This essay is excerpted from the introduction to the Fall 2014 issue of Social Research: An International Quarterly, “German Perspectives on the Social Sciences.” The issue commemorates the eightieth anniversary of the founding of Social Research and celebrates fifty years of German Theodor Heuss Professors visiting the New School for Social Research, formerly the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science at the New School. Read more about the special issue here.

The Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research was founded in 1933 by Alvin Johnson, the president of the New School, who created there the “University in Exile” to provide a safe haven for scholars who were endangered by totalitarian regimes.[1] The University in Exile became necessary after the new National Socialist government in Germany immediately promulgated a “law” on April 7, 1933, the Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums (Restoration of Civil Service Act), which was used as an instrument to dismiss civil servants either for racial or political reasons. Within a short time, almost 3,000 scholars were displaced from their academic positions, of whom around 2,000 emigrated, with roughly 60 percent finally settling in the United States. Whereas about 85 percent of the scholars were dismissed for their “non-Aryan” descent, 15 percent were dismissed for political reasons. Jewish scholars were especially well represented in the critical social sciences and had often been also active in socialist or liberal political parties. With 24 percent in economics and the social sciences, the percentage of scholars expelled by the Nazis was far above the average of 14 percent, as was the percentage of scholars who emigrated.[2]

While it took until 1976 for the Theodor Heuss Chair at The New School to be formed by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, it had been the Volkswagen Foundation that provided generous financial support in the form of annual grants in the first decade. The early group of Heuss professors included such outstanding visiting scholars from West German universities as Otto von der Gablentz, Jürgen Habermas, Renate Mayntz, Iring Fetscher, and Martin Irle in political science, philosophy, sociology, and psychology. Over the past 50 years, the Heuss professorship has established itself as an important medium of European-American scholarly exchange. Habermas’s lectures at the Graduate Faculty, for example, were instrumental in introducing many American students to the critical theory of the Frankfurt school, which was enhanced by later Heuss Professors such as Albrecht Wellmer, Axel Honneth, Claus Offe, and Christoph Menke. The New School developed into an international center of this approach. For their part, the Heuss Professors not only contributed to the regular graduate programs of the New School but also benefited from the special intellectual atmosphere at the Graduate Faculty and the opportunity to meet and engage into joint research work with a wide variety of American colleagues.

A brief prior history of the Graduate Faculty’s existence includes

  • the Heidelberg Institute for Social and State Sciences, where Alfred Weber, Max’s younger brother, and Emil Lederer had become the founding directors during the Weimar years, and where, for example, Karl Mannheim, Norbert Elias, and Jakob Marschak had started their academic careers;[3]
  • the Kiel Institute of World Economics, from which Gerhard Colm and later, Adolph Lowe and Hans Neisser, came to the New School;[4] and
  • the Goethe University in Frankfurt, which soon was raised to a leading center in the social sciences during the Weimar years and which lost 13 of it 33 faculty members after the Nazi’s seizure of power.[5]

Gerhard Colm and Emil Lederer in 1933, and later Jakob Marschak, Adolph Lowe, and Hans Neisser, became professors at the Graduate Faculty. They were five of the nine scholars mentioned in Joseph Schumpeter’s priority “list of Hebrew colleagues in Germany”[6] in a letter of April 19, 1933, to Wesley C. Mitchell, one of the founding fathers of the New School who was also a professor at Columbia University and director of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Alvin Johnson also played a key role in the Graduate Faculty from 1934 onward and helped create the new journal Social Research, which reflected the interdisciplinary character of the Graduate Faculty. It was the explicit intention of Alvin Johnson that the new journal become a leading forum for “a cross-fertilization of cultures” (Johnson 1934, 1) — that is, between European and American cultures. Not only in that sense, the journal, which soon established a strong reputation and gained 800 subscribers within a few years, became a success story.

As the associate editor to Edwin R. Seligman for the Encyclopædia of the Social Sciences, Johnson had developed excellent contacts with continental European scholars in the years before the Nazis rise to power. He hired Elizabeth Todd, who had worked on the staff of the Encyclopædia, as an assistant editor of Social Research, charged with taking care that the articles in the new journals were expressed in clear and intelligible English rather than in “German school English,” which had been a problem with several authors in the first years.

In many respects Social Research can be regarded as the genuine successor of the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, which had been the most eminent journal in the social sciences in the German language area for almost three decades—that is, after Werner Sombart, Max Weber, and Edgar Jaffé became the new editors in 1904. In the political watershed year 1933, when many journals changed their editors after the Nazis rise to power, the Archiv was the only one of the learned journals in economics and the social sciences that had to terminate publication (see Hagemann 1991).

