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«February 2020»

Fellow Seminar

14 June 2018

Dr. Mathias Duller will present his research proposal on the topic: "Tradition and Dissidence in East European Social Science: A Study in Oral History" on 14 June 2018 (Thursday) at 16:30h.


In my presentation I will try to give an impression of my work on the comparative history of the social sciences in 'real socialist' Eastern Europe. I begin by discussing why the social sciences are worth being studied as an object of historical concern beyond reflexive or critical self-thematization within the disciplines. Then I turn to existing literature on the social sciences in the Cold War and problematize the view that the social sciences in 'real socialist' have had exclusively regime-legitimizing functions or were - quasi naturally - in open or silent opposition to the Communist regimes. Instead, the political conditions for the social sciences and the roles they played in these societies differed significantly between countries and over time. What is thus needed are comparative studies that bring these differences to light.

The first empirical study I present is a paper that studies the institutionalization of sociology in 25 European countries during the first two decades after the end of the Second World War by use of the method of Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). To explain why sociology achieved early and successful institutionalization in some countries and not in others, I discuss different configurations historical conditions, including political regime types, political Catholicism, the existence or non-existence of an older sociological tradition as well as structural conditions such as shared sociological labor markets with neighboring countries. Formal analysis with QCA reveals that consistent causal implications of these conditions can be formulated leading to novel conclusions for theorizing the connection between sociology and the European nation states.

One of the conclusions is that there appears to be a relation between the historical conditions discussed above and the inclination of social scientists to become dissidents. In the second part of my presentation I present my hypothesis that dissident sociologies - characteristic for Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary - can be explained by a mechanism of resentment that is especially salient where pre-war traditions are strong, the degree of institutionalization is high, but political control nevertheless strict. Contrasting the cases of East Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia - none of which displays the strong connection between sociology and dissidence - the role of tradition is demonstrated to be causally superior to the alternative explanation that dissidence is a direct consequence of the degree of repression.

Finally, I try to defend my ambition to study this hypothesis in more depth using the case of East-West academic exchanges as a 'strategic research material' in Robert Merton's sense. To that end, I will present findings from archival research on the Ford Foundation's East European Fellowship Program that started in 1957 and was the earliest and potentially most important program for academic East-West exchange in the social sciences and humanities. Also, first results of my interviews with Bulgarian social scientists during my fellowship at CAS will be discussed in relation to this question.


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