Rockefeller Foundation's Role in Promoting Social Sciences in Interwar Czechoslovakia

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: Booth 49
Oral Presentation
Marek SKOVAJSA , Faculty of Humanities, Charles University Prague, Prague, Czech Republic
This paper discusses the place of geopolitical concerns in the policy of the Rockefeller Foundation towards social sciences in Czechoslovakia between the two world wars. The RF provided scholarships for Czechoslovak social scientists (around 35) and sponsored social science work at various Czechoslovak institutions. The scholars supported by the RF were sociologists, lawyers, and economists, both German and Czech-speaking. Their individual fates display wide variation: several perished during WWII, others escaped and became recipients of displaced scholars grants, still others were exiled after 1948, a handful joined the Nazi and later the Communist structures. Only those who chose emigration produced academic work of some importance. The dominant geopolitical concerns were reflected in the effort of the RF to maintain a balance between German and Czech scholars and institutions supported or in promoting research in areas that were expected to contribute to maintaining the stability of the Czechoslovak state or Central Europe such as unemployment and social welfare, interethnic relations or the so-called Danubian studies. Key among Czechoslovak institutions in social sciences that received support from the RF was the Social institute, affiliated with the Ministry of social welfare, the incubator of innovative ideas that directly influenced Czechoslovak social welfare legislation and policies. RF also funded a large research project on the suburbanization of Prague that became the first major empirical study in Czech sociology while another study on German-Czech relations could not materialize due to the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. The RF made a significant contribution to the development of empirical social research and social policy in Czechoslovakia, but the overall impact of its funding was virtually erased by adverse geopolitical conditions and turbulent political developments in the period 1938-1948.