The Archiv had an even longer remarkable history. It had been founded by Heinrich Braun (whose wife, Lily, also had been a prominent social democrat and a suffragette) in 1888 as a specialized journal for the investigation of the state of society, especially the labor question (Arbeiterfrage), under the title Archiv für Soziale Gesetzgebung und Statistik. There had never been any doubt that the special perspective of the Archiv was to explore the changes in modern capitalism and their impact on the working class. In the 16 years of Braun’s editorship the journal followed a scholarly and international approach. Thus we can find Werner Sombart, Michail Tugan-Baranovsky, and Sidney and Beatrice Webb among the prominent authors.

However, when Sombart, Weber, and Jaffé were followed in 1922 by Emil Lederer as the managing editor, and Joseph Schumpeter and Alfred Weber as the two associate editors, the journal gained a reputation that would be unmatched by any other German journal in economics and the social sciences after 1933.

In the first two years, Max Weber published his famous essay on “objectivity” in the social sciences (1904), in which he emphasized that scientific judgments must be “value free” once researchers have selected their themes of inquiry, and that they should not be spoiled by personal preferences, values, or prejudices. Within this period he also published his classic study on “The Protestant Ethic and the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism” (1905), in which he sought to understand the origins of modern capitalism. Among the many other outstanding contributions to the Archiv still discussed today, we find Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz’s two famous papers (1906–7) on values and prices in the Marxian system, in which the author aimed for a correction rather than a refutation of Marx’s own construction. Bortkiewicz’s contribution, which pointed out the superiority of Ricardo’s theory of distribution and prices to Marx’s theory and found its inspiration in the mathematical formalization of Ricardo’s system by the Russian economist V. K. Dmitriev, has regained prominence in the modern post-Sraffian debates on the labor theory of value and a long-period analysis of the prices of production.

The Archiv was widely regarded as a genuine Heidelberg journal, even though Sombart (1894), who early on had praised Marx as an outstanding thinker and discussed Marxian theory positively (which was approved by Friedrich Engels), was a professor in Berlin since 1906, and Jaffé moved to the University of Munich in 1910, where Max Weber also became professor in the last year of his life (1919–20). The interdisciplinary character and emphasis on the unity of the social sciences had been an essential characteristic at Heidelberg social sciences already before World War I, a tradition not only kept but even strengthened after the foundation of the Institute for Social and State Sciences during the years of the Weimar Republic. It was personified in two directors: Alfred Weber and Emil Lederer. Lederer had played a key role in the editorship of the Archiv since he had become secretary to the editors in 1911 and general secretary (Schriftleiter) in 1918. In 1922 (until 1933) Lederer became the managing editor.

Although he had received excellent training in pure economics by members of the Austrian School in Vienna, Lederer remained a social economist (Sozialökonom) throughout his life. He was convinced that important dynamic changes in economy and society also include factors that fall into the areas of law, political science, sociology, history, psychology, and engineering. Including these factors was considered necessary in order to raise economics into a genuine social science and away from being a series of hypotheticals. It was as a social economist that Lederer made his strongest contributions, beginning with his early and pioneering work on the “new middle classes” and continuing through to his final work, State of the Masses: The Threat of the Classless Society, published posthumously in 1940. Lederer wrote the book after having the experience that in Germany, Austria, and some other European countries, degraded and disoriented segments of the middle classes had become breeding places of fascism, whereas the United States of America was an ultracapitalist country that did not pervert to fascism.[7]

Lederer was less strict with regard to the view that theoretical economics should not take a political stance than was his Viennese fellow student and associate editor of the Archiv, Joseph Schumpeter, who remained thoroughly Weberian in his position on keeping value judgments out of theoretical economics.[8] It was Nikolai Kondratieff’s famous essay, “The Long Waves in Economic Life,” published in the Archiv in 1926, that had the greatest impact on Schumpeter’s own work. Also among the outstanding papers published in the Archiv during this period is the Ph.D. thesis by Wassily Leontief, who would go on to win the 1973 Nobel Prize winner in economics: “The Economy as a Circular Flow” (1928). The thesis which was finalized at the Kiel Institute but submitted to the University of Berlin and refereed by Sombart and Bortkiewicz.

Although many papers in the Archiv were published by authors who were critics of the capitalist system, such as Eduard Heimann, Karl Polanyi, or Lederer himself, including members of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, such as Otto Kirchheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Felix Weil, or Karl August Wittvogel, Lederer’s intellectual liberalism toward scientists with diverging Weltanschauungen can best be seen from the treatment of members of the Austrian School. This reflects the characteristic openness of his editorial policy. Whereas Friederich Hayek published an article on the problem of interest theory in 1927, Ludwig von Mises published no fewer than ten articles in the period 1913–1929, the most famous of which was the 1920 paper in which he elaborated the thesis that economic calculation in a socialist commonwealth is impossible because there is no price formation on free markets.

