On Friday June 3rd Ray Pahl died after a long lasting illness. He was a very special person, innovative and generous, with sociological imagination and a multitude of interests, including the role of space in social relations.
In 1970 at the world congress of sociology in Varna (Bulgaria) he was one of the founding members of the Research Committee on Urban and Regional Development (RC21) and – from 1974 – its second president. In 1977 he was one of the founders of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (IJURR) and later he become the first chair of the Foundation of Urban and Regional Studies (FURS).
This collection of short texts – written by friends who were involved with him in kicking-off a new urban sociology – wants to be a tribute to his legacy, not only from the scientific point of view, but also from a more intimate and personal perspective.
Ray Pahl’s academic career and (selected) publications » link
By Michael Harloe
I first met Ray in the early 1970s when I worked at the Centre for Environmental Studies in London. CES, funded by the Ford Foundation and the British government, had a young and dynamic multidisciplinary staff many of whom went on to become leaders in the field of urban and regional research. And Ray was already an intellectual leader in what came to be known as ‘the new urban sociology’.
His own work had broken decisively with what had become an increasingly sterile tradition of, on the one hand, ‘community studies’ and, on the other hand, methodologically sophisticated but theoretically banal urban ecology, both deriving from the pioneering work of the Chicago School but without its intellectual excitement or relevance to contemporary urban policies and events; a tradition he explored and began to transcend in his Introduction to a path breaking collection which he edited Readings in Urban Sociology (1968). Ray’s subsequent work, deeply influenced by Weberian perspectives on power and bureaucracy, focused initially on the role of the ‘urban managers’ as the ‘gatekeepers’ of access to urban resources and had an immediate resonance with those of us just entering our professional life as sociologists, politically and socially committed to social justice in the city and seeking a means of both understanding and changing our cities and societies.
Here is what Ray wrote about all this in Captive Cities (1977) a collection which I edited and which bought together many of those working on the foundations of the political economy of cities and regions: ‘the study of urban and regional development is increasingly coming to be synonymous with the study of political economy. No longer need sociologists concerned with the urban question limit themselves to fruitless attempts to get theoretical yields from the now overworked ground of the Chicago ecologists....Freed from the atheoretical and ideological constraints which inhibited much previous work, a return to the concerns and levels of analysis of Marx and Weber enables those concerned with urban questions to shed new light on the sociology of the advanced societies’, Ray’s work to bring about a paradigm shift in urban social science soon his bought him into contact with an emergent network of similarly committed sociologists in Eastern and Western Europe, colleagues such as Ivan Szlenyi in Hungary, Jiri Musil in Czechoslovakia, Enzo Mingione in Italy and Manuel Castells and Edmond Preteceille in France. Before long Ray built bridges between their work and his own and those of his UK colleagues such as myself, Chris Pickvance and Peter Saunders and beyond our discipline to the work of a similarly emergent group of human geographers such as David Harvey in the USA. It led to the foundation of two immensely productive and influential institutions both still flourishing today, in both of which Ray was centrally involved. First, at the 1970 ISA World Congress of Sociology, the Research Committee 21 on the Sociology of Urban and Regional Development and second in 1977, the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.
Ray was one of the most innovative and creative sociologists of his generation and his own work soon moved on from urban sociology to other interests, notably of course work and the household division of labour, which he first explored in the seminal Divisions of Labour (1984) but he remained intellectually and personally engaged with the network of friends and colleagues that he was instrumental in creating in these early years. He was a public intellectual, strongly committed to a sociology which was not only academically rigorous but socially engaged and a leader of our profession in the UK. His own work inspired me and many others to pursue the question which he famously posed in the tile of one of his most influential books - ‘Whose City?’ But there was much more to Ray than that: his warmth, personal generosity and love of a good gossip were what I and his many other friends will miss as much as his mercurial and ever engaging sociological imagination.
In the last decade or so of his life Ray himself wrote eloquently and with great sociological insight about the virtues of friendship and how much friends had meant to his own intellectual and personal development. At the end of his book On Friendship (2000) he wrote: ‘I trust I have done something to encourage readers to carry on exploring the ideals and practice of friends and friendship, both intellectually and in their personal; lives’. He certainly did.
Salford, June 8th, 2011
Looking back on a friendship
By Jirí Musil
When I learned about Ray´s passing I visited his volumes in my collection of books and I looked as well on his articles and notes.
