Researchers to Analyse Anti-Democratic Attitudes

Minister of Democracy Katja Meier with Rector Beate Schücking. Photo: Swen Reich

Minister of Democracy Katja Meier with Rector Beate Schücking. Photo: Swen Reichhold

Minister for Democracy Katja Meier said: “The Else Frenkel-Brunswik Institute will compile studies on anti-democratic attitudes and supplement them with its own research and research assignments on Saxony and individual regions in Saxony. Crucially, the Institute will evaluate the knowledge gained and actively make it available to the various sponsors and institutions in a way that is easy to understand. I am convinced that in this way we are supporting those committed to democracy in Saxony.’

The Else Frenkel-Brunswik Institute will be established as an independent yet administratively linked research unit within Leipzig University’s interdisciplinary Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics.

Leipzig University Rector Beate Schücking said: “We welcome the decision taken by the Saxon State Ministry of Justice, for Democracy, Europe and Equality to set up the Else Frenkel-Brunswik Institute, and we are pleased that the Institute will be established at our university. We offer the project an excellent environment with our well-known expertise in democracy research and the investigation of anti-democratic movements. To name but a few, this includes the Leipzig Authoritarianism Studies, which are respected throughout Germany and even internationally; the renowned Competence Centre for Right-Wing Extremism and Democracy Research; the broad-based Institute of Political Science; and the Centre for Journalism and Democracy founded last year.’

The Else Frenkel-Brunswik Institute is headed by the nationally renowned social researcher Oliver Decker, who is responsible for the Leipzig Authoritarianism Studies.

PD Dr Oliver Decker said: “An important pillar of the new institute is qualitative autobiographical research. This involves methods that allow us to understand the significance of people’s actions in everyday life. We will organise this work together with representatives of civil society. This includes involving them, as experts on their everyday lives, in the formulation of research questions and reviewing the findings in joint evaluation rounds. We will transfer the knowledge gained through this and through a broad documentation of existing networks and structures into a representative monitoring system. For this purpose, there will also be representative surveys of the population, if possible on an annual basis.’

State Minister Katja Meier today presented the Rector of Leipzig University with a funding notice from the Free State worth 133,000 euros for the months October to December 2020. When regular operation commences in 2021, funding will then be granted after submission of the annual action and finance plan. Under Saxony’s Start 2020 programme, a total of 2.5 million euros has been earmarked for the development of the Else Frenkel-Brunswik Institute until the end of the legislative period.

Who was Else Frenkel-Brunswik?

Else Frenkel was born at the beginning of the 20th century in Lemberg, now Lviv, Ukraine. As a result of pogroms and anti-Semitism, her Jewish family moved to Vienna in 1914, where she grew up and attended school, began studying mathematics and physics and then studied psychology. After her studies, she worked in the field of Autobiographical Research at the Institute of Psychology. Following the Nazi invasion of Austria, Else Frenkel fled to the United States in 1938 and began working as a senior lecturer at the University of California in Berkeley. In the US she married Egon Brunswik, who had also emigrated from Vienna. Else Frenkel-Brunswik’s main research focus became anti-Semitism, and she played a decisive role when Berkley offered “Studies in Prejudice? from 1944. She collaborated with the social philosopher Theodor W. Adorno, who also emigrated to the US, the social psychologist Nevitt Sanford, and the psychiatrist Daniel J. Levinson to produce the work The Authoritarian Personality. By naming the new institute after her, the Leipzig academics are following in the footsteps of the tradition of research on prejudice which she helped to establish.

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Carsten Heckmann

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