Sociological Trivia…

  • Post published:July 26, 2023
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… this quote is taken from an interview with Marie Jahoda, who is probably best known in Sociology for her engagement of the famous ‘Marienthal Study’. For years Jahoda, her then-husband Paul F. Lazarsfeld, and Hans Zeisl – among others – had studied the consequences of unemployment in a small town in Austria. When the study was first published ninety years ago, authorship was prevented because of their Jewish names (Fleck 1998: 268). Only later, Jahoda’s, Lazarsfeld’s, and Zeisl’s names were directly associated with the study.

Marie Jahoda, born in Vienna in 1907, is discussed within the canon of classical women sociologists (cf. Honegger und Wobbe 1998). Collaborations with Paul F. Lazarsfeld, Max Horkheimer, and Robert K. Merton indicate that Jahoda’s career was broad and varied, always centered around the field of social psychology. That she would find substantial academic standing and obtain a regular tenure position at New York University at 42 seemed difficult to imagine in her late 20s: She was a single mother, arrested as a political activist in 1936, and subsequently expatriated (Fleck 2021: 55). In addition to research on work and unemployment, Jahoda dealt with classical sociological topics such as ethnic relations, conformity, and nonconformism, always linking psychological and social phenomena (Fleck 1998: 260). In her studies, Jahodas placed particular emphasis on triangulation. The combination of qualitative and quantitative methods was also particularly appreciated in the reception of the Marienthal study. After all, for Jahoda, this was also one of the ways to pursue the goal of making the invisible things visible: “One just has more confidence in a finding if it is broadly confirmed through a variety of approaches to the same problem. One also has more confidence if different researchers, with their different backgrounds, biases, and ideas, tackle the same subject and come out with converging results.” (Fryer 1986: 108).

Fleck, Christian. 1998. „Marie Jahoda“. in Frauen in der Soziologie. Neun Portraits, herausgegeben von C. Honegger und T. Wobbe. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
Fleck, Christian. 2021. „Lazarsfeld’s Wives, or: What Happened to Women Sociologists in the Twentieth Century“. International Review of Sociology 31(1):49–71. doi: 10.1080/03906701.2021.1926672.
Fryer, David. 1986. „The Social Psychology of the Invisible: An Interview with Marie Jahoda“. New Ideas in Psychology 4(1):107–18. doi: 10.1016/0732-118X(86)90063-2.
Honegger, Claudia, und Theresa Wobbe, Hrsg. 1998. Frauen in der Soziologie. Neun Portraits. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.