Among them I discovered a small article that was published in 2008 in the Czech Sociological Review on the occasion of my eighties. It was Ray´s warm and friendly account of our friendship lasting almost half a century. I think that there is no better title for my present recollection of my relationship with Ray than his words: “Looking back on a friendship”.
Ray was the first British social scientist with whom I began to communicate after the communist coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948.
Undoubtedly professional interests brought us together but they started something more valuable: a friendship. Ray and his wife Jan were ready to house me in their home in Royston for more than two weeks at the beginning of my first stay in Britain in 1963. My English was poor, my knowledge of English habits as well, and I was shy – after 15 years I was first time allowed to visit a Western country. Ray and Jan were extremely patient and kind and introduced me in the best way to Britain, to the important books, and most important to their friends. This helped me enormously. From that time onwards our contacts started to be regular.
The relationship with Ray grew in intensity especially in the period after the Prague Spring in 1968. Our family arrived after the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet and “allied” armies in August
1968 to the conclusion that we shall leave our country. I received from David Donnison an invitation and an offer of a scholarship enabling me to stay for a year in Britain.
We went through Europe by car and our first stop in Britain was in Ray´s family. They lived at that time in Canterbury and Ray was teaching at the new University of Kent in the Department of Sociology. This time we were three, my wife Eva and our daughter Hana and we faced difficult decisions about our future lives. The Pahls were again extremely helpful and understanding. We spent with them in their house several days and intensively discussed what to do, where to go. Ray introduced me again to his friends, to the head of department Paul Stirling, colleague Krishan Kumar and Ray and his friends offered me a stay at University of Kent, and I was seriously considering it. At the same time - thanks to Ernest Gellner - I was offered the position of lecturer in the Department of Sociology at London School of Economics and Political Science. I accepted this offer but stayed in close touch with Ray. Again and again he discussed patiently with me the crucial question: shall we stay in Britain or shall we return to Prague? In autumn 1969 we returned to Prague.
We did not stop to communicate and to meet after our return to our occupied country, but we met mostly in Eastern Europe. I was again not allowed to travel to the West. But after the Czech Velvet revolution in 1989 I was able to see him several times in Britain and also in his new home in Bishops Castle in Shropshire. Our friendly contacts were enabled as well by the fact that he accepted the invitation of George Soros to cooperate in establishing in Prague one of the colleges of the Central European University. Ray was for some time head of the Department of Sociology of this university in Prague. He helped us in building up the department.
Ray visited Prague for the last time in 2008 on the occasion of my eighties when many other mine and his good friends, Ivan Szelenyi, Janosz Ladanyi, Ewa Kwiatkowska, Bernhard Schäfers, Bernd Hamm, Wendelin Strubelt took part at the event. He was full of energy and in a seminar delivered a non-orthodox paper on gentrification. This was the last academic as well as friendly event of our parallel lives.
I am convinced that sooner or later somebody shall write an intellectual biography of Raymond E.Pahl. He belongs undoubtedly to the most creative and inventive contemporary British sociologists. I am not able at this occasion to evaluate his complex life work, but I can make some notes on his contributions to urban sociology and on one important trend in his intellectual life story.
In Pahl´s view the main question to be studied in urban sociology is the relationship between social stratification of societies and spatial structure of cities. He belonged to those sociologists who wanted to incorporate “the socio-technical” system of cities - and what another school of urban sociologists described as ecological system – into the global system of societies. Here, I think, he was very near the questions asked by social morphology in the Durkheim-Halbwachs tradition. But his answer was weberian.
To the mechanisms allocating different elements of the urban socio-technical system belongs according to him not only the market but also bureaucratic mechanisms. The quality of environment, of infrastructure as well as the social environment enjoyed by individual households, social groups and social strata depends very often on concrete decisions of gate-keepers, i.e. of bureaucrats in urban authorities. I am convinced about the fact that his understanding of these bureaucratic mechanisms was stimulated by his interest in and understanding of socio-spatial processes in cities of so called real socialism. There the role of gate keepers was obvious.
There are many other structural elements of Ray´s thought that would deserve attention. I should like to mention at least one. With J.T Winkler he published in the seventies a study on elites and corporativism and in New Society an article on corporativism. It was a penetrating study touching the basic structures of contemporary
forms of capitalism.
