Jürgen Kocka

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Jürgen Kocka in 2011

Jürgen Heinz Kocka (born April 19, 1941 in Haindorf , Friedland district ) is a German social historian and professor emeritus at the Free University of Berlin . In 1992 he received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize , and in 2011 the Holberg Prize.

Career as a researcher and university lecturer

Jürgen Kocka studied history, political science, sociology and philosophy at the Philipps University of Marburg , at the University of Vienna , at the Free University of Berlin and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1960 . In 1968 he received his doctorate from the Free University of Berlin under Gerhard A. Ritter ; already his historical dissertation on the topic of organization and rule in industrial operations in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A socio-historical study of the emergence of industrial bureaucracy and employees using the example of Siemens companies set new accents.

Kocka then worked as a research assistant at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster and at Harvard University . He completed his habilitation in 1972 and was professor at Bielefeld University from 1973 to 1988 . From 1988 until his retirement in 2009 he was professor for the history of the industrial world at the Free University of Berlin . Teaching and research stays took him to the Historische Kolleg in Munich, the University of Chicago , Hebrew University Jerusalem , The New School for Social Research in New York City , Central European University , École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris , University of California, Los Angeles , Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton , Stanford University and University of Oxford . In addition, Kocka became a member of the Berlin Wissenschaftskolleg in 1991. From 1992 to 1996 he headed the research area Contemporary History Studies in Potsdam , from which the Center for Contemporary History Research emerged. Between 1998 and 2009 he was director at the Berlin College for Comparative History of Europe. From January 2001 to April 2007 he was President of the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB), and from 2007 to 2009 he held a research professorship in “Historical Social Sciences” there. From 1995 to 2000 he was a member of the board of the worldwide historians' organization Comité International des Sciences Historiques (CISH). From 2008 to 2011 Kocka was Vice President of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities , since 2009 he has been a permanent fellow at the International Humanities College “Work and Life in a Global Historical Perspective” at the Humboldt University of Berlin and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Contemporary History in Potsdam.

Together with Hans-Ulrich Wehler , Jürgen Kocka founded the so-called Bielefelder Schule , which set historical social science against traditional history. The inclusion of social science theories was a key part of this approach, which was controversially discussed in historiography in the 1970s. With the everyday and cultural history of the 1980s, historical social science in turn found itself challenged. With his decidedly internationally oriented view of history, Jürgen Kocka gave important impulses to historical comparative literature in particular .

Jürgen Kocka's main topics include the history of the workers, work and capitalism, the history of the European bourgeoisie, social history of the GDR as well as theoretical treatises on social history and historical comparative literature.

Contributions to the debate after retirement

Through occasional media publications, Kocka also influences the formation of public opinion far beyond his work as a university lecturer. In the context of the Fridays for Future demonstrations, he expressed concern in the Tagesspiegel about an increase in the public influence of science on politics that he had observed due to the increased commitment of scientists, for example in the fight against global warming or in dealing with digitization . He understands this commitment as “part of a profound democratization” in the last few decades and the rise of civil society , to which science partly belongs, but warns against neglecting scientific principles. In the current political disputes, it is important to specifically disclose “one's own selectivity” and to recognize competing approaches. "As a producer of scientific insights, one knows and emphasizes how limited their informative value is often, how controversial and relative, namely depending on the chosen terms and research methods." In times when compromise becomes more difficult and the ability to communicate decreases, scientists should help "To create distance from the hot political activity, to differentiate, to help gray tones between black and white to their right, to weigh with a sense of proportion and a sense of proportion, and publicly."

