits in politics: the cult of the leader, militarism and anti-Semitism.

His most important works include: Ludzie i idee (1931), Klasycy socjologii (1933), Militaryzacja stronnictwa politycznego (1935), Poslannictwo wodza (1936), Druzyna wodza (1937), Szkice o ideologiach (Sketches On Ideologies) (1947), Amerykanskie stronnictwa polityczne (American Political Parties) (1957), Zydzi w kulturze polskiej (Jews in Polish Culture) (1961) and an autobiographic work titled Wyznania starego człowieka (Confessions of an Old Man) (1979). In Confessions, he wrote: "I am a Pole, but at the same time I consider myself to be a Jew. I consider myself to be the unworthy and feckless heir of six thousand years of the Jews' creativity in their homeland and in exile."
A. Hertz, Wyznania starego człowieka (London: Oficyna Poetow i Malarzy, 1979), p. 148.
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