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Biographical Notes on Arnold Bergstraesser

* 14.7.1896 in Darmstadt (Germany) – † 24.2.1964 in Freiburg (Germany)

  • He studied economics, sociology and history in Berlin, Tübingen, Munich and Heidelberg
  • 1932 he was appointed Eberhard-Gotthein Professor of Political Science and Foreign Affairs at the University of Heidelberg
  • 1936 the resumption of his teaching for the summer semester was denied (after a granted free semester)
  • 1937 Emigration to the USA , he taught at Claremont College, California and the University of Chicago
  • 1950 and 1953, he was visiting professor at the universities of  Frankfurt and Erlangen
  • 1954 he was appointed to the new chair of political science and sociology at the University of Freiburg

A charismatic teacher of many young academics who would go on to distinguished careers, during his Freiburg years, Bergstraesser became one of the founding fathers of political science in post-war Germany. He was instrumental, often crucially so, in founding and expanding research and educational institutions for the social sciences, among others the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik), the Akademie für Politische Bildung in Tutzing, the Politische Akademie Eichholz and the Studienhaus Wiesneck in Buchenbach near Freiburg. Through his programmatic writings and many organisational activities Bergstraesser persistently pursued the professional promotion and recognition of political science and sociology in his roles as a founding member and long-serving board member of the Deutsche Vereinigung für Politische Wissenschaft and long-time board member of the German Sociological Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie).

Moreover, from the mid-1950s he played a crucial role in gaining acceptance at the state and federal levels for a social-science-based teaching of civics in high schools and in extracurricular youth and adult education programmes. Mention must also be made of Bergstraesser's active involvement in the advisory councils of the federal government on internal leadership and civics and the Baden-Württemberg Arbeitsgemeinschaft "Bürger im Staat" (forerunner of the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Baden-Württemberg/Centre for Political Education in Baden-Württemberg).

As an academic, Bergstraesser was particularly committed to transatlantic relations and sociocultural change in the emerging "global society", especially the "developing countries". This interest is reflected in his positions as chairman of the research committee, and from 1955 to 1959 as director of the research institute, of the German Council on Foreign Relations (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik), chairman of the Atlantik-Brücke and the German Association for American Studies. From 1960 to 1964 Bergstraesser was a member and president of the German Commission for UNESCO.

In 1960 Bergstraesser created two institutions to research sociocultural change in the major development regions in the "Third World": the Centre for Sociocultural Research, later renamed the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute, and the Research Institute for Global Civilisation. In this respect, he was a visionary, far ahead of his contemporaries in his awareness of the emerging new global society and his demand that his academic discipline respond to the concomitant cultural, social and political challenges.

Arnold Bergstraesser's intellectual and organisational achievements are closely tied up with his conception of political science as a practical science, i.e. one related to practical political action. Bergstraesser's bold postulate that the core of all scientific activity in his discipline is "anticipating political decisions" – in the final analysis political science is about the "things need to be managed" – requires political scientists to reflect normatively on the objectives of politics.