My last note is concerned with Ray´s long term shifts in his thought and intellectual orientations. It is however my personal observation, probably with many risks. It emerged when I was thinking about his whole productive life. As a young man who studied at Cambridge University geography he was interested in structural elements of society, very often linked to space. In the next phase he started to ask questions about mechanisms shaping these structures and this brought him to detailed studies on family patterns of managers, later on to studies on work, on informal work, on coping with difficult life situations like on Sheppey Island. The move was obvious: from a kind of structuralism with weberian interpretations to a kind of social interactionism. Most surprising was his last shift. He started to be interested in friendship as a social phenomenon. The turn towards such an intimate topic was for me a document of Ray´s shift towards a kind of simmelian sociology, stressing the importance of the subjective and of the societal
importance of interaction between concrete human beings.
I should like to end my remembering Ray by quoting a sentence from the last letter I wrote to him: You should know that the friendship with you belongs to the best things in my life.
Prague, June 9th 2011
By Manuel Castells
Professor Ray Pahl was one of the towering figures of sociology in the second half of the 20th century, and particularly in the field of urban sociology. His book "Whose City?" marked a paradigm shift toward the study of power relationships in the city, a defining trend of what was known in the 1970s as te "new urban sociology". He was the intellectual founder of the ISA research committee on the sociology of urban and regional development, a committee that has, over the years, came to symbolize academic excellence and intellectual integrity. I was part of the generation of young urban sociologists who learned from him and with him. He was a friend, a colleague, and, for myself, a mentor.
I will miss him dearly. His sociological legacy will remain forever in the collective memory of scholars around the world.
Berkeley, June 9th 2011
By Chris Pickvance
I first met Ray Pahl in the early 1970s and quickly realised that he was the most stimulating person in the field of urban sociology in the UK. I was, therefore, very pleased to be able to join him at Kent in 1975. He had come to the University of Kent in 1965 from Cambridge University, where he was a staff tutor for Hertfordshire. He was a founding member of the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology and stayed at Kent until the mid-1980s when he moved to a half-time post at the University of Essex. He subsequently retired to the Welsh borders but maintained his academic activity.
Ray’s contributions were outside academia as well as within and this interaction was no doubt a stimulus to his sharpness of perception. In the late 1960s and early 1970s he acted as sociological adviser to the South East Joint Planning Team and as assessor to the Layfield Committee Enquiry into the highly controversial Greater London Development Plan, whose proposals for motorway rings within London were eventually abandoned. He argued that the role of the sociologist vis-à-vis planners was not to provide information but to contribute a sociological understanding of differentiation and power, e.g. how the realization of choices for some means constraints for others.
Ray published a long series of influential books. His early work included Urbs in rure (1964), based on research in Hertfordshire villages, a collection, Readings in Urban Sociology (1968), which already showed his wide international interests, Patterns of Urban Life (1970), which set out his approach to rural and urban settlements, and Managers and their wives (co-authored with Jan Pahl, 1971), an innovative study of the interaction between work and family life among middle managers. In this work, Ray, in line with Herbert Gans in the US, showed how lifestyles were not determined by settlement type but by economic and social constraints, and that many different social groups co-existed in the same settlement.
Ray’s work as a planning adviser combined with his research experience to give him insight into power relations in the city and, drawing also on Rex and Moore’s, Race Community and Conflict, led to his key work in urban sociology, Whose City? This went through two editions (1970, 1975), and evolved from a reflection on social change in suburbia and rural areas to a new research agenda for urban sociology in which the power of ‘urban managers’ in allocating ‘urban resources’, and the relative role of markets and state became the focus.
The title Whose City? captured perfectly the new approach to the city and placed Ray at the heart of international debates. In the aftermath of the 1960s student movement, the critique of urban planning, and the 1973 oil crisis, the contribution of urban sociology, with its focus on micro social relations (communities, neighbouring, associations) and urban spatial patterns seemed marginal. The time was ripe for a broader approach, in which the state, power, social inequality and social conflict were the focus and the Weberian and Marxist perspectives were the main contenders. Ray’s work, along with that of Manuel Castells and David Harvey, and debated by Michael Harloe, Peter Saunders and myself, created links between urban sociology and state theory, urban politics and urban geography.
