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Lessons learned from German sociology, 1933–45: contexts and content

Abstract : This essay deals with a specific historical context for sociology: the period 1933–45 in Germany. It raises questions about the definition and self-definition of the discipline. i How far did the given historical, socio-cultural, economic, and legal contexts affect the work of sociologists? Can we speak of sociology as soon as the actors of the period speak of themselves as sociologists? Or otherwise, if we are to avoid historical relativism, what are the general criteria and requirements that allow us to define whether a given academic field, its actors, and activities were sociology or not, independently of the self-definition of those actors? Finally, what have the consequences been of the 1933–45 period for German sociology and for the discipline as such through to the present? If there is little literature within German-language sociology on the history of the discipline between 1933 and 1945, it appears that there is still much less available for an international audience. The essay thus also attempts to familiarize non-German readers with the state of the art. In order to understand the developments between 1933 and 1945, and to evaluate the significance of this historical period for the discipline in Germany and beyond, it is vital to get an impression of the state of affairs before 1933. This paper is thus structured into two periods—prior to 1933 and 1933–1945—and examines the contexts and contents of sociology for each of them. We can assume a dialectical relationship between contexts and contents, where the given socio-historical context strongly affects developments within the discipline, while the latter also has some reflexive repercussions on how society was perceived and how non-academic actors, here especially the political power elites, thought it should and could be organized and administered. The focus will mainly be on the extent to which context affects content.
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Contributor : Wiebke Keim <>
Submitted on : Friday, October 24, 2014 - 2:47:21 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - 4:39:05 PM
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Wiebke Keim. Lessons learned from German sociology, 1933–45: contexts and content. Social Science in Context. Historical, Sociological, and Global Perspectives, Nordic Academic Press, pp.95 - 114, 2013, 978-91-87351-04-4. ⟨halshs-01077333⟩



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