In the first decades of the 20th century, Vienna was one of the hotspots of the then still nascent field of social sciences, including economics, social psychology, legal studies and government, and sociology. Yet by the early 1930s, the difficult economic situation, a lack of perspective for a career at one of the few higher education institutions, and a climate of increasing political authoritarianism made many of the most talented intellectuals and scientists move abroad. Some of them found a better environment across the Atlantic, and some of them even became world-famous social scientists.
Two of the latter category were Paul F. Lazarsfeld, a sociologist at Columbia University, and Oskar Morgenstern, economist at Princeton. After WWII, they met the same backward and conservative people at universities that had already been there three decades ago; and they were shocked by the lack of intellectual potential. ‘No brain, no initiative, no collaboration’, as Lazarsfeld noted in a letter from a field trip to Vienna in the late 1950s. Returning to Austria was not an option for the two; yet they felt obliged to help the next generation of scholars by providing an institutional environment that they knew from American campuses.
Together, Lazarsfeld and Morgenstern convinced the Ford Foundation to provide a generous grant (which was the easy part), and the Austrian politicians to allow the institute to be founded outside university premises (which was much more difficult). The Institute for Advanced Studies was founded in 1962/63 (for a while, it was colloquially known as the Ford Institute). It quickly became the one place in Austria where a new generation of social scientists - economics, political science, sociology - could learn from guest professors who were brought to Vienna for the sole purpose to teach cutting-edge methodology and theory.
The IHS successfully trained generations of economists, sociologists and political scientists. Today alumni contribute significantly to the next cohorts of professors in those (and other) fields at universities across Austria and Europe. Others are high-level functionaries in the Austrian government, in institutions of the European Union, or other international organizations; still others are successful in business.
In summer 2015, the IHS moved from its old location to new premises in Josefstädter Straße 39 in the eight district. Currently a team of more than hundred researchers provide the basis for interdisciplinary research on topics such as health, labour market, European integration, and education.
Various publications have shed light on the history of the IHS. The following is a brief and incomplete overview.
Bernhard Felderer (Hg.): Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften zwischen Theorie und Praxis. 30 Jahre Institut für Höhere Studien in Wien, Heidelberg 1993
Christian Fleck: Wie Neues nicht entstanden ist. Die Gründung des Instituts für Höhere Studien in Wien durch Ex-Österreicher und die Ford Foundation. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften 11/1, 2000, 129-178 online
Christian Fleck: Warum Wien nicht zum mitteleuropäischen (Ausbildungs-)Zentrum der empirischen Sozialwissenschaften wurde. Wolfgang L. Reiter et al. (Hg.): Wissenschaft, Technologie und industrielle Entwicklung in Zentraleuropa im Kalten Krieg, Wien 2017, 155-208
Helmut Kramer: Wie Neues doch entstanden ist. Zur Gründung und zu den ersten Jahren des Instituts für Höhere Studien in Wien. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften13/3, 2002, 110-132
Thomas König: Vom Naturrecht zum Behavioralismus und darüber hinaus. Konzeptionelle Grundlagen der Disziplin Politikwissenschaft in Österreich. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft 41/4, 2012, 419-438 online