Ray also contributed enormously to the institutional structure in which these debates took place. In 1970 he was a founding member of the International Sociological Association RC21 (Regional and Urban Development) (and President from 1974-1978) which from the outset looked towards Eastern Europe, and which has remained one of the largest and most lively ISA Research Committees. He was one of the founding editorial board members of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research which launched in 1977 which has gone on to become the leading journal of its kind.. These required a great deal of planning and Ray’s organizational experience was crucial. In addition to those mentioned above, Ivan Szelenyi, Enzo Mingione, and Edmond Preteceille were also closely involved. Later, Ray was also first Chair of Trustees of the Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies, the charity which distributes the profits of IJURR in the form of studentships and research grants.
By the late 1970s, as the performance of the economy became the key national issue, Ray, along with many other sociologists, switched focus to the subject of employment. He offered a new household-level approach, which built on the feminist rejection of the equation of work with employment. He undertook a study of the formal and informal economy in the Isle of Sheppey, a place chosen because of its reputation for having a strong informal economy. The resulting book Divisions of Labour (1984) in some respects went back to the tradition of the much-maligned ‘community study’ but with a greater recognition of the impact of the wider society. Ray concluded that the informal economy was not an alternative to the formal economy; those who lost their jobs also lost their ability to participate in the informal economy. He openly acknowledged that this contradicted his initial hypothesis. The importance of this study has led to a recent re-study by Graham Crow. Ray also edited a collection On Work (1988). The influential idea of the polarization of households into the ‘work rich’ and the ‘work poor’ may well have been due to Ray. In the mid-1980s Ray also took a ‘public sociologist’ role as a member of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ‘Faith in the City’ group which challenged Conservative policy on the inner city.
At Essex Ray made important contributions to the debates on ‘structure, consciousness, action’ in Sociology and on societal cohesion in European Journal of Sociology, and was closely associated with the Institute of Social and Economic Research and the British Household Panel Study. He published After Success: Fin de Siècle Anxiety and Identity (1995), a study the meaning of success based on research on ‘successful’ individuals, and then undertook new research on friendship which led to a conceptual/philosophical book On Friendship (2000) and an empirically based study Rethinking Friendship: Hidden Solidarities Today (with Liz Spencer, 2006).
Ray was a highly stimulating colleague; he admitted to having the ‘adult teacher’s disease of being compulsively provocative’. He was well-known for his ability to grasp an idea and boldness in advancing a new argument, even in print. He could sometimes be infuriating in moving on to a new idea when others were still trying to work out the last idea, but he was always ready to comment on papers and acknowledged the comments of others on his. Ray was also a very generous and sociable person and was a great social networker. In 1975/6 he invited Ivan Szelenyi to Kent for an academic year on his exile from Hungary, a visit many of us found very stimulating.
In formal terms Ray was a Fellow of the British Academy and Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences, but perhaps ‘urbs in rure’ captures the continuity between his first research, his final home and his belief in the importance of social networks in theory and in life.
Canterbury, June 10th, 2011
By Enzo Mingione
Ray Pahl was for me a good friend, a research companion and a senior colleague with a great intellectual influence based on intelligence, versatility, openness and rigour.
We first met at the World Congress of Sociology in Varna in 1970 where together with a group of colleagues, each differently interested in a way to innovate urban studies, we created the Research Committee on Urban and Regional Development. Ray already had a great reputation and brought to the group the important neo-Weberian contribution - an open approach interested in, among other subjects, the question of power in cities, which was taken up in one of his most influential books: Whose City?. In the following years Ray became a central figure of the so called “new urban sociology debate” with great attention to social inequalities and the distribution of power and resources in shaping the differences in the quality and conditions of life in industrialized cities. His curiosity in Eastern European countries and the Soviet Union and appreciation of the work of colleagues from the area, Szelenyi, Musil, Ianitski among others, cleverly anticipated the social transition that was only at its initial steps.
In 1974 Ray became president of the Research Committee and I became secretary. It is in these years of frequent meetings and a lively intellectual debate on the new urban sociology that together with Castells, Harloe, Harvey, Preteceille and others we initiated the success story of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Ray was always at the centre of this creative process with elegance and openness but also with rigour, sociological imagination and concern for new social problems.
