Vilfredo Pareto: A Belated Academic Career
In June 1891, Pantaleoni introduced Pareto to Walras with the words, "He is an engineer like you; he is an economist not like you, but wishing to be- come like you, if you help him." Walras became seriously ill soon after this encounter, and when he was forced to give up his teaching, Pantaleoni per- suaded him to propose that Pareto be chosen as his successor. In April 1893 Pareto moved to the University of Lausanne as an "extraordinary professor" of political economy. His appointment was made permanent a year later. He was then in his middle forties.
In Lausanne, Pareto at first continued to write his critical monthly chron- icle for the Giornale degli Economisti , in which he pursued his anti-interven- tionist and anti-protectionist critique of the hated Italian government and the wheelers and dealers who remained in the political saddle. But his theoretical work now assumed more importance. His two-volume Cours d'e'conomie poli- tique , based on his lectures at the university, appeared only three years after he had arrived there and established him as a major figure in modern eco- nomics, a true heir of Walras.
In his early Lausanne period, Pareto still considered himself a man of the liberal left. He provided shelter for many socialist and leftist refugees who had to flee Italy after the 1898 May Riots at Milan, and he passionately took the side of Dreyfus when the Affair broke out in neighboring France. But after 1898, Pareto's views changed sharply and decisively. He gave up hope of a liberal restructuring of Italian economic affairs and turned violently against any form of democratic thought; this almost pathological hatred for the ideas of the left would mar all his subsequent writings. In 1900, he wrote to Panta- leoni that there had once been a time when he wanted to correct the evils of the halt but now he derided their infirmity. He turned away from any re- forming endeavors, resolving to comment on the passing scene with the de- tachment that comes from distance, but also from loathing. Already in 1891 he had written to Walras, "I give up the combat in defense of [liberal] economic theories in Italy. My friends and I get nowhere and lose our time; this time is much more fruitfully devoted to scientific study.'' Pareto became a cynical, rancorous, utterly disillusioned loner, at variance with all the dominant tendencies of the age, hating all of them without discrimination.
Pareto's misanthropic predisposition and lack of faith in humanity were presumably increased when, after returning from a trip to Paris, he found that his wife had absconded with the cook, taking thirty cases of valuables with her. Being still an Italian citizen, though now living in Switzerland, Pareto could not secure a divorce under canon law. All that could be arranged was a separation of bed and board.
Having acquired a very considerable legacy in 1898 after the death of an uncle, Pareto was financially independent and could order his life in a way that his academic salary would not have allowed him. He built himself a house at Celigny near Lausanne, but in the canton of Geneva where taxes were lower than in Lausanne. Here he was joined by a new companion, Jane Regis, who took care of him and of the vast number of Angora cats he liked to have constantly around him. Leading a somewhat sybaritic existence in his retreat, tasting only the choicest wines and the finest viands, Pareto continued his scientific work. In 1902 he published his Les Systemes socialistes , a detailed analysis and criticism of socialist doctrine and state interventionism. He was still a free-trader, but he now had given up all hope of influencing political events and felt that he could limit himself to pointing out what he considered the logical fallacies and disastrous results of socialist policy. The book seethes with irony and boiling rage, even though its author advertised it as an exercise in scientific analysis.
Before writing the Systemes socialistes , Pareto had already been struck by the idea that most of human activity was not controlled by rational thought but by sentiments, feelings, superstitions, and other nonlogical determinants. This was why, so he now thought, his long campaign in favor of economic liberalism had failed; rational argument could never move the mass of men who were governed by nonrational beliefs. This new view was first presented in a long article for the Rivista Italiana di Sociologica in 1900 and informs much of his writings on socialism. It came to fruition in the Manual of Politi- cal Economy, which he published in 1906, and was fully elaborated in his monumental million-word Treatise on General Sociology (1916), translated into English as The Mind and Society , for which he is chiefly remembered among sociologists.
During this last period of his life, Pareto, suffering from a heart disease, lived as a recluse in his Villa Angora. He had retired from regular university teaching in 1907, though he continued to give lectures on sociology there on an irregular basis. Surrounded by his cats, boasting of a cave full of the most re- nowned wines of all Europe, and of an immense cupboard containing liqueurs from all five continents, Pareto concentrated on his scientific work--and on his hatreds. Suffering from insomnia, he browsed in his encyclopedic library till late at night, after having partaken of the pleasures of the table.
When Mussolini came to power in the last year of Pareto's life, he pro- claimed himself a disciple of Pareto and showered him with honors. (Once while living as an exile in Switzerland, Mussolini had registered in two of Pareto's courses at Lausanne, though it is doubtful that he ever attended them with any regularity.) Pareto was made a Senator of the Kingdom of Italy, des- ignated an Italian delegate to the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, and was invited to become a contributor to Mussolini's personal periodical, Gerarchia. Pareto welcomed fascism, although with reservations, but he never served for reasons of ill health. In the first years of his rule, Mussolini seemed indeed to implement the program Pareto had advocated for so long. He destroyed liberalism and the workers' movement, but at the same time pursued a liberal economic policy by replacing state management with private enterprise. He decreed, as Borkenau says, "a religious education in dogmas, which he did not himself believe in."
Many fascist spokesmen later claimed that Pareto was one of the chief sources of their ideology. Mussolini characterized Pareto's theory of the elite as "probably the most extraordinary sociological conception of modern times." There is no doubt that the fascists could draw much sustenance from Pareto's writings. Yet, when Mussolini muzzled the universities of Italy and restricted free speech, Pareto protested vehemently. Had Pareto lived it is unlikely that he would have endorsed the complete suppression of liberties during the later stages of Mussolini's regime, or that he would have looked with favor on the state-interventionist course of the fully matured fascist regime.
Pareto saw only the beginning of Mussolini's rule. Early in 1923, when he felt that his end was near, he finally managed to marry Jane Regis by becom- ing a citizen of the city-state of Fiume, where divorce was legal. He died on August 19, 1923, at the age of seventy-five, after a short illness. He is buried in the cemetery of Celigny, where his tomb carries the simple inscription,"Vil- fredo Pareto (1848-1923)." He had been born in 1848, the year of the great liberal revolution, and he died within a year after Mussolini's March on Rome.
From Coser, 1977:404-407.