From the archive portal: "Focus on - Sociology in the Weimar Republic"
From the Archive portal-D
In the „Im Blickpunkt“ ("Focus on") section we present special highlights from archives represented in the Archive portal-D. These selected archive materials provide an insight into the holdings and offer research suggestions in Archive portal-D or in the "Weimar Republic" topic portal. We are pleased to present this month a scientific contribution by Dr. Sebastian Klauke from the Ferdinand-Tönnies-Gesellschaft e. V. (Kiel). In the information on further research options below, we refer you to our object gallery on the start page of the topic portal, in which we present further sources on this thematic complex.
The activities of the DGS- Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie (the German Society for Sociology), founded in 1909 and led by Georg Simmel, Ferdinand Tönnies, and Max Weber, were interrupted by the First World War. Sociology had not yet established itself as an independent academic discipline at this time. It was not until 1919 that dedicated sociological chairs were established: Franz Oppenheimer became a professor at Frankfurt University, and Max Scheler and Leopold von Wiese filled corresponding posts in Cologne. Wiese was also responsible for the Cologne Quarterly Journal for Sociology, the first sociological journal to appear since 1921, and worked at the Cologne Institute for Social Research, which was founded in 1918/1919. Other specialist journals followed. Sociology developed into an academically anchored discipline, which was also politically enforced. During the Weimar Republic, sociological chairs were established at a total of 18 universities, filled by 34 people. Ferdinand Tönnies, as the best-known sociologist of the Weimar period, was awarded a lectureship in sociology at Kiel University in 1921 but was not given his own chair.
In theoretical terms, the theory of relationships founded by Wiese, with its focus on the analysis of interactions between people, was particularly influential in the Weimar Republic, although it disappeared into insignificance after 1945. Other important sociologists during the 1920s and early 1930s were Ferdinand Tönnies, Alfred Weber, Karl Mannheim, Werner Sombart, Alfred Vierkandt, Hans Freyer, Theodor Geiger, and Andreas Walther. In the process, the various thematic orientations of sociology developed, and the subject experienced an enormous differentiation in terms of content: Alfred Weber was the representative of cultural sociology in Heidelberg, Andreas Walther in Hamburg pursued an empirically oriented sociology, and the sociology of knowledge emerged around Karl Mannheim. In the early 1930s, Critical theory emerged at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research under the institute's director Max Horkheimer.
In addition to the universities, non-university locations were important for the development of sociology, e.g. the German University for Politics in Berlin or the Academy of Labour in Frankfurt.
After lengthy deliberations and preparations since 1919, the DGS experienced its re-establishment in 1922. Ferdinand Tönnies became its president and remained so until 1933, von Wiese was its secretary the entire time. Access to the DGS was strictly limited and was via co-option within a patronage system. The political spectrum of its members ranged from convinced democrats, liberal thinkers, and Marxists up to right-wing intellectuals such as Carl Schmitt.
The DGS and its members were the dominant players in sociology as an independent discipline. Since 1926 there have also been thematic subgroups for topics such as methodology, natural law, the sociology of knowledge, and sociography. The international integration took place through corresponding members from abroad as well as through the participation of individual DGS members in international conferences and congresses. Beyond the DGS, sociologists were also involved in social and day-to-day political debates and sometimes saw themselves as public intellectuals who also gave public lectures. For example, Tönnies also dealt with the Reich School Act draft.
The third sociologists' conference was held in Jena in 1922, followed by others every two years, the last in Berlin in 1930. These events rarely dealt with real political and real social developments, although public intellectuals such as Tönnies certainly spoke out against the rise of the National Socialists. In Jena, the focus was on the "Essence of Revolution"; the other topics for the Sociologists'conferences were "Sociology and Social Policy" and "Science and Social Structure" (1924), the "Essence of Democracy" (1926), "Competition" (1928) and finally "Press and Public Opinion" (1930).
An eighth sociologists' conference, which was last to be convened in Kiel in April 1933, was not held. While Leopold von Wiese was still striving for the "self-regulation" of the DGS, it was finally "shut down" by Hans Freyer. During the National Socialist era, empirical social research was the main focus, theory largely played no role, but sociology by no means disappeared as a science. Around two-thirds of the sociologists had to flee.
The DGS was re-established in 1946, and the 8th Sociologists' Conference took place in September of the same year. Leopold von Wiese played a leading role in this.
The text was written by Dr Sebastian Klauke of the Ferdinand-Tönnies-Gesellschaft e. V. (Kiel). We thank him for providing the text.
Links to the soruces in the thematic portal
Activities of the German University for Politics
Franz Oppenheimer: Socialization
Reich School Act - Hand files of State Secretary Dr. Pünder: Vol. 2
If you are interested in further sources on the topic, select "Sociology" and "Social Policy" from the A-Z Index and combine these thematic keywords with, for example, the geographical index "German Reich".
In the object gallery on the start page of the topic portal, you will find further sources for the keywords "sociology", "social policy" and "university".