In the eighties Ray and I both became very interested in the informal sector, the social division of labour and the survival strategies of people during a time of high unemployment and great work transformations. We had several occasions to work together intensively during the period of his research work on informal practices in the Isle of Sheppey, leading to the publication of Division of Labour, the preparation of his vast reader On Work and the working of the European expert group on the Informal Sector which Ray lead with magisterial competence and intelligence. This long period of intensive collaboration with Ray was for me intellectually very stimulating and personally very pleasant.
Ray had a fondness for Italy, where he came frequently. He went through the difficulties of restoring a country house on the top of a hill in Tuscany. He adored this isolated place and became friends with local peasant families. Walking with Ray in the countryside and in the mountains – Ray enjoyed long walking tours – has been one of the pleasant experiences of my life.
Ray Pahl was for me a generous, committed and affectionate friend. I shall miss his friendship as much as his great intellectual vividness and influence.
New York, June 12th, 2011
By Edmond Preteceille
As a young urban sociologist at the beginning of my career, I attended the 1970 World Congress of Sociology in Varna, where a number of participants, young and inspired by the creative impatience of May 1968, reacted against the dominant approaches to urban sociology , focused on communities and micro-social local relations, in favour of a different agenda where conflict in the city and about the city would be more central, where the state would be discussed as a major actor, where the social and economic interests engaged in the production of the city would be considered. The new urban sociology committee RC21, founded at Varna, started as an alliance between those opposed to the conservative views in the West and those opposed to the conservative views of authoritarian state socialism in Eastern Europe. But some of the latter favoured a rather technocratic view, and this awkward alliance almost led to a conflict at the first major conference of the new network in Grenoble in 1973.
Ray Pahl, slightly older than us and already recognized as a major urban sociologist, played a key role at this time by becoming the president of RC21 to promote the critical urban sociology perspective as an alliance between the neomarxist and neoweberian perspectives, while maintaining a strong and active link with our Eastern European colleagues, a major element in the subsequent development of the network. Although he was a man with strong ideas of his own, he was also strongly committed to the collective and democratic dynamic of the research committee, and his presidency established the democratic governance of RC21. In the same way, he was a key figure in the launching and establishment of IJURR, helping the group with his stronger institutional resources but not using them to build a position of power within the enterprise.
His intellectual contributions have been many, I will mention only three that I find characteristic of his sense of innovation and dialogue. The first one is his analysis of urban managers in his book Whose City? which had a stimulating dialogue with the neomarxist critique of the capitalist state at the time and anticipated more recent developments in the analysis of urban governance which, despite their greater sophistication, often forget the question posed in the title of his book, which he kept central. The second is his questioning in an IJURR article in 1988 of the assumptions of critical sociology about social dualization, which, though recognizing the trends of increasing social inequality associated to neoliberal economic restructuring, he found a complex issue needing more theoretical discussion and empirical evidence. The third is his investigation of work: whereas Marxists often criticized Weberians for looking more at market relations that at production relations and divisions of labour, he took the issue more seriously than many Marxists and made a major empirical and theoretical contribution (Divisions of Labour, On Work)
Because he had a strong voice and presented and defended his ideas forcefully, some colleagues would perceive him as intolerant of other views, but in fact he welcomed the reactions and critiques that his provocative views would trigger and would listen to them attentively and not hesitate to change his positions when the arguments were convincing. Arguing with him was demanding but rewarding, and this built over the years a relation of friendship and generosity which all of us who knew him will greatly miss.
Paris, June 13th, 2011
By Ivan Szelenyi
I first met Ray Pahl during the spring of 1968 on a conference organized by my friend, Jiri Musil just outside Prague. And what a spring it was! These months were at the heights of reform communism: we were all full with hopes that finally the world would converge around a system which would be socially more just than market capitalism but politically more free than state socialism. The Prague Spring did not just belong to Czechoslovakia or Eastern Europe it was springtime around the world.
While I cannot remember the title or topic or Ray’s presentation at the conference – he was already working on Whose City? - it must have been about social inequalities in urban spaces. But the meeting is unforgettable: I remember his sharp eyes, pointed sentences: it was Pahl at his best. Ray, Jiri and I became friends and we discovered that we were all searching for a new way to do urban research.