Among the many excellent students Lederer had at the University of Heidelberg, the most outstanding one was Jacob Marschak (1899–1977). Marschak had already been secretary of labor in the regional government of the short-lived Terek Republic, led by Menshevists and Social Revolutionaries, before he emigrated to Germany in January 1919. After his second emigration from Nazi Germany in 1933, he became the founding director of the Oxford Institute of Statistics in 1935, professor at the New School (1939–42), and director of the Cowles Commission at Chicago in 1943. When he died he was a professor at the University of California–Las Angeles and president-elect of the American Economic Association. Marschak’s first major publication (1924a), which was published in the Archive, was an article on economic calculation and the socialist commonwealth, in which he critically inspects Mises’s impossibility thesis.

Interestingly, 23 years later, young Franco Modigliani (1947), who would win the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1985, struggled in a long article with the questions of “how production could be run efficiently in a socialist economy and how a socialist economy could handle the absence of a market and still achieve the desired result.” Modigliani was entirely in agreement with the spirit of Marschak’s article and came to theoretical conclusions which “did not paint a negative picture of socialism.” He had received his Ph.D. from the New School with Marschak as his thesis supervisor and was influenced by the Italian tradition, beginning with Barone’s classic article and in closer contact with Lange and Lerner, who succeeded Marschak at the New School.

The Archiv also published pathbreaking articles in the development of new disciplines, including political science and political sociology. In great part this was linked to the defense of the new democratic republics, which were established in Germany and Austria after World War I. Hans Kelsen, who was one of the architects of the constitution of the new Austrian Republic contributed an elaborate article “On the Essence and Value of Democracy” (Kelsen 1920).

In a typical “normal” year, such as 1927, before the economic and political turbulence caused by the Great Depression, we find published in the pages of the Archiv articles by Lederer, Schumpeter, Haberler, Hayek, Oppenheimer, Pigou, Röpke, and Wicksell but also the sociologists Mannheim, Michels, and Tönnies among the contributors to the Archiv. The fact that Robert Michels, a former socialist who had converted to Italian fascism, regularly published in the Archiv until 1932 is another sign of Lederer’s liberal editorial policy. On the other hand, it is remarkable that most of the leading contemporary economists had a much broader view of economics being integrated in the social sciences than the great majority of modern mainstream economists, who favor abstract mathematical models, often based on irrelevant assumptions, or narrow microeconometric studies. A good case in point is Marschak, who later directed the Cowles Commission from 1943–48, under which significant contributions to the mathematization and econometrization of economics after World War II were made. Marschak’s (1924b) two-part study on Italian fascism is a most remarkable early and deep analysis, which revealed the character and despotic opportunism of fascism.

These studies show the genuine character of the Archiv, essentially following an approach favoring the unity of the social sciences. They also reveal Lederer’s sense about economic and political developments and dangers.

That Social Research should be regarded as the legitimate successor of the Archiv for Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik is demonstrated not only in the spirit of its approach but in the fact that among the authors in its first volume—published in 1934, the year immediately following the close of the Archiv, when its editorial staff was forced to flee Germany — we find Lederer, Colm, and Neisser, and along with them not only Mark Mitnitzky, Albert Salomon, and Hans Speier, but also many authors who had contributed to the last two volumes of the Archiv and who went on to appear again and again in the pages of Social Research.


[1] For the history of the University in Exile and the New School, see Rutkoff and Scott (1986) and Krohn (1993).

[2] For a pioneering compilation of biographical data of Nazi victims ,see the three volumes of the International Biographical Dictionary of Central European Émigrés, 1933–1945, edited by Werner Röder and Herbert Strauss (1980–83) on behalf of the Research Foundation for Jewish Immigration in New York and the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich. For the role that refugee economists from continental Europe played in the rise of American economics, see Hagemann (2011).

[3] For a detailed analysis of the leading scholars at the Heidelberg Institute for Social and State Sciences in the Weimar years and the consequences of the Nazis’ rise to power, see the contributions in Blomert, Eßlinger, and Giovannini (1997).

[4] See Hagemann (1997) for the contributions of the group of distinguished economists who formed a cluster of excellence in the department of statistical international economics and research on international trade cycles at the Kiel Institute of World Economics in the period 1926–1933.

[5] For greater details, see the collection edited by Bertram Schefold (2004).

[6] “The men listed may all of them be described as ‘more than competent.’ I did on purpose not include any distinctly weak brothers” (Schumpeter 2000, 246).

[7] For a more detailed assessment of Lederer’s scientific contributions, see Hagemann (2000).

[8] See Hagemann (2014) for a comparison of Schumpeter’s and Lederer’s work.


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———2011. “European émigrés and the ‘Americanization’ of economics.” The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 18 (5): 643–671.

———2014. “Capitalist development, innovations, business cycles and unemployment: Joseph Alois Schumpeter and Emil Hans Lederer.” Journal of Evolutionary Economics. 24.

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———1905. “Die protestantische Ethik und der “Geist“ des Kapitalismus.” Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 20 (1): 1–54 and 21 (1): 1–110.