Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna

This institute was established to help Austria overcome the intellectual depletion caused by authoritarian regimes in the 1930s and 1940s.

Updated: September 20, 2012

Established in 1963 in Vienna by the émigrés Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Oskar Morgenstern, the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) aimed to help Austria overcome the intellectual depletion that the authoritarian regimes of the 1930s and 1940s had generated. A faculty comprised of émigrés and international scholars helped Austrian social scientists reconnect to international social science standards.

Even though Vienna had been a center of social scientific innovation in the 1920s and early 1930s, many of the protagonists were expelled or killed during the fascist and national socialist years, which left Austria in a dire state. In the late 1950s, Paul F. Lazarsfeld — by then a well-established professor of sociology at Columbia University in New York — together with the Ford Foundation, initiated the foundation of an institute to provide postgraduate education, focused on the social sciences and modeled after similar American institutions. The IHS officially opened in 1963, funded by the Ford Foundation, the Austrian government, and the City of Vienna.

Despite a difficult startup phase and problems reconciling the Ford Foundation’s plans and expectations with the rigid political structures of Austria in the 1960s, the institute started operating and, over time, achieved some of the goals of its founders.  Students had the chance to work with faculty from abroad, such as James Coleman, and catch up with international developments in social science theory and methodology as well as gain experience in research.

The role of émigrés was particularly prominent at the IHS. It was due to Lazarsfeld’s efforts that the institute was established in the first place; he not only initiated the project but also persistently advocated for it to the Ford Foundation and navigated the difficult political waters in Vienna until the eventual realization of the institute. Scholars expelled in the 1930s, such as Charlotte Bühler and Friedrich von Hayek, returned to Vienna to teach and contribute their part to the fledgling social sciences in the decades following World War II. The IHS has been a platform for transatlantic transfers ever since, with émigrés serving as significant carriers and facilitators of exchanges, particularly in the early stages of the IHS’s existence.

Selected Bibliography

Fleck, Christian. "Wie Neues nicht entsteht: Die Gründung des Instituts für Höhere Studien in Wien durch Ex-Österreicher und die Ford Foundation." Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften 11 (2000): 129-178.

Felderer, Bernhard. Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften zwischen Theorie und Praxis: 30 Jahre Institut für Höhere Studien in Wien. Vienna: Physica Verlag, 1993.

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