Our main inspiration came from Herbert Gans and his formidable article: “Urbanism and sub-urbanism as ways of life?” Urban sociology at that time was in a search of identity. During the 1930s the sociological insights of the Chicago School were lost and urban research became dominated by urban geography – that was the field where Ray was trained in initially. Louis Wirth brought social psychology back in with his 1938 classic “Urbanism as a way of life” but from this tradition the central concerns of the 1960s with social conflicts and struggles were badly missing. Socially concerned social researchers - eminent scholars like Ruth Glass - turned the field into the study of race. This was a socially important enough matter, but what was missing was space. This was good sociology, but was this “urban” sociology? In our reading Gans offered a way out of this and laid the foundation what we began to call the “new urban sociology”. Gans had a dependent variable three of us were at that time passionately interested in: inequality. Now the main source of inequality was class and race, but space, or location was an “intervening variable”. Ray, Jiri and I worked with various urban planning agencies so we searching for a research agenda which combined concerns with space and inequality – Herb put us on the right track. The three of us agreed that the central questions we should ask were: in whose interests are urban planners and managers acting, how does the intervention of planners, and spatial arrangements affect social inequalities? Ray was writing Whose City?, Jiri wrote a wonderful paper distinguishing between sociology for planning and sociology of planning. His sociology of planning was right at the core of the new urban sociology project. I had also already completed the first draft of my book Social Inequalities under State Socialism, which was published for various reasons well over a decade after it was written (in 1983). Much like David Harvey in his early work (Social Justice and the City, published in 1973) we knew we could not create an egalitarian society by changing the spatial arrangement of society, but unlike the emergent structuralist Marxist sociology and in particular Manuel Castells in his early work (La Question Urbaine, published in 1972) who claimed there are no urban social relations only class relations we wanted to bring space backin. Space - as Gans suggested – is of course not a determinant of social behavior but it matters. We believed that the new urban sociologists should explore whether society after intervention by planners will become more unequal or a little more just? Whose city is it, what interests do planners serve?
In 1969 I organized a conference on “Urbanization, industrialization and ways of life” in Balatonfüred, Hungary. Ray, Jiri and Herbert Gans were in attendance. If my recollection is correct shortly after this inspirational conference still in 1969 we met again in Budapest. Four of us: Ray, Jiri, me and Rainer Mackensen prepared the “Budapest statement”, which was a call for a “new urban sociology”. I do not have access to the text of this statement (I believe it is in the archive of IJURR), but I believe it was written in the spirit I elaborated above.
Our next important meeting was at the ISA 1970 world conference in Varna, Bulgaria. We, the initiators of the “new urban sociology” movement faced a delicate political problem. Ruth Glass was the chair of the ISA committee on Urban Sociology. We admired and respected Ruth, but we had a different intellectual agenda. Hence we decided not to challenge the mission of the committee on urban sociology, but use the world congress to initiate a new committee, which would not limit its scope to cities, but would also more broadly address the questions of regional development. More importantly: it would shift the research agenda from race to inequality in general and treat space as an important determinant of inequalities. Hence we decided to propose a new committee on Sociology of Urban and Regional Development, which eventually became RC 21, for a long time one of the more successful research committees of ISA. I do not recall well, who attended the first meeting of the future research committee, but Enzo Mingione was certainly there.
In 1971 I published a paper (Social conflicts of under-urbanization) in one of the Hungarian journals, which created a great deal of political controversy. My passport was revoked and for a number of years I could not travel so did not meet Ray and was not involved in the early events of RC 21. As I made myself into a political personal non-grata in my native Hungary my research funding was also revoked and with my friend George Konrad we decided to do theoretical work, which took us away from urban sociology. In 1973-74 we rented a cottage outside Budapest and wrote The Intellectuals on the Road the Class Power. The empirical point of departure of our book was in our common experience with urban planners. During the years Konrad and I worked in VATI (Urban Planning Institute) we became intrigued how deeply most of our planner colleagues (and friends) who politically often were rather anti-communist or at least were politically neutral were attracted the basic ideas of “scientific socialism”, to the idea that rational planning is superior to anarchistic market forces. Our book generalized out of this experience and we set out what we believed was an interesting love-affair between rational intellectuals and the ideology of communism. Once we completed the manuscript of the book during the early fall of 1974 the political police moved against us. They found a copy of our manuscript in the house of a friend. We were arrested and charged with subversion. After a week they released us but they offered us emigration and threatened us with long prison terms if we stayed and continued this kind of work.
