In whose service? The 1960s’ Czechoslovak Sociologists and their Party

In: Comparative Sociology
Michael Voříšek

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This article examines the relationship between sociologists and the Communist Party headquarters in 1960 Czechoslovakia. It is based on the archives of the coordinating body of Czechoslovak sociology, the Scientific Board of Philosophy and Sociology at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. First, the article depicts the synergy between sociology and the powers: the research commissioned by the supreme Party bodies or the Party sponsorship of sociology’s institutionalization. However, instances of lacking material support to the discipline are noted as well. Second, the conflicts between social scientists and the Party headquarters are discussed: namely, the layoff of the philosopher Ivan Sviták in 1964 and the following interventions into the Institute of Philosophy. Finally, the article maps the demands for autonomy as formulated by the scholars in 1968. In concluding, it points to the fact that despite requesting independence from the Communist headquarters, the Marxist elite in the social sciences never abandoned their own claim to hegemony. They resisted both the challenge of non-Marxist scholars in 1968, and the spontaneous claims and complaints that might come from the society at large. In that respect, the sociology of the 1960s seems a perfect child of the Czechoslovak reformist movement.

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