Sociology

Institut für Soziologie
Universität Graz
RESOWI
Universitätsstraße 15/G4, A - 8010 Graz - Austria
Tel. : 00 43 (0) 316/ 380 - 7080
Project director: Karl ACHAM (Graz)


Research Projects

On the ethical, religious and linguistic relativism in Austria around 1900: A contribution to the intellectual history of relativism.
Andrea Fruhwirth, Sabine Alexandra Haring.

The aim of our investigations is to picture the shift of views concerning values and standards at the Kaiser Franz Joseph era, thus regarding the positions of well-known scholars and politicians such as Friedrich Jodl, Richard Wahle, Fritz Mauthner and others. The above mentioned era is neither characterised by homogenous values and norms nor by political consensus. It is, however, on the one hand characterised by a pluralism of values, thereby replacing the strict religious dogmas during the process of secularisation, and on the other hand by a tendency towards unification, the demand for simple both political and social solutions, and by increasing intolerance. It is impossible to draw a homogeneous picture of this phase of modernity. Taking the example of the "old Austrian" philosopher of religion and linguistics, Fritz Mauthner (1849-1923), who was born in the Bohemian Horzitz, we would like to stress the ambiguity of modernity. As a non-confessional Bohemian Jew coming from a bilingual background Mauthner belonged to "the higher educated proletariat", that was streaming from all parts of Central Europe to the capitals Vienna and Berlin. According to his own perception he had neither mother tongue nor native country; this feeling of uprooting and inner strife required salvation. By searching and finding a personal escape from linguistics and religious crises he sympathised with a far-Eastern "godless mysticism".

Friedrich Wieser – a modern social economist.
[Peter Wilhelmer], Inge Zelinka.

Friedrich Wieser's main theoretical contribution is commonly seen in the extension and elaboration of the basic structure of subjectivist economics as it was laid down by Carl Menger. It was Wieser who invented the term "marginal utility" and formulated a closed system of value, production and distribution with his highly controversial "theory of imputation". But Wieser's work is by no means confined to pure economic theory. As a well educated member of the higher ranks of the late Habsburg Empire he was working in many fields such as political theory and general sociology. In his Social Economics Wieser dealt with some aspects of normative economics, too. And here Wieser was especially interested in the problem of (economic) power. He argued for the establishment of labour unions and discussed further problems connected with monopoly. It might be of some interest to note that Wieser needed a strong state to fight against excessive economic inequality (a quite unusual standpoint for a member of the Austrian School of Economics). Finally, Wieser generalized the problem of power in his great sociological study Das Gesetz der Macht where he managed to include his enormous range of interests. The second part of the project intends to show how the various economic theories of modernism can be referred to and applied in order to develop socio-political measures. Commencing with Friedrich Wieser, whose normative, critical approach to economics includes suggestions for socio-political improvements, varying economic and political movements of the Austrian school of Economics are presented, as is the analysis of the resulting struggles between the movements. Furthermore, sociological categories such as power and control should also be given importance. Building on this theoretical framework, concern lies with the analysis of the welfare system which, before the turn of the century, had in Austria already taken on concrete forms within social policy. In addition, it will be attempted to determine to what extent the differing theories are suitable for guaranteeing or refuting the feasibility of a welfare state social policy. Aspects related to the history of ideas will be linked, in this instance, to Austrian economic and social history.

The form - content debate around 1900.

- The problem of form and content in the arts at about 1900, illustrated by a comparison of the Warburg-School with the Vienna School of Art History .
[Katharina Scherke].

Some very different trends in the arts root in the Viennese School of History of Art. These different trends can be described by the keywords form and content. Alois Riegl developed in his theory of the 'Kunstwollen' the idea that the formation of art takes place unaffected of external social influences. Riegl tried to upgrade with his formal approach those periods in history of art which were neglected until then. His principles were taken over from Heinrich Wölfflin for his system of principles in the history of art. Ernst H. Gombrich developed an absolutely different approach. He studied history of art in Vienna but turned later to the ideas of Warburg and the iconological school. Gombrich was interested in the content of a work of art. The formal quality of art was not as important for him as it has been for Riegl. The project is going to compare both trends which were developed in Vienna: the form-orientated and the content-orientated one, with the means of the sociology of science. One question of the project will be the influence of some early members of the Viennese School of History of Art (Franz Wickhoff, Alois Riegl, Max Dvorak) on the development of the iconological approach of Warburg and his successors (Fritz Saxl, Erwin Panofsky, Ernst H. Gombrich). Of special interest within the scope of this topic will be the question, whether Warburg had direct contacts to some members of the Viennese School. Another topic of the project will be a comparison of the iconologic approach and the approach of Josef Strzygowski.

- The problem of form and content in the history of arts and culture studies around 1900.
Carlos Watzka.

In modernity, the analysis of objects in respect of the fundamental categories 'form' and 'content' became important in different scientific disciplines. Both in the history of arts as well as in sociology, approaches based on the above differentiation even created a new terminology for particular dominant research areas such as 'Formgeschichte' (history of forms) or 'Formalsoziologie' (formal sociology). In other disciplines, however, this difference – based on the philosophical discourse – was obviously less present. Nonetheless it marked different fields of natural sience such as, e.g., medicine.
The projects analyses this 'form-content' dichotomy in art history, sociology and psychiatry – as a branch of medicine – considering its particular interpretation and applicability. In the history of arts, the research focuses on the work of important representatives of the Viennese School (Alois Riegl, Max Dvorák and Franz Wickhoff.), in sociology on contributions in formal sociology (Rudolf Eisler et al.) and in psychiatry on the influence of important neuro –psychopathologists (Julius Wagner-Jauregg, Richard Krafft-Ebing et al.).

Ethnological Research in Austria and its origin in the multinational monarchy. A contribution to the intellectual history and sociology of knowledge.
Bernd Weiler.

The project mainly focuses on Austrian Ethnology, as probably the perspectivistic discipline apart from sociology of knowledge. The analysis thereby concentrates on the biographical embedding of ethnology in the multinational monarchy under aspects belonging to the sociology of knowledge. Furthermore, the research examines the intellectual history of ethnology, its relevant impacts and its links to related disciplines in culture studies inside and outside Austria. The conceptual reconstruction and analysis of this by no means uniform tradition tends to the following topics: Ludwig Gumplowicz's and Gustav Ratzenhofer's sociology of groups and conflicts which was conceptualized as world historical approach, the Viennese School of Ethnology with the Steylian missionaries Wilhelm Schmidt, Wilhelm Koppers, Martin Gusinde and Paul Schebesta, Bronislaw Malinowski's functionalism and finally the ethnological work of Sigmund Freud and Richard Thurnwald.

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