I decided to take the more attractive offer, emigration instead of jail. I was married and had three children, aged 14, 11 and 8 and now I had an exit visa (the Hungarian authorities did not give me a passport, just a one way exit visa, so technically they expelled me) and I received immigration permits from Germany, France, England and the USA, but did not have any job offers anywhere. The person who helped me out was Ray Pahl. Ray managed to get a modest one year fellowship for me and a titular position at his university, which at that time was the University of Kent at Canterbury (he created a new title for me: “Visiting Research Professor”).
In May 1975 the Hungarian authorities allowed me to purchase a one way plane ticket for the five of us to London and allowed me to take with us 5 suitcases and exchange Hungarian Forints into something like 30 British Pounds (at that time I was 37 years old – so that was the amount I could take with me for my life-time earning). I did not have enough money to stay for one night in a hotel. But I did not have too: Ray waited for as at Heathrow, secured a room for us in Darwin College, helped us to lease a house in St. Michael Street, gave me an office in the College and allowed me to use University of Kent letterhead. He was generous with his time and tried to help me to find a position in Britain. He arranged lectures for me at many British universities and he helped me – with the assistance of our common friend, the wonderful David Donnison - to get a small research grant from the Center for Environmental Studies. At that time David was the Director of CES and Michael Harloe who emerged around this time as one of the more influential members of RC 21 was also active there. I wrote a paper for CES on socialist regional management, which a few years later was published in Theory and Society.
My association with CES was not without controversies. While at that time I saw myself as a left-wing critique of the communist regime some lefties at CES saw a Solzhenitsyn in me. They were outraged that Donnison funded an anti-communist and published a strongly worded critique of Donnison and me in The Guardian. I found this amusing.
1975 was the year when planning for the International Journal of Urban and Regional Planning was under way. Ray floated my name as a possible first editor for the new journal. It was not a good idea. I was on my way out of urban sociology and did not have much experience with editorial work (I was founding editor of Szociologia, the Hungarian Sociological Review, but I was not a native English speaker and had no experience in editing and English language journal). We made the right decision and appointed Michael Harloe as the first editor of IJURR and he served superbly in this position for many years.
Nevertheless I spend nine pleasant (though not very productive) months in Canterbury. Despite the unselfish help of Ray Pahl and David Donnison I was unable to find a position. I applied for all jobs which were advertised but did not manage even to get an interview. But in July 1975 I found an ad in the Higher Educational Supplement of London Times, The Flinders University of South Australia invited applications for the position of Foundation Professor of Sociology. I applied and November they flew me over for an interview and offered me the job on the spot. In January 1976 we bid farewell to Ray and his family and we left for Australia where I spent five memorable years.
My ties with Ray Pahl and with urban sociology weakened over the years. Incidentally, Ray - just like me - was rather “promiscuous” academically. While he played the leading role in launching the new urban sociology, soon he started to “flirt” with topics vaguely related to urban issues, if related at all. He did exciting work with Gershuny on the informal economy and wrote later a powerful book on friendship. And I am certainly an “expert witness” to testify: Ray knew a lot about friendship, was a faithful friend who kept friendship for a life-time. We did meet occasionally on ISA world congresses and while I remained on the editorial board of IJURR at editorial board meetings. With Norman Fainstein – who at that time was Dean at Baruch College - in the mid 1980s we invited Ray to CUNY where he gave a distinguished lecture. Last time I saw him in Prague at the 80th birthday celebration of Jiri Musil. An appropriate finale for a friendship of three people – may I say.
I heard from Jiri about Ray’s illness at one of our usual summer vacations in Tatranska Lomnica. As I returned to Budapest – this must have been in August 2009 – I called Ray and we had our last cordial conversation. His voice was tired, but his spirits were high. He knew he is dying but was facing death and the pain which accompanied his illness bravely, with his usual stoicism. And even facing death he was a friend first. He asked formy CV, he wanted to nominate me for membership in the British Academy.
We did not say good-bye. I wanted to call him again, but just could not face another conversation. During the past few months he was always on my mind. I knew I should call him and I did not.
With his passing sociology lost a formidable scholar, urban sociology lost one of the most important personalities of the past 50 years. I lost a good friend – one of the best ones I ever had – a friend who inspired me and always there when I needed him. Let me say good-bye to you Ray now, belatedly. Thank you for everything and rest in peace!
New Haven, June 18th, 2001