Following Lakatos' strategy of a rational reconstruction of science, I present a concrete example of the rise and decline of a research program from the history of the social sciences: the authoritarian character studies of the Frankfurt School. The first version of the authoritarian character studies of the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research was based on a Marxist social and psychoanalytic theory, and included an initial empirical survey. The preliminary results of this survey motivated the Institute's just-in-time emigration from Germany in 1932, and at the same time do not fit into the later theory of the authoritarian character (1936). The second version of the authoritarian character studies (1950) gained the status of a social psychological paradigm, but soon turned into a declining research program, which came to a complete stop around 1968 as far as the Institute of Social Research was concerned. Internal and external factors combined to bring about the sudden end of the authoritarian character studies.
Kramer, H. (2011), "The Epistemological Fate of the Authoritarian Character Studies of the Frankfurt School. A Legacy for the Study of Racism, Antisemitism, and Fascism?", Dahms, H.F. (Ed.) The Diversity of Social Theories (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 3-31. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0278-1204(2011)0000029005Download as .RIS
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