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Famous Sociologists

Helmut Schelsky

[1912-1984]

Helmut Schelsky
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Helmut Schelsky is one of the important and influential German sociologists of the postware-period. Owing to the lack of translations Schelsky is, however, not very well known in the English-speaking world.

In the 50s Schelsky presented the thesis that there is no typical class society are more. There is only one type of »leveled middle-class society«, as by the social mobility and the general prosperity typical classes gradually disappear. Due to its material well-being the middle class is neither rich nor has tendencies proletarianize. In Schelsky’s vision there are no classes anymore — it is an «anti-class theory». Reputation for special professions or professional groups is for Schelksy a relict of past times, which has no place in a middle-class society.

Helmuth Schelsky’s theses often aroused contradiction in the sociological discourses of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, and occasionally led to persistent controversies. The one-time champion of the Enlightenment, whose arguments resonated at first with conservatives, Christian Democrats, and Liberals, Social Democrats and trade unions, gradually became a precursor of the Conservatives. No other sociologist of the post-war post-war period had such enormous effects in the social public — neither the Frankfurt School nor René König and his Cologne colleagues. No one has, with his well-known formulas of the ‘leveled middle-class society’ and the ‘skeptical generation’, stimulated the interpretation of the Zeitgeist sociologically, regardless of how you think about most of his hypotheses.

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Editor dr. Albert Benschop
Social & Behavioral Studies
University of Amsterdam
Created June, 1996
Last modified 03rd April, 2017