The corona crisis in the spring of 2020 concerning, speaking from Kocka's view nothing to suggest that they be remembered as the beginning of a large deceleration in history or will change the world at all profound. Instead, it acts as the “engine of acceleration”, at least in some areas. The crisis in relation to digitization in Germany not only uncovered many obstacles, but also accelerated the transition to digital communication and the "home office" , which had long since begun, in many areas of life and in working life by forcing the restriction of personal contacts . The state regulatory power activated in the Corona crisis will receive a long lasting boost, although even in Europe initially only the nation state has shown itself to be able to act and accepted, while the European Union has only begun to react with a delay. Kocka agrees with statements made by the Leopoldina regarding the causes of the corona pandemic, which determine man-made changes in the relationship between nature and civilization as drivers for this type of infection process. “From this perspective, the fight for the sustainability of future economic activity is not pushed into the background - as is sometimes demanded and sometimes feared - by the experience of the corona crisis and the fight against its consequences, but only all the more urgent.” Kocka's conclusion is: “So the corona crisis could help make the human problem of the still missing and urgently needed sustainability a little more solvable, even if humanity exists as a fragmented diversity, but not as a subject. "


In 1988 Kocka was accepted as a full member of the Academia Europaea . In 1992 Jürgen Kocka received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize . In 1995 he was elected a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences , in 2003 a member of the Leopoldina and the Accademia delle Scienze di Torino and a year later a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . In 2005 he was awarded the Bochum Historian Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of economic and social history . Jürgen Kocka has been the recipient of the Federal Republic of Germany's First Class Cross of Merit since 2009 and an honorary doctorate from the universities of Rotterdam , Moscow , Uppsala and Florence . In 2011 Jürgen Kocka was awarded the International Holberg Memorial Prize; this prize has been awarded since 2004 for outstanding work in the humanities, social sciences and law.

Works (selection)

As an author

  • Working life and working culture. The emergence of a social class . Dietz, Bonn 2015, ISBN 978-3-8012-5040-9 .
  • History of capitalism . Beck, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-65492-3 (3rd, revised edition 2017).
  • Working on the story. Social change in the 19th and 20th centuries . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2011, ISBN 978-3-525-37021-6 .
  • The long 19th century. Work, nation and civil society (= Gebhardt. Handbuch der deutschen Geschichte . Vol. 13). Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-608-60013-2 .
  • Neither class nor class. Lower classes around 1800 (= history of the workers and the workers' movement in Germany since the end of the 18th century. Vol. 1). Dietz, Bonn 1990, ISBN 3-8012-0152-X .
  • Employment relationships and workers' livelihoods. Basics of class formation in the 19th century (= history of the workers and the workers' movement in Germany since the end of the 18th century , vol. 2). Dietz, Bonn 1990, ISBN 3-8012-0153-8 .
  • Tradition ties and class formation. On the socio-historical site of the early German labor movement (= writings of the historical college. Lectures . Vol. 8), Munich 1987 ( digitized version ).
  • Social history. Concept - development - problems . 2nd edition, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1986, ISBN 3-525-33451-6 (= Kleine Vandenhoeck series , 1434).
  • Class society at war. German social history 1914–1918 . Fischer, Frankfurt 1988, ISBN 3-596-24395-5 (reprint of the Göttingen 1973 edition).
  • Organization and rule in industrial operations in the 19th and early 20th centuries: a socio-historical study of the emergence of industrial bureaucracy and employees using the example of Siemens companies . Dissertation at the FU Berlin 1968 DNB 481498508 ; as a book: Corporate administration and employees using the example of Siemens 1847–1914; on the relationship between capitalism and bureaucracy in German industrialization (= industrial world. Volume 11). Klett, Stuttgart 1969, DNB 760084440 .

As editor


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Information on the history of the CISH ( Memento from September 11, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) (English), accessed on August 13, 2012.
  2. Jürgen Kocka: Researchers do not become propagandists! Scientists should get involved in politics, but not violate their rules. Petitions and protests lead to gross simplifications. A plea. In: Der Tagesspiegel , October 2, 2019; accessed on May 23, 2019.
  3. Jürgen Kocka: Motor of Acceleration. The discovery of slowness? Hardly likely. The corona crisis intensifies existing trends: In the digital world. In private and professional life. With state influence. The solution to a human problem is getting closer. In: Der Tagesspiegel , May 17, 2020, p. 5. ( Online version under a changed title ; accessed on May 23, 2020.)
  4. Soci: Jürgen Kocka. Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, accessed January 6, 2020 (Italian).